Where do African Penguins Live?

Ahead of the question of whether penguins are found in Africa, now it’s time to know about the places where you can spot them in Africa. African penguins are the most loved and popular species among tourists in Africa. They are banded penguins and share a similar color, characteristics like other close relatives like, Humboldt, Magellanic, and Galapagos penguins. African penguins are found only in the southwestern waters of Africa.

African penguins breed only in Africa and not an epidemic to other places except if it is captivated. They live in colonies of 24 islands between Namibia and Algoa Bay which are near Port Elizabeth. The islands bounded by are called as Penguin Islands.

The mainland colonies near Cape Town called Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town and Stony Point in Betty’s Bay are the most significant places to see the African penguins. Boulders Beach is one of the tourist places where we can find the African penguins swim along with the humans on the shore. Penguins allow humans to reach close to them and enjoy the waters.

African penguin
African penguin

Physiology, Appearance, Diet, Threat and Colonies:

Adult African penguins weigh up to 3.5 kg and stand tall to the height of 70 cm. They have a unique pink patch of skin above the eyes. The pink glands help them maintain the body temperature by cooling the ample blood sent to it. They have black spots and bands in the shape of a horseshoe.

African penguins prey on anchovies, sardines, crustaceans, and squid. Their diet list changes from season to season. They breed and nest from March to May in South Africa and November and December in Namibia. They lay eggs in burrows, guanos or scrapes.

Since the mainland consists of a lot of land mammals as predators, African penguins move to offshore islands to be safe. Their average lifespan is about 10 to 27 years. Sharks and fur seals are the marine predators of African penguins. Caracals, kelp gulls, mongooses, or domestic cats prey on them when nesting.

Jackals, hyenas, and leopards also include the African penguins in their diet. African penguins are in good numbers in Saint Croix Island and then followed by other islands like Dassen Island, Robben Island, Boulders Beach, Bird Island, Dyer Island, Stony Point, and Mercury Island.

Boulders Beach:

Boulders beach is located in Cape Peninsula, near Simon’s Town towards Cape Point. It is near Cape Town in the Western Cape region of South Africa. It is a share of Table Mountain National Park. Boulders Bay is another name for Boulders Beach. The penguins in Boulders Beach are under Cape Nature Conservation due to the fear of extinction.

Boulders Beach African Penguins
Boulders Beach African Penguins

St Croix Island:

St Croix Island is located near Port Elizabeth. There are boat trips out of Port Elizabeth that are available which can take the tourists to see the penguins. St Croix Island has the largest number of breeding colonies around 22, 000 which is the largest in the world. The island is rocky and there is no adequate vegetation.

Dassen Island:

It is an island in the Atlantic Ocean. It is located in the west of Yzerfontein and north of Cape Town. You can see the African penguin colonies and also the lighthouse. Dassen Island has ridges that had led to shipwrecks.

Bird Island:

Bird Island is located in Lambert’s Bay. It is the third-largest breeding place of African penguins. It is also an important place for cape gannets and crowned cormorants.

Robben Island:

Robben Island is an island in Table Bay, west of Cape Town. Till the end of the 17th century, this island had been a place for political prisoners. Former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was one of them imprisoned there.  It is one of the significant places of the penguins’ breeding colonies.

Dyer Island:

Dyer Island is the largest group of islands offshore from Gansbaai. It has a decreasing number of penguin colonies. You can also have a glimpse of the spectacular great white sharks. There is a danger point lighthouse in Gansbaai which may also be considered to be a must-see place when you are in a visit to Gansbaai. Dyer Island is one of the famous tourist spots in South Africa.

Stony Point:

Stony Point is situated on the Overberg coast of the Western Cape region of South Africa. It is around 100 km from Cape Town. You can visit the penguin colonies and also the Harold Porter National Botanical garden.

African Penguin Statistics:

At present, the population of African penguins is declined when compared to the beginning of the 19the century. About 4 million African penguins were estimated to live in the 19th century and at present, the rate of decline is too high and the species are feared to reach extinction in a decade.

African penguins lived in large numbers in pre-industrial times. Now they are endangered by human-driven threats and also by land predators such as leopard. The mainland colonies became more in recent years due to a reduced count of predators but Betty’s Bay yet has a threat by the leopards.

In 2012, the African penguin pairs were found to be in the majority in the St Croix Island near Algoa Bay.

African penguins are one of the penguin species that live in the warm region. Usually, the penguins that live in warmer places have a greater lifespan in captivity. They can be maintained easily and can adjust to the climate. Penguins in captivity are also away from predators and free from maximum threats. African penguins are called jackass penguins or also as black-footed penguins. The donkey-like bray of African penguins is the reason for the name jackass penguins.

Cape of good hope Penguins
Cape of Good Hope Penguins


African penguins breed only in their colonies, they don’t move to other places. Commercial fishing, water pollution by oil spilling, egg harvesting and human interference prevails as a major threat in the living by leading to less of the food source.

In southern Africa, African penguins are one of the magnificent species that grabs attention from the tourists of other countries and wildlife lovers of Africa. This vulnerable species are kept safe in captivity and are found across the zoos in the world. African penguins are the only native penguins of the southwestern coast of Africa.






Image Credit:

  1. African penguin by Bernard DUPONT / CC BY
  2. Boulders Beach African Penguins by Jeanine_S / Pixabay License
  3. Cape of Good Hope Penguins by McLee / Pixabay License


I got interested in penguins from a young age and as I grew I realized that penguins are such fascinating birds. I made it a mission to create a website where all information about penguins could be accessed in an easy to read format.

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