In addition to SeaWorld’s world-class exhibits and attractions, they offer a variety of specialized tours and animal encounters including Walrus Up-Close, Family Adventure Tours, and many behind-the-scenes looks at their animal care areas. The Penguins Up-Close at SeaWorld experience includes a tour of the Antarctica staff areas, a look inside the nursery, and even an opportunity to pet and pose with a real, live penguin!
Arrival and Meeting the Tour Group
When I arrived at the park for my penguin experience, I first had to check in at the Animal Encounters desk. This was easy as its located near the front of the park. They told me to meet at the Pacific Pointe Preserve (SeaWorld’s sea lion habitat) about ten minutes before my tour’s scheduled departure time. When I arrived, I asked the employees in the area where to meet a tour group, and they told me to meet under the umbrellas. Well, this got a little confusing as there were multiple umbrellas. Some were being used by education staff and others were empty. I began waiting under one of the empty umbrellas and watching for employees or other tour participants to join me. When it got closer to the tour time, and I still hadn’t found either a guide or other guests, I became concerned. I finally found them next to the Sea Lion food booth – not under an umbrella at all.
After checking everyone in, our tour guide led us through the backstage areas to the Antarctica offices. Before we could enter the building, we had to step into an antibacterial foot bath to cleanse the bottom of our shoes and ensure we did not bring any germs or sickness to the penguins.
Touring the Staff Areas
Once inside, a penguin keeper taught us about penguins and Sea World’s standard of care. She used illustrations on the wall to teach us about the five species found inside the Antarctica habitat.
Because our tour took place near the end of breeding season, there was a special emphasis on penguin chicks and maturation timelines. Once again, our guide had visual aids showing the growth cycle of various penguin species and example eggs.
The most exciting part of this hallway, however, was the giant map of the exhibit! Our keeper explained all of the notations and their meanings – specifically pointing out where some of the penguins had created nests for their newly laid eggs!
After learning about the habitat and the penguins, it was time to go inside! On the way, we were able to peek into the fish prep area and penguin nursery window. We were told that most groups are able to go inside the nursery, but we were not allowed. The chicks were getting over a sickness, and, obviously, their health comes first!
My New Friend!
Once inside the habitat, we were herded into a very small area in the back of the exhibit. The area was hidden from regular guest view and separated from the penguins by a small fence. The keeper brought in a friendly king penguin. The penguin seemed to genuinely enjoy being pet and loved on while we took pictures with him. He closed his eyes and didn’t shy away from the contact.
While waiting for others to finish their penguin pictures, we were treated to amazing views of the overall enclosure. While we couldn’t engage any penguins on the other side of the fence, we were literally inches away from these beautiful birds!
After everyone had a chance for pictures, they brought in a young gentoo penguin chick. We weren’t allowed to directly interact or touch this penguin because of its age, but it too seemed to genuinely enjoy being with humans. He cuddled into the keeper’s neck and seemed very happy.
While our time was almost done, there was one more unplanned surprise. An especially spunky king penguin named Caspian intentionally rushed into the gate as the keeper was trying to maneuver around other birds. He apparently had a special relationship with Jade, the education staff member escorting us. He spent some time cuddling with her and also enjoying other humans before he was returned to the enclosure.
Freaky Thoughts of Penguins Up-Close at SeaWorld
I LOVED Penguins Up-Close at SeaWorld! It was so cool to meet a live penguin, and – BONUS – the penguins really seemed to enjoy human contact. No guilt! This was an unforgettable opportunity and absolutely worth the price tag. However, before you buy a ticket realize that SeaWorld often offers pricing specials on its animal encounter tours. If you’re trying to book one and you can only see the full price option, I highly encourage you to wait for a sale. For example, I purchased my tour during a Black Friday 50% off sale. In January, the Animal Encounters tours were BOGO. You never know what options might pop up, so plan ahead and be patient!
To learn more about SeaWorld’s Animal Tours, visit SeaWorld.com.