Penguins are nothing short of adorable in any context. We have some at our local zoo, but it was a unique treat to visit the Boulders Beach colony near Simonstown, South Africa, which is the only place in the world where you’re allowed to swim with these perky little playmates. Actually, it was November when we toured, and our group wasn’t allotted time to swim, but the beaches—with their warm sand and turquoise waters—looked irresistibly inviting. Penguins have razor-sharp beaks, however, so despite their appeal, one should keep a respectable distance from their acrobatic antics. We visited Foxy Beach, perhaps Africa’s best site for viewing penguins.It has raised boardwalks through one of only two nesting sites in South Africa, where about 3,000 happy little fellows spend their days sunning on the granite boulders and cavorting in the deep blue sea in search of tasty treats like fish.In the nineteenth century, there were over three million African penguins, but today there are less than 100,000 penguins left world-wide, and penguins are protected. African penguins are just under 20 inches tall and weigh about 4.5-8 pounds, about 100 pounds less than the ostriches that roam nearby. Still, they are bigger than the average bird, and their bones are heavier, making them great divers. They’ve been known to go as deep as 115 feet underwater, hold their breath for 1.5 minutes, and zip along at nearly 15 miles per hour, so in the bird world, they don’t have to be early or resort to catching worms to be a success!They dress in tuxedos and dine on seafood at waterfront resorts. Very classy, don’t you think? 🙂 I’ve read that penguins usually live 11-12 years, but some have been known to live almost twice as long. They are practically obsessed with finding their way home for nesting (even climbing over fences, which is a trick for these flightless birds) and normally mate for life. They share parenting duties, are social, mild-mannered, and multiply rapidly if protected. (Sound like ideal children to anyone?!)Unfortunately, they are not always protected, and they don’t always make wise choices. One of the biggest problems at Boulders is that the penguins like to stand in front of warm cars, and several have been run over!
The worst tragedies in recent years have resulted from tankers spilling oil. In 1994 about 10,000 birds were oiled, and only about half of them were saved. In the 2000 disaster, when the tanker Treasure sank off Robben Island, 18,000 oiled penguins were rescued and cleaned, and another 19,000 unoiled penguins were transported to Port Elizabeth, where they were released. However, almost all the penguins returned to their original home with amazing accuracy and speed. Reporters seemed hopeful that most of the penguins would survive, although it made me think of us as humans! Many of us are rescued by Christ—saved, cleaned, and released in clean waters. What do we naturally do? Head straight for home, whether or not home is a safe place. If you’re a believer and have been delivered from an unsafe environment, please consider prayerfully if and when to return home. I am sure God wants us to love our families, but He doesn’t want us living in an environment that will kill us, like a coat of black slimy oil will kill a penguin.
Are you safe? Please don’t instinctively return home too soon.
Swim in clean water and let the Lord direct your paths.
“The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God,
and into the patient waiting for Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).