Guest blog by Mara V. Connolly
During my recent trip to South Africa, we traveled to Cape Town where on the eastern side of Cape Peninsula lies the Boulders Penguin Colony, a part of the Table Mountain National Park system that includes Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, and Table Mountain.
Boulders is home to a declining, and endangered rarity of land-based African Penguins, often called Jackass Penguins as they bray like donkeys. The Boulders website stated that in the 50 years from 1956 to 2009 the worldwide population of African Penguin breeding pairs declined from 150,000 to 26,000; an 80% decline over 50 years attributed to human interference from habitat destruction to oil spills. Boulders colony also declined from 3,900 birds in 2005 to only 2,100 in 2010. (http://www.sanparks.org/parks/table_mountain/tourism/attractions.php#boulders)
For 550 South African Rand (about $5.50 US at the time) you gain entrance to both Boulders Beach where you can lounge and swim amidst penguins who also appear to be vacationing from their colony a couple of beaches down the way, and the Boulders Penguin Colony itself that you view from boardwalks.
We arrived just after the park opened at 7am to having the place all to ourselves. We started at the colony and were amazed at the flurry of activity going on with hundreds of penguins and cormorants making a racket of noise. The “braying” of the penguins had me in amazement because when I closed my eyes and listened, I envisioned a whole herd of donkeys, yet when I opened my eyes, a whole beach of tiny little penguins belting out ‘hee hawing’ is what confronted me! Watching the penguins’ transition from beach to the ocean was awesome and mesmerizing. They are go from being intensely awkward and limited on land to graceful and powerful instantly by tipping over and freeing themselves in the water.
After a thorough investigation of the colony we headed back to the beach which was now thoroughly crowded a short hour later. Still, an incredible experience climbing over boulders to the outer beach area with curious penguins watching us as much as we were watching them. Floating about in the frigid ocean with penguins gliding around you is an experience of a lifetime.
Mara V. Connolly is a professional photographer, coach, facilitator, resume writer, and leader. Her life purpose is to be radiant illumination igniting passionate possibilities. You can read more about her leadership adventure at http://maravconnolly.com.