We Visit The Penguins at Stony Point in Bettys Bay
For years I have not understood all of the excitement about penguins, we have had plenty of overseas guests stay with us over the years and even one lady who could only talk about going to see the penguins. I never understood the big deal … until now.
After a wonderful relaxing weekend at our accommodation in Hermanus we decided to take the coastal route back to Cape Town. This means going through the towns of Kleinmond and Bettys Bay, catching glimpses of the magnificent Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and driving the winding road along the coast into Gordons Bay before heading back into the Mother City.
You also pass some of the best surf spots as my dad was keen to see if Bikini Beach had any waves and what the surf was looking like at Koelbaai (once a surfer always a surfer).
We stopped at Kleinmond and watched (in the ice cold wind) as huge waves crashed against the rocks, telling their own stories and then headed back to the car to carry on with the journey. We headed into Bettys Bay where my dad was convinced he could recognise a friend’s house because he remembers the view from the plot. After a short detour and giggles from my mom and I, I spotted the sign for the “Stony Point Penguin Colony” and urged my mom to head in that direction.
We bundled out of the car and headed towards the entrance. It seemed there was a steady stream of visitors and we happily parted with the R10 per person entrance fee. Although the sky looked clear the wind was bitterly cold and we hopped on the spot, I started to feel like what it must be like to be a penguin.
Photographs – Left: The start of the boardwalk / Centre: Some of the nests / Right: Heading out to the rocks
As you enter the protected area you can read the notice board to find out a little bit more about what goes on at Stony Point. We did. Breeding season takes place from February to October, so we were slap bang in the middle of it, perhaps we’d be lucky enough to spot some of the babies. Did you know that penguins are monogamous? That means they mate for life – how cool is that and both parents share the nesting and feeding duties. I won’t give away all the penguins secrets, you’ll need to visit yourself to find out all about them.
The Stony Point Penguin Colony is also used as a research and monitoring facility so some of the nests are colour coded, green indicating there are chicks and yellow indicating eggs. You start to walk along the wooden boardwalk and immediately spot penguins and nests in every direction. If you’re not familiar with what a penguin nest looks you’ll notice it by the little hole which is the entrance with a green leafy covering, some of the nests we looked into we could see the penguins curled up. Other nests had penguins all around them waddling as only penguins could do.
Photographs – Left: Who might be sleeping in there / Right: Hope we’re not disturbing your peace
Suddenly I understood the appeal, each penguin has its own unique personality and style. Not only are some of their markings different, but so is their behaviour. Some like to show off and flutter their feathers for the visitors or even pose for a picture or two, while others dart quickly into the covers away from the prying eyes of the humans coming to gawk at their home.
There must be hundreds on penguins at Stony Point, some of them were enjoying lying on the rocks, which must be where the name comes from. Others were wandering in between the nests perhaps looking to stop off at a friend (well that is what I like to think they’re doing). I was beginning to get despondent as we hadn’t yet spotted any chicks and then we rounded a corner and spotted two chicks in what can only be described as the transition phase because they were half covered in fluff and half showing their feathers. It looks like their parents were giving them instructions on how to behave and walk about and I almost felt like we were intruding on their space. It was wonderful to watch the interaction between the chicks and their parent. So much love and care and definite instruction in this little family unit.
Photographs – Left: One of the nests / Centre: Two chicks / Right: The rocky shore
We were all white with cold and so decided to head back to the car. It was a wonderful stop over and I’m so glad I’ve visited this colony. If you do have some time stop off and visit the penguins in Bettys Bay, they’ll be pleased as punch to see you.
A few facts to impress your friends with: The African penguin was once called the Jackass penguin because of the call they make which sounds like a donkey braying. These penguins are considered “Vulnerable” in the Red Data Book which means we need to look after them. The first nests in Bettys Bay were found in 1982. Both parents contribute to the feeding of the chicks and the chick will consume up to 25kg of fish by the time they are fledged.
Photographs – Left: The boardwalk / Right: Where should we go today my dear?