Hanging with Penguins
Words Rebekah Funk, pic Eileen Vermeulen
Braying penguins lined the rocky crags in their hundreds, spilling over onto unfenced lands not yet contained within CapeNature’s newly inducted conservation reserve, Stony Point. They are all too happy to photobomb tourist selfies and strut confidently across “Do not pass” signs. Within 1,5 hours of Cape Town, near the Overberg coastal town of Betty’s Bay, you too can be at the largest breeding colony of African penguins in the world.
Amble along suspended boardwalks over penguin turf, take in the sights and smells of the sea, read the CapeNature information plaques offering surprising anecdotes along the way.
I was shocked to discover a rogue leopard had recently infiltrated the colony and gone on a killing spree. The risk of predation from land and water is ever present. Oiling, seals and caracals all threaten the flightless penguins, as well as overfishing by humans and the ill effects of climate change.
Thankfully, Stony Point is glimmer of optimism in the face of declining populations elsewhere. It is the largest mainland breeding colony of endangered African penguins in the world and showing a measurable increase in numbers, said CapeNature spokesman Justin Lawrence.
“That it is a growing colony of African penguin makes it a successful conservation project. We now have around 2,500 breeding pairs at the colony. Back in 2010 when the African penguin was declared endangered, there were only about 460 pairs.
“Stony Point is thriving as a conservation area and becoming a prominent tourist attraction, which is delivering plenty of benefits to the people of Betty’s Bay. The Mooiuitsig community manage the coffee shop and eco-centre.”
In 2014, CapeNature took on the responsibility for the operational management of Stony Point. The conservation body is working with municipal government to formalise Stony Point’s status as a protected area and assume ownership of the land. Also present in the colony are three species of cormorant: the crowned cormorant, Cape cormorant and bank cormorant, all of which breed on the outer rocks.
Getting there: Take the N2 from Cape Town and follow the R44 from Gordon’s Bay to Betty’s Bay. Stony Point is open daily from 08h00 to 17h00. At the time of writing, the daily conservation fee for visitors of R10 was payable by all visitors as Stony Point was not yet accepting Wild Cards.
Accommodation: Spend the weekend at nearby Kogelberg Nature Reserve. The self-catering Oudebosch eco-cabins cabins sleep up to four people, from R1,170 a night.
Contact: CapeNature Central Reservations 021 483 0190, www.capenature.co.za
Source: Wild Magazine