Simon's Town Penguins Holiday Cape Town

Boulders Beach in Simonstown is home to some 2500 penguins, these penguins are known as jackass penguins because of the braying sounds they make. They look so awkward the way they waddle and hop around but you will be amazed at how they can jump, they have even been known to climb fences that were erected to keep them out of private gardens.

Boulders Beach is probably one of the only places in the world where you can swim with penguins. These penguins have become quite habituated to people, just a word of warning though they can inflict a really nasty bite so best not to get too close to them.

Jackass Penguins  with chicks in Simons Town Cape Town Holiday

Jackass penguins usually start breeding at about four years old, they keep the same partner for many years and return to the same nests each breeding season. Nests are usually burrowed into the ground or under the undergrowth to protect them from the sun. Normally penguins produce between two or three eggs per season. Parents share the nesting duties with one staying on the nest whilst the other goes out in search of food. The partner left on the nest will stay without food or drink for about two and a half days until the partner returns. Chicks are closely watched over by the parents until they are two months or a little older if they have not had sufficient food.

Jackass Penguins juvies moulting Simon's Town Western Cape

The penguin chick are born with fluffy grey feathers which they slowly lose as they get older until they get their adult black and white coat. There is a calendar of activity for the Jackass Penguins at boulders that comprises as follows:

January – Juveniles are moulting and adults are feeding up for the breeding season
February to August – The breeding season
September to October – The penguins are feeding up for moulting
November to December – the moulting season

Boulders beach is within easy reach of Cape Town being a 45 minute drive, they have walkways and viewing decks where the penguins can be seen swimming and nesting, it is amazing to see them with their chicks during the breeding season. We highly recommend a visit to Boulders Beach to observe these funny little creatures.

Cape Town – I left the house as dawn was little more than a vaguely glowing promise on the horizon. It was chilly, too, cold enough for my breath to condense in the still air. There wasn’t so much as a hint of a breeze and it promised to be a spectacular morning for a walk. As I drove to the coast, the beacon atop Muizenberg peak caught the first of the sun’s rays, glinting and glimmering in apparent invitation to head into the mountains.

I had planned to hike up Bailey’s Kloof and walk a circuitous route that would provide a moderate amount of exercise and still afford, for the most part, a good view of False Bay. I had in mind that the whales should be here by now and it is always a special moment each winter when I spot my first one. Certainly Dave Hurwitz and his crew at the Simon’s Town Boat Company have been posting superb pictures of the early arrivals – a remarkable number of humpbacks as well as southern rights – and I had high hopes of catching a glimpse of a breaching monster during my travels.

As I climbed out of the car on Boyes Drive a thin, low mist, no doubt caused by the chill early morning air, hung over the Cape Flats and drifted gently out to sea, driven by the lightest of north-westerly breezes. The scene was suggestive of some smouldering Middle Earth landscape from a Tolkien novel – it made for a surreal start to what promised to be a gorgeous winter’s morning.

The first part of the hike – isn’t it all too often the case? – was straight up a steep trail that meanders only slightly towards Mimetes Valley, and I stopped regularly to check the flat, calm bay for signs of a whale. Well, I stopped because I was out of breath and my legs were tiring rapidly after too many days of sitting at home avoiding the worst of the winter weather, but I did use the rest breaks to scan the horizon in search of a visiting leviathan.

It was a perfect day for walking, the sun was climbing higher in the sky and the protea bushes seemed to light up with a near-incandescent glow as the day brightened.

In Mimetes Valley, as the first warming rays peaked over the rocky outcrops and pushed back the night’s chill, the birds sang for all they were worth to welcome the new day. Grass birds, high on their perches, chattered joyously and I couldn’t help but wonder if I wouldn’t also be moved to song having spent a frigid night in the mountains.

Simon's Town Nature AttractionsA thin, low mist hangs over the Cape Flats and drifts gently out to sea, driven by the lightest of north-westerly breezes.Picture: Tim Rolston

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For the small creatures that inhabit these vales the arrival of the sun must feel like winning the lottery, and more than likely proves to be a real and metaphorical life saver.

By now I was growing more and more appreciative that I had risen early. There was barely a sound, no wind to rattle the restios and no traffic noise in the background. Just the quiet tinkling of running water, the remnants of last week’s heavy rains, and all about the chirping and fluttering of birds, flitting from bush to bush, defining territories and searching for breakfast.

It is easy to imagine that winter is a dull time but the amount of life in the mountains is quite remarkable.

I reached Muizenberg cave and took the obligatory crawl through a wormhole to the other side, a childish pleasure perhaps, but still something that needs to be done, at least to my mind.

Then I headed up onto St James’ Peak and once more scanned for a whale. For a moment I thought that I had spotted one, but alas, it turned out to be a mat of kelp, ripped loose from the shore during the previous week’s storms.

Heading down a meandering path towards the coast again I could see all of the bay laid out before me and I kept my eyes peeled for signs of movement, to no avail.

In a protected dip the flora changed and there were black-bearded proteas just beginning to flower and a variety of different ericas adding colour to the landscape. It is these micro-habitats which create the remarkable diversity of the Cape floral kingdom. Where previously I had hardly seen a flower, now there were proteas bursting forth all around.

Orange-breasted and double-collared sunbirds were everywhere – they seem to like these protected pockets of fynbos.

Having had high hopes of spotting my first whale of the season and not expecting a lot else, once again nature surprised with her bounty, and although I never did spot a southern right, I did enjoy a lovely walk, filled with wonderful flowers and dozens of brightly coloured birds. I suppose it is simply that one has to get out there and see what Mother Nature has on her programme. It may be unpredictable but it is rarely disappointing. – Weekend Argus

Whales Simon's TownThe general misconception is that Hermanus is the only place to view the Whales coming past our beautiful coast, but Simon’s Town has some of the most spectacular views around and it just over the mountain from Cape Town. Add our lovely accommodation to the mix and you have the perfect holiday.

The best area to spot whales in Cape Town is on the warmer False Bay side, and Simon’s Town is a prime location for whale watching during the whale season. Whale Season runs from mid-August to mid-October when the Southern Right Whales return to these warm waters. Good points of view include Boyes Drive; which runs along the mountainside between Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay; the main coastal road running from Fish Hoek to Simons Town. There are plenty of view points and restaurant along the main road, where you can observe the whales, with good off road parking.

Simon's TownThe revised schedule for the Main Road Rehabilitation now has the end of Phase 2, the current Phase, listed as being June 2013 – it is already running several months late. Funding has now been obtained for Phase 3 – Kalk Bay Harbour to Clovelly Road and Atlantic Road to Casa Labia.

Whist the concept design has been completed, a contractor has yet to be appointed. Phase 3 is anticipated to be a 3-year project. It is hoped that a contractor could be on site to commence with Phase 3 in September 2013. However, the City’s procurement and appeal process could delay the commencement.

Simon's Town Spring FestivalOur annual Simons’ Town Spring Festival takes place over the long weekend from the 21st September through to Heritage Day on Tuesday the 24th of September. This is very much a showcase of the people and passions of Simon’s Town, with all our favourite activities featured. The Spring Regatta in the cornerstone event, with open gardens, running and fitness events, markets, art, Music events all through the town and Navy and historic tours – but we need more!

Do you have an expertise or passion that you are willing to showcase – is it “a how to session? cooking, paintng, potting, playing an instrument? Is it dance, fitness or maybe a beautiful garden? If you think you couldl put together an event based on your idea then send a proposal to margaret@paddlers.co.za.

Heritage Day – Tuesday the 24th of September