Passing penguins

Those of us who enjoyed the excellent Netflix documentary, Penguin Town, documenting the daily lives of family groups in the Boulders Beach penguin community were able to identify various landmarks pertaining to their adventures and misadventures when we took a short stroll along the boardwalk prior to our end-of-year lunch at the nearby golf club. Although the penguins were present in fair numbers across the granite outcrops that give the beach its name, most were gathered on the white sands at the water’s edge, with no doubt a larger number far out in the bay hunting fish. The youngsters were identified by their fluffy coats, which need to moult before they can take to the sea and seek their own food. For now they are still dependent on the safe return of the parent penguins, a sometimes anxious and devastating time in their lives, as attested to in Penguin Town. Life in suburbia can be harsh for the colony, having to cope with land-based predation as well as the usual suspects in the bay.

A stiff southeaster was whipping up white horses and sending a heavy swell crashing into Roman Rock lighthouse and the impressive Ark Rock just offshore, sending spray sky high. Once out of the shelter of the treed path, it soon became chilly and hats were snatched from heads as we filed along the narrow walkway to Windmill Beach. I can only assume it was so named because of the constant wind that caused thrashing arms to grab at everything as it blew past. A quick snack and coffee in the shelter of the rocks, with a cold and uninviting sea lapping at our feet, had us looking forward to a convivial lunch at the welcoming Simon’s Town Golf Club just across the road – after we had retraced our route to the carpark at Seaforth! The easy two-hour meander seemed shorter on the return leg, or perhaps we walked faster to get away from the wind. A few people had by then braved the weather for a day at the beach, but it was a far cry from the normally tranquil turquoise splendour and none of us felt the need for a cooling dip!

The beach and walkway would in normal times be thronged with visitors – even Michelle Obama and her daughters headed there when Barack came to town a few years ago, which shows how far our penguins’ fame has spread. Numbers are sadly decreasing as our footprint on the planet strips away resources, but for now it remains the perfect penguin place for them.

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