Although penguins are naturally found in the Southern Hemisphere, there are several aquariums and zoos in the United States that feature penguin exhibits. The Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky is one such aquarium. Aside from the Penguin Palooza exhibit where it showcases five different species of penguins. These include King penguins, Macaroni penguins, Chinstrap penguins, Rockhopper penguins, and the African black-footed penguin.
In addition to the various activities and show in the Penguin Palooza exhibit, guest can have the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes for Penguin Encounters. This program is last around twenty minutes and cost an additional $25 per person. All of the money received to purchase a Penguin Encounters ticket actually goes toward the Wave Foundation.
The Wave Foundation believes it is important to maintain a balance in the world’s oceans. This means helping to preserve life in the ocean. Many species populations have been threatened and endangered due to over fishing and human pollution as well as other human neglagent acts. At the Wave Foundation, they are working to increase various species populations and educate the public about why conservation issues are important.
There are various times scheduled throughout the day to experience the Penguin Encounters. Around ten to fifteen minutes before your scheduled behind-the-scenes program starts, you should head to the lobby area. It is the area as you enter the Newport Aquarium between the information desk and the gift shop. A penguin biologist will meet with you promptly at the time scheduled.
The biologist will then walk you through the gift shop to go through the employee doors. Before going through the doors, you are given a set of instructions that are very important to listen to and follow. As you reach the penguin room, the biologist will give you even more important rules that need to be strictly followed.
The most important instruction before reaching the penguin room is to stay between the blue lines. This is a safety rule. The reason why you must walk between the blue lines is because you will be walking right beside the shark tank. There isn’t much of a railing to protect you from falling in and being devoured by sharks.
Once you have reached the penguin room, there are a few more rules that must be followed for the safety of the penguins. There is a mat right outside the door. You will have to wipe the soles of your shoes real good along this mat. This mat is a disinfecting mat. It makes sure that humans won’t bring in germs that might make the penguins sick.
Before opening the outer door to the penguin room, the gate inside must be closed. Once inside, make sure the outer door is closed before opening the gate. Remember the shark tank? Penguins can see that wonderful water from the penguin room window. The long to be able to reach the water and take a swim. However, what they don’t realize is that sharks reside within those water and would probably love to have penguin on the menu for dinner.
The biologist will also warn you about cameras and jewelry such as watches, bracelets, and rings. Although you are aloud to take video and pictures, the penguins are curious creatures and may try to take the camera from you. Same with jewelry. It is wise to take of any items of jewelry that may pose a choking hazard to the penguins or increase their curiosity. It is also a good idea to probably keep the pictures to a minimum or have a member of your party stand outside the gate to take the pictures. Also, keep in mind that the biologist is willing to take pictures with your camera at the end of the experience. In fact, the biologist will even have a penguin pose with you and your group.
Now that most of the rules are covered and out of the way, you are probably wonder what you will actually experience. African Black-footed penguins of course! The biologist will escort you to take a seat on the bench. You will also be instructed that when the biologist comes around with a penguin for you to pet, use only two fingers. This is because it will create the same sensation as when they groom themselves with their beaks. The biologist says that all the petting might stress them out a bit, but honestly whether two finger or your whole hand the penguins aren’t stupid. Regardless, follow the rules. It will make the biologist less stressed at least.
The biologist will tell you all about the African Black-footed penguins. This includes their natural habitat, their diet, and more fun facts. You will get to pet the penguins water-tight feathers along their back as well as leathery flippers. You will get to see the personalities of Green Bean, Red Pepper, and a few other penguins. All of the penguins in the Penguin Encounters were bred in captivity and adopted from other zoos and aquariums.
Again, these penguins are curious and may come right up to you and even rest under the bench at your legs. Keep in mind that the penguins do urinate and defecate frequently. Although the floor is clean when you come in, by the time you leave it could resemble a war zone of waste.
The penguins are as sweet as African Black-footed penguins can be. They may nip you with their beaks or slap you with their flippers to get your attention. Although they didn’t do too much of this during our visit, but it is still a possibility. Don’t worry though, the biologist does a wonderful job to distract and discipline to keep the nipping and slapping to a minimum. Not just children are put in time out from time to time. Penguins are put in time out for bad behavior as well.
Although, we were told that most of the penguin biologists come home with bruises. Our biologist said it could be worse. The King penguins slap more often and leave bigger bruises. Good thing the Penguin Encounters only features African Black-footed penguins.
After the time is up, you will be escorted back to the gift shop by the biologist. Remember to follow the rules. Make sure one door is closed before the other opens, wipe your feet outside the door, and walk within the blue lines. You will also be given a black sticker that features the African Black-footed penguin and says, “I touched a penguin today at the Newport Aquarium”.
For our family, it was well worth the extra $25 per person. With teenagers and preteens, they can be hard to please sometimes. Luckily, they enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look with Penguin Encounters. They said it was the best time they have had on a family outing in a while. They learned something and even had a funny personal story to tell which they have dubbed the “Penguin Poo Incident” in which they still laugh about today.
Whether you are a group, school, or a family, Penguin Encounters is definitely worth the money. The learning experience and the memories from this behind-the-scenes tour are absolutely priceless. What’s even better is that the proceeds go toward conservation efforts and education. Be sure to buy tickets for the Penguin Encounters when you plan your trip to the Newport Aquarium. You will be glad you did.