Last Thursday I had an early morning phone call from my volunteer coordinator at SANCCOB asking me whether I wanted to join them on the penguin release that day. It was my day off and I was so hoping I could have gone on the release the following Thursday, which will be my last day and my 22nd birthday. But I couldn’t say no to such an opportunity!
I made my way over to SANCCOB where I helped prepare and pack the nine penguins that were being released; putting them into boxes in the back of the truck. There was me and another vollie, Cecillia, who joined the release. We road in the back of the truck with the penguins all the way to our destination…Boulders Beach.
Boulders Beach is popularly known in Cape Town for the penguins roaming wildly around on the beach, and the place that SANCCOB usually releases. However earlier that day I was told it would have been carried out on the boat next to Robben Island, but there were difficulties. It took around an hour and twenty minutes to reach Boulders Beach, in Simons Town, not far from Cape Point. The drive was gorgeous as per usual, with Table Mountain in arms reach at all times.
As we drove through Simons Town it reminded me very much of a European town, with quirky coloured buildings and old jumble shops. As we turned down a very narrow lane I was not expecting Boulders Beach to be lying at the end of it. The place was packed full of tourists! Coming at you in all directions. I was put off right away.
The truck was unloaded by some of the staff who worked at Boulders Beach. Now, unfortunately you have to pay a fee of 50 rand to actually enter the beach and see the penguins. You are restricted to a very short walkway that doesn’t even touch the beautiful white sands where the penguins waddle. It is difficult to even get a peak at a full view of a penguin as you have to push through crowds of people. Now to me this does not seem right. Penguins who have been sick at SANCCOB are said to be released into the wild, however the beach appeared to be man-made, with the penguins in constant contact with humans. This is not the wild.
As we made our way down to the beach carrying a box of penguins each we had the privilege of feeling the warm soft sand between our toes. Here we lined the boxes into a semi-circle and let the penguins go. At first they struggled to leave the comfort of us humans, but the one adult we released soon pushed the others into the so-called wild. It was an unforgettable experience, however I was very disappointed as to how the staff at the beach treated Cecillia and I; they were rude and took over our job of releasing them. Plus the amount of tourists crowding around these penguins in such a small area does not attract me into coming back to unfortunately such a beautiful beach.
A day I will not forget.