Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lazy Birds

When I told my son we are going to look at penguins, he wanted to show me on his world map where penguins live. Due to previous experiences mostly gathered through famous movies like Happy Feet and Surf's Up, he was convinced that we were about to go to Antarctica. He was clearly a bit disappointed when we told him that we have penguins in "our back yard", thinking that these penguins might not be the real thing. These penguins might not be able to tap dance or surf, but they are for real. Maybe a bit smaller than their cousins in Antarctica, but penguins nevertheless.

Nicer when the sun shines
I am not much of a bird watcher myself,  but when you do things for your kids, then I guess you become interested in many things. The aim for the day was to show him some penguins, and the best place to do that on the South African coast is probably Boulder's Beach near Simon's Town. We've taken him there before, but he could not remember, he was way too young. Strange though, because the last time we were there he stuck his finger through a fence and got bitten real hard by a female protecting her chick against the onslaught of another inconsiderate "tourist". If you think your mother-in-law has a sharp mouth, you should see these penguins'. And tourists? There are many. No wonder they had to fence off the whole beach in order to protect the penguins and their breeding grounds. The penguins walk up quite far and lay their eggs under the bushes, quite a distance from the actual beach. If anyone wants to get closer to the penguins, you obviously have to pay. I have no problem in paying for this privilege as the money obviously goes towards the protection of these lovely birds, but today I was not going to fork out another R35 per adult to enter, plus the R10 I had to pay for my child. (Yesterday we paid enough to get into Kirstenbosch). I was hoping to see a free show further down the beach.

Boulders is really a beautiful beach, and it can only be reached if you pay to get in, or swim from Simon's Town. A kayak might be a better idea though. There is a nice wooden walk way running from the one side all the way to the other, with nice restaurants and curio shops along the way. Your typical tourists activities...with tourist prices of course. If you are lucky you might see penguin nests with penguins breeding right next to the walk way. It is fenced off. Don't stick your finger through the fence, you might end up with  bleeding finger or a R500 fine. And yes, like most animals in Africa, these birds are considered "wild" and will bite if they feel threatened. They particularly love fingers and I am not talking about fish fingers only.

Whatcha lookin' at?

Bad lazy posers
So we headed towards the place where we knew some guys are willing to pose for free, not like many of the more stuck-up penguins inside the sanctuary that only pose for the paid up tourists. They look the same, you just get a much nicer background on Boulder's Beach than from where these cheaper shots are available from. But we weren't there for prize winning pictures, and the weather wasn't playing along either. It was about to start raining, so paying R80 to get my family to see some penguins on a nice beach with rain coming down wasn't my idea of a day well spend. When we reached the end of the walk way, we were indeed lucky to see a couple of very lazy birds soaking up some heat of the rocks. They were definitely not in the mood for posing, and the closest shot I could get was with my zoom lens. Background very uninteresting. My son was more interested in trying his climbing skills on some of the rocks and I don't even know if he took notice of the penguins. The fact is, Cape Town has everything...even penguins. If you are a tourist to South Africa, do yourself a favour and go see the penguins. Take out a couple of bucks and pay the entrance fee, you are supporting a good cause and you are in a better position to fork out that kind of money than what South Africans are. And if you are lucky you might even get a nice picture posing next to a bunch of funny looking birds. And don't mind that "bloody tourists" looks they have on their faces, tell your friends they look like that from eating fish... morning, noon and night. 

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