Cape Fynbos

Seven penguins on a rocky beach
VENUE: Cape Fynbos


The gigantic boulders found in this habitat are made of granite and are roughly 540 million years old. Worn smooth by water and wind, they serve as protective sentries along the coastal bays.


The hardy, evergreen shrubs that thrive here grow low to the ground in sandy and limestone soil and can survive wind, drought, fire, and cold. They support many types of animals and burst into colorful bloom in the spring.


Small coves, white, sandy beaches, and calm, shallow waters make up Africa’s southernmost coast. These areas are considered some of the best for beach-going humans, and they also make the perfect home for African penguins.


islands where African penguins live along the South African coast


reptile species native to this region


plant species found only in the Cape fynbos habitat

African penguin on the beach



The fynbos along South Africa’s rocky coastline sets the stage for unusual species, including African penguins, which prefer the beach scene. On land, they may look like they’re stiffly plodding the red carpet in their tie and tails—but get them in the pool, and it’s party time!

Closeup head of African penguin

When You’re hot, you’re hot

When you think penguin, you might think ice, but there are penguin species found throughout the Southern Hemisphere, including the African penguin. In their warm climate, they show a little skin, with bare patches around the eyes and on the legs to release heat.

African penguin swimming under water

feathered torpedoes

Because they can’t fly, penguins jet from place to place by swimming, and they are shaped perfectly to move swiftly through the water to catch fish. An African penguin can swim at nearly eight miles per hour and stay underwater for up to four minutes.

Five penguins on a mound of sand

little penguins, big problems

African penguins are endangered, and they face some difficult challenges. They are losing their beachside nests, their food supply is disappearing, and they are seriously harmed by oil spills. But conservation organizations like San Diego Zoo Global are working together to save penguins and protect their habitat.


leopard shark swimming into photo from the right.

leopard sharks

In shallow water near the African shore, a penguin and a shark may come nose to beak. But this is no battle of the bands: the sharks aren’t a threat to penguins. Both animals hunt for fish, squid, and crustaceans. Leopard sharks are a California species similar to their African cousins.

Close up of the bloom of pincushion protea

pincushion protea

Many shapes and sizes of protea blossoms poke up from among the low-growing fynbos plants. Their nectar attracts insects, which in turn provide a buffet for birds and other wildlife. The giant nodding pincushion protea is indeed a showstopper, with long pollen-tipped styles that seem to be stuck into a rounded pad of flowers.