How to Visit, and Swim (!!) With Penguins in Cape Town

Hanging out with wild penguins is easily one of the highlights of my trip to Cape Town, South Africa. We allotted about one hour or so with them but once we got there we couldn't bring ourselves to leave. Not even joking we spent about 4 hours total with these cuties.

These little guys are amazing and other than heading to Antarctica, South Africa is one of the few places you can see them this close in the wild. Read on to find out where to see them, how to get to them, how much it costs and more.

I'm going to try to answer every possible question you could have but as always, if you have any other question do not hesitate to email me. (

 Boulder beach is the best place in South Africa (near Cape Town) to see the penguins. 

Where can you see the penguins in South Africa?

Right outside of Simons Town there is a beach called Boulders Beach. This is where the majority of the wild penguins come to nest. It is very easy to see the penguins, walk on the beach with them, or even swim in the ocean with them!

Boulders Beach is protected by the national park service and the large boulders (hence the name) blocks the cove from strong currents making it a perfect hangout for the penguins. 

 Getting to Boulders Beach from Cape Town takes about 1 hour.

How do you get to Boulders Beach from Cape Town?

Getting to Boulders Beach from Cape Town is very easy. From Cape Town, simply drive one hour south to Boulders Beach outside of Simons Town. The drive will also take you along the spectacular Cape Peninsula Route and on the way to Cape of Good Hope. This is a popular day trip - you can read all about the peninsula route here

I suggest renting a car. It is the easiest option and driving around Cape Town is awesome. If you forgo a car, don't worry, many bus tours include the beach in their itineraries. everything you should know about renting a car here.

Does it cost money to see the penguins in South Africa?

 Guard gate at the national park for penguins in South Africa. 

Yes. It costs around $5 (depending on exchange rate) per person or 70 rand.

 The free area to see the penguins. This was taken once everyone had left. It was extremely crowded at peak hours. About 3-4 people deep at times.

The free area to see the penguins. This was taken once everyone had left. It was extremely crowded at peak hours. About 3-4 people deep at times.

Can you see the penguins for free?

Yes. There is also a free viewing platform on the far side of the beach, but when we were there it was extremely crowded. I suggest paying the small entrance fee to the protected beach. The money collected is used to help fund the conservation efforts and help the endangered species.

What is the best time of year to see penguins in South Africa?

 Seeing the penguins in South Africa is one of the top things to do

This was the question I was mostly worried about when I went to see the penguins, but a local worker assured me that you can see them throughout the entire year. If you want to swim with them though, I suggest going in the warmer months.


Can you really swim with the penguins in South Africa?

 Do not visit Cape Town with out taking a trip to see the penguins


I'm not going to lie. I was soooo skeptical. I thought there was no way you could really swim with them, but you totally can. I definitely suggest visiting in the warmer months, when I went the water (and air) were sooooo cold. We did encounter one brave guy who had on a wetsuit and dared enter the icy water to swim with the cute penguins. In the water, the penguins are much more relaxed and get very close to you since they can easily dart away.

 Jackass penguins can be found in South Africa.

What kind of penguins are in South Africa?

These particular penguins are called Jackass Penguins. I know that doesn't sound very nice, but the sound they make sounds EXACTLY like a donkey. It was blowing my mind how similar the sounds are to each other. More recently, they are referred to as South African penguins, which I guess is a bit nicer.

Are the penguins friendly and do they really get close to you?

 How close can you get to the penguins in south africa?

First off, no they aren't that friendly. Remember, they are still wild penguins. While they do let you get pretty close they will bite, or peck you! So keep your distance. Never feed them or harass them.

As for how close the Penguins will get to you....well... Before I left, I read articles that they will share a towel with you or run between your legs.... that wasn't the case for us. While we did have plenty of incredibly close encounters they were always very cautious of us. The best way to get a close intimate moment is to sit on the beach, very still, and just wait. As they get more accustomed to you they will go about their business and get closer and closer. 

Pictures with the penguins

Final Thoughts

Visiting the penguins in south Africa is something you can't miss. It is a unique experience you can't have basically anywhere else in the world.

One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...

Also, a super common question I get is: what camera do I use for my travels. The body is a Nikon D3300 and this is the wide angle lens I use and love - I am seriously obsessed with it. 

My full guide that includes all the camera gear I take on every trip is here.


And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email ( 

For your Pinterest

 When heading to South Africa (and specifically Cape Town) you do not want to miss swimming with penguins. 

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