2019 Annual Penguin Festival in Simon’s Town

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) will host its 17th annual Penguin Festival on Saturday, 5 October 2019, in collaboration with the City of Cape Town, Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET) and South African National Parks (SANParks). Each year, SANCCOB dedicates a day of public celebration to raise awareness of the endangered African penguin species, which is kick-started with a public beach release of rehabilitated African penguins at Seaforth Beach. This year, the festival that follows will take place at Simon’s Town School and the organisation will bring like-minded entities together to exhibit their conservation efforts and educate festival guests on how to make an impact of their own.

The event begins at 10h00 at Seaforth Beach and members of the public are invited to watch the box tipping as the penguins waddle out to freedom. SANCCOB will briefly address the crowd to share reasons for bird admissions and explain the rehabilitation leading to the point of release back to the wild. At 10h30 the rest of the festivities will take place at Simon’s Town School in Harrington Road, within walking distance from the beach release site and adequate parking at the school’s hostel.

“This annual event gives SANCCOB a platform to highlight the plight of the iconic African penguin species and educate the public on how to play their part in supporting our conservation efforts and those of our collaborators and exhibitors. Small changes in their lives such as recycling, saying no to single-use plastics and choosing sustainably harvested fish options can be the first steps taken to work with us,” says Sharnay Adams, SANCCOB’s Education Supervisor. Adams heads SANCCOB’s education department and engages with aspiring, young conservationists from schools around the world on a regular basis.

Attendees joining the crowd at Seaforth Beach from 10h00 will have an opportunity that only comes around once a year in Simon’s Town to see the boxes tipped to release the birds. Expect a fun family day out with rides for children, educational exhibits with an environmental spin by exhibitors, food vendors, boerewors rolls made with love by SANParks Honourary Rangers, and a designated craft beer and wine area. Entry is free and children can access the Kids’ Zone at R50 per child.

According to the last census, there are an estimated 20,700 breeding pairs of African penguins left on the African continent; an all-time low in numbers for this endangered species that was once in abundance with a population count of around five million in the 1920s. For years SANCCOB has worked in partnership with SANParks, CapeNature, Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET) and the Environmental Management Department, which is part of the City of Cape Town’s Spatial Planning and Environment Directorate. Together, the entities employ penguin and seabird rangers at the bird colonies to keep a watchful eye on the birds and assist with all aspects of day to day penguin management.

In the last year, a penguin and seabird ranger has also been assigned to Robben Island as part of the Environmental Unit at Robben Island Museum. He regularly supports other stakeholders, such as researchers, Earthwatch teams, and assists the Department of Environmental Affairs with bird population census counts. Western Cape penguin colonies with penguin rangers include Simon’s Town and Stony Point in Betty’s Bay.

Lead sponsor Ocean Basket’s Jean Sloane says the Cape’s penguins are an iconic symbol of tourism in the region and a sign of the health of our marine ecosystems: “Ocean Basket has led the way in reducing single-use plastics and sponsoring this day is another way we can contribute to the well-being and overall strength of our remarkable South African biodiversity.”

The Penguin Festival has become a favourite event on Cape Town’s calendar of things to look forward to each year and everyone is invited.

All proceeds go toward SANCCOB’s year-round African penguin and seabird conservation work.

Parking Arrangements

  • Parking for the beach release is available at the Navy’s parking at the end of Martello Road.
  • Attendees can walk up Whalers Way to the Main Road’s pedestrian crossing to reach the festival, following the festival signage from the beach release.
  • There is a stop and drop option on Harrington Road at the venue’s entrance.
  • Event parking is available at the school’s hostels at the top of Harrington Road.