Take A Paddle On The Wild Side Kayaking In Cape Town

A huge grey hulk of a navy support ship is heading straight towards us. In our two-man sea kayak we are no match for this monster, and our guide is gesticulating wildly for us to get out of the way so the ship can dock. The Drakensberg is aptly named, as this mountain looms high above us. Even so, I can’t resist the temptation to stop and grab a photo, even if it means incurring an impatient honk from a naval tug. It is a thrilling end to our kayaking in Cape Town with Extreme Scene. For just 400 Rand (around £20), we spend two hours paddling around the shoreline in search of seals, penguins and a spectacular array of bird life. 




Sea kayaking in Cape Town


Sea kayaking in Cape Town
Sea kayaking in Cape Town

Brian, our colourful guide, regales us with fascinating tales as we paddle through the inky bay. First, there’s stories of how the Dutch and British used this area as a naval base. The meeting point of the two great oceans of the Atlantic and Indian made this an attractive base, offering shelter from the treacherous winds of Table Bay. Later, it was to become the replenishment route for the Boer War, but was finally returned to the South Africans in 1957.

Roman Rock lighthouse

Then, the story of the Roman Rock lighthouse, perched on a perilous rock, 17 metres above the stormy bay. Such was the strength of the gale force winds, that in true VIP fashion, it has its own helicopter pad to allow for provisions to be delivered to the lighthouse keepers. Imagine the desolation of living on a rock, surrounded by shark infested waters and ravaged by cold South Easterly winds!

This natural rock foundation is submerged at high tide, and torturous weather meant that although it only took 97 days to erect the lighthouse, the whole project took four years to complete. 

Early morning kayaking in Cape Town
Early morning kayaking in Cape Town

Seal rock

The lighthouse is too far offshore for us, so we head instead to a large rock, marooned in the bay, for glimpses of baby seals. They bask leisurely on the rocks, and seem happy to pose, while I clumsily attempt to take photos without dropping my camera into the murky depths. We don’t linger too long as they really do reek, and besides the main attraction awaits.


The penguins of Boulders Beach

We push on towards the giant boulders of Boulders Beach, to admire the antics of the colony of between 2,000 and 3,000 penguins. Brian peppers us with endless fascinating facts about their behaviour. Unlike the randy seals, who take up to 32 wives, these cuties mate for life. Once they reach maturity at around age 4, they will stay with the same partner until their death around twenty years later. Awwww!

Sadly, the penguins are endangered, due to deep water trawling, which is ravaging their food supply. It is estimated that in less than ten years, these creatures will be extinct.

The penguins of Boulders Beach
The penguins of Boulders Beach

Brian explains how they hunt in ‘rafts’ – a huge group of around fifty penguins who work together to hunt sardines. They travel up to 20 km offshore to search for food but can travel much further. Research has also revealed that they can dive to depths in excess of three hundred metres!

We watch in fascination as they slither awkwardly across the rocks, bob around like ducks and waddle about the beach. It’s astonishing just how maladroit these mammals are considering how long they have occupied this stretch of coastline. I chuckle as two penguins cautiously edge across the rocks and tentatively slide into the water. I inwardly applaud their determination.

Back to shore

Our return journey is punctuated by sightings of numerous large seabirds, and the occasional penguin. One appears lost, as he waddles up the bank heading towards town. Then of course, there is the return of the naval ship, a formidable sight on the horizon.

Back on land

Back on land, we wander picturesque Simon’s Town, one of South Africa’s oldest towns. With its Victorian wrought iron balconies, it’s a pretty bohemian place. It is an ideal place to laze away a balmy afternoon overlooking the water.

Simon's Town main street
Simon’s Town main street

A scenic drive

Just as pretty is the beautiful drive back to cape town. The road passes through verdant forest, sleepy seaside towns and offers sneaky glimpses of Table Mountain. This city really packs the wow factor!

Why go kayaking in CapeTown

If you fancy seeing seals and penguins, I highly recommend a kayaking trip with Extreme Scene. It’s a great way to enjoy an active morning, in a more relaxed setting. Don’t worry if you do not have your own transport, as Extreme Scene can organise transfers for you.

Read more kayaking adventures:

Go kayaking in Kotor with Adventure Montenegro

Disclaimer: we received a discount of 10%, but as always, all views are our own and unedited.

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About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips


  1. I am a very petite girl so anything that involves a lot of hard work tires me out soon. But I love kayaking. Did in several countries. Kayaking in Cape Town looks wonderful, especially with that wildlife. How adorable are the penguins of Boulders Beach!

  2. I just started to Kayak in Utah, and I really really love it! I have started to look into places like this where Kayaking adventures lead you to little hidden gems like seeing those penguins. Simon’s town looks really laid back as well and hopfully they have some drinks there to wind down the day 😉

  3. This is a marvelous idea. I wish that we can also see the penguins once we visit. Kayaking is just so fun. Will try to check our schedule when we can travel to Cape Town.

  4. I’ve been to Cape Town a couple of years back. The reek of the seals and the playful penguins of boulder beach are for me, among the lingering memories of the city. I wish I had the good sense to go kayaking like you though, since it sounds like an incredible experience, and seems to offer a different point of view to the charms of Cape Town.

    • It was fabulous. We visited Boulders Beach from land also which was amazing. Getting so close to penguins was incredible but then seeing them in the sea too was the icing on the cake.

  5. OMG you’re so lucky to see the penguins in the wild! So cute that they mate for life too! They are so loyal -maybe even more loyal than humans nowadays haha!.

  6. Sea kayaking in Cape Town looks like so much fun, but my shoulders ache just thinking about it!! I think it would be worth it to access Boulder Beach from the water, though–I’d do just about anything to get up close and personal with penguins, lol. Sounds like you had an amazing morning!

  7. I got my Rescue Diver certification in San Diego with a bloke from Cape Town. He said how much La Jolla reminded him of his home. There is a kayak tour around La Jolla that lets you see seals and sea lions that I did and it was absolutely wonderful. I would love to do this one and see penguins as well. That would be outstanding.

    • I love the sound of that kayaking trip too. I dived with seals in both the Uk and NZ and found both experiences incredible. I even felt as though the seals were playing with me which was incredible. Hopefully one day you will be able to experience this trip too

  8. What a wonderful experience! I guess kayaking would give a closer view of the wildlife than a boat trip. And it must have been incredibly fascinating to see the large colonies of penguins.

  9. I love to kayak and I think its a good way to explore some area that one can’t othervise. Kayaking in Capetown to watch the penguins in their own enviromment must be an awesome experience! Not only is must be fun to see the penguins, the surrounding is beautiful too! Its definitely a must to do when in Capetown!

    • Yes Cape Town is seriously beautiful. Some of the surrounding towns are just lovely and it was a real delight to get to see some of them on this trip.

  10. How’s the swimming, or is the water too cold for that?

    • I definitely wasn’t tempted to jump in and find out but it didn’t feel spectacularly cold. They do snorkel trips down here with seals so it can’t be too bad.

  11. Penguins are birds, NOT mammals…

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