Get up close to Cape Town’s colony of African penguins at Boulders

Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, which is roughly 40-kilometres from Cape Town’s city centre, is the perfect spot to meet Africa’s tuxedoed aquatic bird, the African penguin. Boardwalks take you within metres of these delightful penguins.

Formerly known as the jackass penguin because of its distinctive braying, the African penguin is — as the name suggests — the only type of penguin that breeds in Africa. Colonies of African Penguins can be found from southern Namibia’s west coast all the way around the Cape peninsula and up to Port Elizabeth on the east coast. These colonies are, however, dwindling.

In 1910, it was estimated that there were 1.5 million African penguins, but by 2009 there were only 26 000 breeding pairs left in the world. In 2010, the African penguin was classified as endangered.

Every year, roughly 60 000 visitors make their way to Simon’s Town to visit the penguins at Boulders Beach. Because the beach a Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, you have to pay a small entrance fee. However, the fact that it is part of a conservation area means that the number of visitors is limited on any given day and the area — which is made up of three beaches, a penguin viewing area, and three boardwalks — is patrolled by park rangers.

When the penguins first came from Dyer Island (near Gansbaai) to False Bay in 1983, the bay was closed to commercial fishing and there was plenty for the penguins to eat, therefore the size of the colony grew rapidly. Boulders, which is named after the huge ancient granite boulders scattered across the beach, provides a protective little cove. In recent years, because of habitat destruction, reduced fish stocks and the effects of oil spills and marine pollution, the size of the colony — now roughly 2100 birds — has decreased.

While the penguins are at Boulders all year round, they spend much of their time at sea feeding during the months of September and October, so the number of birds on the beach is lower. The best time to photograph them is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. And be warned: while these penguins look adorable, they can do some real damage with their razor-sharp beaks, so give them space.

Where to dance to the beat of African drums

As cosmopolitan as Cape Town is, with its proliferation of shopping malls and trendy cafés, it is most definitely still part of Africa – and home to stimulating ethnic African music. Here’s where to get into the rhythm.

In the heart of Long Street, itself an essential part of any South African adventure, Mama Africa offers a vibrant and authentic African experience that is made all the more magical through music. Every night a live marimba band takes to the stage and rocks the restaurant with a variety of musical stylings till late into the night.

With a wide range of eclectic dishes and lively African entertainment, Marco’s African Place is where the rest of the world meets Africa. Conveniently situated a stone’s throw from Cape Town’s Fan Walk, Marco’s will greet you in true African style for an evening you won’t forget.

Only 20 minutes from the centre of Cape Town lies the township of Gugulethu. Here, the Thuthuka Jazz Café offers visitors a night filled with authentic local flavour, with world-class jazz mixed with traditional musical elements. Here you can expect a truly South African experience.

Based in the Cape Town Convention Centre, the Marimba Restaurant often features live music from bands that include some of the finest Congolese, Mozambican and South African musicians.

For an experience that will definitely stand out on your travels, Gold Restaurant in Green Point combines spontaneous, interactive entertainment with a delightful cross-section of African-themed food. Food is served as a set menu, but includes 14 different courses (tapas style), which means that your taste buds will almost certainly meet delicacies they have never met before. With three different performances throughout the course of the evening, this is one entertaining experience!