The penguins of Boulder, in Second Life

Boulder, September 2020 – click any image for full size

Note: membership of the [valium] group is required to access this region – see below for why.

We first visited Boulder, the latest region to be opened by Vally Lavender (Valium Lavender) back at the time of its opening at the end of July  2020.  At the time, I admit I held off on writing about it, as both Caitlyn and I found the region somewhat heavy-going – which can often be the case with terry Fotherington’s regions designs (as Boulder is) when heavily populated by avatars. As such, I had intended to drop back in August, once the initial rush of a new region opening had passed and Boulder would be quieter. But things bring what they have been, I’ve only just managed to make good on that plan, so my apologies to Vally for only now getting around to re-visiting and writing about Boulder.

Boulder, September 2020

Since that first visit, summer has come to the region – which might seem odd to those of us in northern latitudes, where we’re now entering the autumn period. However, Boulder is inspired by Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town, South Africa, sitting in the southern hemisphere, and which is enjoying its spring season; so presenting the region in a summer setting makes perfect sense.

Boulders Beach is most famous for being the location of a penguin colony, the land-based and endangered species Spheniscus demersus, the African Penguin (also called the Cape Penguin or South African Penguin). A part of the Table Mountain National Park, the Boulders Beach is also a focal point of operations for  SANCCOB, Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. It is in support of SANCCOB’s work that Vally established Boulder: the money raised through people joining the [valium] group go directly towards adopting penguins in SANCCOB’s care, helping to provide the money needed for their welfare.

The two penguins from SABCCOB so far adopted with the assistance of donations at Boulder

The Penguin colony is a relatively “recent” addition to the Western Cape of South Africa: there is no record of any penguin colony in the region prior to 1983.  A series of sandy inlets sheltered by granite boulders from which it takes its name, the beach provides a perfectly sheltered environment for the penguin colony, which is also under the protection of the Cape Nature Conservation programme, due to their extremely endangered status.

Hunted on both land and sea by natural predators, it is thought that the Boulders Beach colony was made possible by the reduction in land-based predator threats thanks to the local human presence at Simon’s Town. In these respect, the arrival of colony has been mutually beneficial for both the penguins and townsfolk: the humans have kept land-based predators at bay, whilst the penguins have allowed the town to enjoy controlled interest as a tourist destination; and during the SARS-CoV-2 lockdown, the penguins even took to providing “street patrols” as shown in the SACCOB tweet, below!

Within Boulder, Second Life, both the beach and its penguins and a portion of Simon’s Town are nicely represented adjacent to one another. The landing point offers a map of the region, together with copies of the Certificates of Adoption for Molly and Dandy, the two South African Penguins thus far (at the time of writing) that have been adopted.

The beach offers open aspects looking north and west, the land to the south of it rising steeply in a series of rocky, palm-crowned cliffs and plateaus within which are nestled additional attractions – a shanty-style event space reached via stone steps that climb the cliffs, and beyond it a secluded plateau of trees and waterfalls. For the daring, there are places to quite literally hang out waiting to be found, both in terms of swing seats in the trees and a zip line; however, do be aware that the house on the highest plateau is a private residence. A high, tunnel-like arch of rock bores through these uplands to reach the south side of the region, and a ribbon of beach backed by sheer cliffs that runs westwards to join the main beach as it curls around what might be regarded as a low-lying headland.

Boulder, September 2020

The latter is home to the Boulder Art Gallery which, at the time of both of my visits, was featuring the art of two more renowned region designers: Fred Hamilton (frecoi) and Lotus Mastroianni.  The gallery is watched over by a penguin carved from stone, and overlooks a further stretch of sand occupied by penguins.

The waterfront town at Boulder is a take on the historic centre of the town – Simon’s Town ((Afrikaans: Simonstad) has been in existence for over 200 years, being located in a large bay of strategic importance (the South African Navy still has a major facility there). The historical centre offers a range of colonial-style buildings that could look as at home in Australia or America as they do in South Africa. Within Boulder, this colonial style of building is retained, if presented in a more colourful manner than might be the case with the actual Simon’s Town – not that this detracts from the region’s design.

Boulder, September 2020

I’m not sure if the waterfront itself is taken from a part of the actual Simon’s Town, which appears in photos to have a lot more of a modern look, with a large yacht marina and the aforementioned naval base. However, if it is more a flight f fancy than pulled from Simon’s Town, that doesn’t change the fact that it works perfectly within the region, ideally rounding it out.

During our first visit, I noted the region had at least two Firestorm parcel-level Windlight settings in place (day and night) which I found jarring when moving between them simply by stepping on / off the beach. I’ve no idea if this is still the case, as I’ve transitioned entire to EEP-based viewers. However, the performance hit is still there, and can make itself apparent for those on mid-range systems who like to go around SL with things like shadows enabled; so if you do, you might like to consider turning them off when exploring the region. But that said, neither the potential impact on viewer performance nor any Windlight changes that may occur should deter anyone from visiting. And if you haven’ already visited, I do recommend you consider joining the [valium] group to help support the work of SANCCOB and pay a visit.

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