Norma Landeros-Ramirez was on her honeymoon when she spotted two penguins strolling down the beach. The newlywed found the pair so sweet that she decided to film the encounter for her family back home to see. But her relatives weren’t the only ones to view the amazing scenes; in fact, Norma’s footage would go on to dazzle hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.
Almost all penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere. The flightless birds are found throughout Antarctica, in some parts of South America and New Zealand and along the southern coastlines of Australia and South Africa.
Known for their black and white plumage, distinctive flippers and short legs, penguins have inspired countless stories from the animated movie Happy Feet to the emotional documentary March of the Penguins. And still it appears people can’t get enough of the cute little animals.
Perhaps that explains why when one tourist saw two penguins on a beach in South Africa she had to film the adorable encounter. However, she probably never expected the footage she captured would later go viral, with a little help from her niece, who goes by the name of FreakingDani on Twitter.
It’s believed the encounter was filmed on Boulders Beach, a sheltered bay in South Africa’s Western Cape. The beauty spot is a popular tourist attraction, mainly due to the colony of African penguins who have called the beach home since 1982.
This particular species is incredibly rare, with the penguins only found in coastal parts of Namibia and South Africa. Unfortunately, the birds are currently facing a very real threat of extinction. Consequently, they are considered a protected species on Boulders Beach.
With this in mind, the stretch of coastline where Boulders Beach is situated is a safe haven for African penguins. Moreover, it’s one of the only places in the world where the animals can be observed from close range while still in their natural environment. For those lucky enough to witness the penguins go about their business, it must be a magical experience.
One such onlooker was FreakingDani’s aunt – and she didn’t hesitate to capture the moments she had on Boulder Beach to show her family. The woman, Norma Landeros-Ramirez, had been celebrating her honeymoon in nearby Cape Town and was no doubt keen to share the highs of her holiday with her loved ones.
However, it soon became clear that her encounter with South Africa’s penguins deserved a bigger audience than just her family. So, when FreakingDani received the clip back home in California, she decided to share it with the world on Twitter.
In the footage, Landeros-Ramirez captures the moment two penguins walk out of the ocean. As the birds emerge from the water onto the beach, they turn to stroll away together. However, as the animals do so, they each reach out a flipper and appear to clasp onto the other’s wing.
After sharing a moment in which the pair simply appear to look at each other, the lovebirds begin a romantic amble along the sand. They eventually break their hold, but continue to stick close by each other as they walk away.
The moment was particularly special to Landeros-Ramirez because it appeared to signify true love. “Since my husband and I are newlyweds, I wanted to see the penguins because I have heard that they keep one partner for life, so it seemed fitting,” she explained.
Needless to say, the footage Landeros-Ramirez captured proved popular online, and before long the adorable clip had been watched hundreds of thousands of times. And while many viewers were happy for the penguin couple, others couldn’t help but feel envious of their link.
Replying to FreakingDani’s original Twitter post, one person wrote, “It’s been a solid minute since I’ve even held hands with anyone… These penguins got it made.” Meanwhile another social media user joked, “I can totally see them shooting their engagement photos here.”
African penguins, like the vast majority of bird species, are monogamous – meaning they form a life bond with just one partner and mate with them forever. The birds return to the same breeding spot each year, where they will seek out their partner among the colony.
Meanwhile, nesting season in South Africa usually takes place between March and May. When the time comes, females lay two eggs in a carefully prepared burrow. And over the next 40 days both mom and dad work around the clock to keep their babies’ incubated.
When their babies finally hatch, at least one parent watches them until the newborns are around one month old. After that, the youngsters join other chicks in a kind of penguin daycare, where other adults care for the young while their parents go out foraging for food all day.
So in many ways, a penguin’s approach to love and family isn’t that much different to us humans. In general, they find one soulmate in life and form a partnership to raise their young. And perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we find the creatures so fascinating.
Another individual who has seen the magic of penguins firsthand is amateur photographer and nature enthusiast Elmar Weiss. In 2017 Weiss was on a beach in the Falkland Islands when he too witnessed a pair of penguins that appeared to be holding hands. And just like Landeros-Ramirez, the wildlife fan was mesmerized.
Recalling the unique encounter, Weiss said, “It obviously looks like they’re holding hands. It looks like they’re going for a romantic walk on the beach and it helps that there is a strong bond between penguin couples, they are monogamous like humans.”