African penguins

Spheniscus demersus pop out of the ocean and onto the beaches of South Africa

African penguins
25th February 2007 Jane Tomlinson

Don’t you think the fact that there are penguins in Africa is absolutely thrilling?

I do. Think about it for a mo. Penguins = Antarctica. Cold. Icey. Brrrr. And Africa = fluffy animals with sharp teeth or hoofs and horns. Africa! Hot. Dry. Very hot, in fact. Phew! So ‘African penguins’ seems like some crazy, freakish contradiction. So the chance to visit them at the end of last month and see them happily living and breeding at Boulders beach, near Cape Town filled me with girlish excitement.

This is just one of them. Formerly known as the jackass penguin because of its braying cry, it’s now known as the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus).

A carefully constructed boardwalk on the beach enables the the birds to walk beneath visitors and access all parts of the beach. I sat down cross-legged and got out my sketchbook.

We had only 50 short minutes with these babies, but I could have sketched all day.

I watched them with a permanent smile fixed on my face. Small pods of them emerged onto the beach, thrown up by the surf.

They spent some time preening once the warm afternoon air had dried their feathers.

I was delighted that before we left Cape Town on Friday, I caught a final glimpse of some penguins sheltering from the mid-day sun under the bushes on Robben Island.

Photos: Moth Clark