The smartly dressed penguins us locals have come to know and love that call Boulders Beach and Stony Point home have not always been there and if you, like us, have been wondering where they came from, you’re in the right place.

Before 1985 these flightless bird colonies were nowhere to be seen. What many people don’t know is that penguins from time to time tend to resettle in new areas either in search of food or mates.

1962. Dassen Island, between Cape Town and Saldanha Bay.

Before 1985, the closest and most densely populated colony near to the Cape was Dassen Island, 9km off Yzerfontein. Here, thousands of cheerful African penguins called the peaceful island home until their numbers began to decline drastically in the 1960s and 70s when the anchovy stockpile in the area was affected by overfishing. Although Dassen Island housed the nearest colony, most African penguins came from Namibia.

Penguins were forced to abandon their nests in droves in the 1980s in search of food and a new habitat. This led to young penguins settling down and starting new colonies along Stony Point and Boulders Beach.

Whales being processed in the area.

Before Stony Point was a feather-filled tourist attraction it was one of the areas associated with whaling between the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1912, 60 hectares of land including Stony Point was leased to Captain Cook who established The Southern Cross Whaling Company Ltd, profiting from the horrors of whaling.

A whaling station was established in the area and roughly 173 whales were killed in the seas off Cape Hangklip in 1913 and 84 in 1914.

Between 1916 and 1920, 300 whales were killed each year by steam ships that operated from the Stony Point whaling station and 144 people were employed in the grim business.

In 1976 whaling was outlawed and the dark years were left behind when Cape Nature upgraded the area due to its historical significance and welcomed the penguin colony we know today.

An old photo of Simon’s Town where Boulders Beach is located.

Unsurprisingly named after its giant granite boulders, this much-loved destination only welcomed penguins in 1983.

The colony has increased to over 3 000 strong but was started by just two breeding pairs spotted on Foxy Beach by locals roughly 37 years ago. The beach is enclosed, surrounded by boulders believed to be some 540-million years old.

Before, the beach was somewhat lonely without the little flightless birds to liven up the atmosphere, and now it is one of only two areas in Cape Town that the endangered African penguins call home.

Pictures: Cape Town Down Memory Lane/Michael Nicoll


Also read: Boulders Beach penguins under threat from tourists

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