Boulders Beach

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Boulders Bay is situated in Simon’s Town, on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula, 35 km south of Cape Town. The site consists of small beaches holding sandstone boulders and thickets of strandveld vegetation.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. Spheniscus demersus, which breed primarily under the strandveld vegetation, but also on the beach and in every available rock crevice, colonized Boulders Bay in 1985. The colony has increased steadily, and there were more than 700 active nests in 1997. This is one of the few growing colonies in the world, and it is thought that birds may be relocating here from Dyer Island (IBA ZA099) where the population has decreased markedly since the mid-1980s. It is also one of only three mainland breeding sites in the world. Small numbers of Phalacrocorax coronatus occasionally roost on the rocks and Haematopus moquini are occasionally seen along the beach.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
This area has recently been incorporated into the Table Mountain National Park, and is under the jurisdiction of National Parks Board. Competition with commercial fisheries, especially purse-seining for surface-shoaling fish such as pilchard Sardinops sagax, has been implicated as one of the most significant factors causing the global population decline of Spheniscus demersus. The penguins may be relocating to Boulders Bay and Robben Island (IBA ZA089) because of the restrictions on purse-seine fishing in False and Table Bay respectively. It has been speculated that the localized protection of their food resources may allow for improved breeding success and survival.

Threats at Boulders include predation by Felis catus and Genetta genetta. Although disturbance by tourists may be a problem, the penguins at this site are remarkably tame and the colony continues to increase in numbers and size despite exposure to large numbers of people. Measures to control excessive disturbance by visitors are being implemented. The education value of the site is immense and many thousands of visitors come here for the express purposes of viewing penguins. The education and tourism potential is massive, and it remains largely untapped.

Another problem which is difficult to predict or control is chronic pollution by crude oil or other environmental pollutants when tankers break open, tank wash, dump cargo or pump bilge. Penguins are affected particularly badly by these activities and a single oil disaster can severely affect populations. The Apollo Sea oil-spill disaster in the late 1980s resulted in many penguin deaths in and around the Cape Peninsula. The South African National Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (ZANCCOB) cleaned, rehabilitated and returned some 3,000 penguins to the wild between 1981 and 1991.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Boulders Beach. Downloaded from on 05/10/2022.