What can you say about crossing something off your bucket list? When that thing is even more amazing than you could have ever imagined? The only word that comes to mind is Wow, and that's just what the Penguin Up-Close Tour at Sea World San Diego is.
Simply ... Wow!!
(Click on any of the pictures below to see a larger version)
Written by Gregg Condon
Those who have known me for any length of time know that I'm a Penguin freak. I've been known to go through the Penguin Encounter many times a day during our visits to the park, much to my families dismay. I have Penguin snow globes, stuffed animals, pillow cases, shot glasses, Penguin Web-Cams saved to my internet favorites. So it's safe to say I love Penguins.
When I decided I wanted to go to Sea World San Diego for my 40th birthday (eek) my wife took it upon herself to help me to knock "meeting a penguin" off my bucket list.
After checking in what followed was about an hour and twenty minutes of penguin lover bliss. Not only did I get to meet an awesome Macaroni Penguin (#156) but also the staff that cares for these amazing animals, and that was really the unexpected reward from the entire experience.
We were first led through the Penguin Encounter by our guide Lori where she talked about Penguins and what we'd be experiencing during our tour. Not only was her knowledge of Penguins great, but she made the tour fun and exciting for everybody who was in attendance.
Before heading inside we had to wash our feet and our hands "if" we wanted to actually touch a penguin. Lol, "if".
Once inside they had to make it a bit darker as the Penguins are still coming out of their winter where we met Sonia, one of the amazing people who care for these amazing animals.
To say that Sonia has my dream job would be a gross understatement. There's just something about Penguins that is simply fascinating, from their demeanor to the way they behave individually and as a group and of course as a breed. There's just so much to learn from these guys.
Sonia and Lori also talked a bit on how the Penguin Experience and breeding programs began and how much they've learned about Penguins since. It's truly a fascinating story.
After a few minutes Sonia stepped away and came back with a very special guest.
And then I became absolutely giddy. The only thing that I didn't care for about the tour was having to wait my turn to pet #156. Turns out I was last in line, which was totally fine because it gave me some time to calm down and plot my escape with my new best friend. =)
Below, pics of my giddyness, I know I look silly, I don't care. I was excited and in heaven.
Once we had our 1:1 time with 156 they took us into the actual Penguin Experience in two groups, I was in the second group so we had some time to talk more with Lori where she showed us some of the Penguin Feathers, Eggs, etc which was completely amazing.
And then it was time to head into the actual Penguin Experience. It was amazing, it was cold, it was amazing, it was loud, did I mention amazing?
Knowing that my family was on the other side of the glass watching the huge smile on my face was pretty cool, having them with me would have been the only thing to make the experience even better.
I didn't really think you'd be able to see the people on the other side of the glass but guess what, the Penguins can see you, so remember that next time you are in there. =)
We were inside for about 10 minutes or so, given that it was about 25 degrees probably meant that any longer would have gotten uncomfortable. Most of the people in our group were getting rather cold, I was not and would have loved to stay a bit longer, did I say a bit, I mean all day. =)
Once back outside we were able to ask a few more questions and then were led out to see the Magellanic Penguins which are actually able to live in warm weather, so once again the plotting was taking place and I wouldn't even have to greatly modify our house to do it. =)
At the end I was sad for it to end, but excited to see that my wife and kids were so excited that I'd had the experience. It was absolutely amazing and I would totally do it again. I'd love to do a "trainer for a day" experience where I could spend all day at the Penguin Experience sometime and feed them and all the stuff that the trainers do, you know, for the site and stuff. Yeah, that's it.
Maybe when I grow up I'll actually figure out how to make my dream job happen. =)
Thank you to the AMAZING staff at Sea World, The Penguin Experience and the amazing Lori and Sonia for taking such good care of us and more importantly, taking care of my little friends. You are all amazing.
And of course, thank you to my amazing wife and my two amazing kids for letting their husband/father go and be silly with Penguins for an hour.
If you'd like more info on Penguins or pretty much ANY other animal visit SeaWorld.Org.
If you'd like more info on the Penguin Up-Close Experience in San Diego, Orlando or San Antonio click the individual links. Not sure I know how to recommend the tour more than I already have. You won't be disappointed.