You probably don’t know this already, but let me tell you this now. You need to feed penguins at least once in your life.. Maybe even once a year!
Alasdair’s recommended penguin experience
There are penguins, there are fish, and it’s the cheapest price in the UK. What more could you ask? That’s why it’s my recommended penguin experience gift.
So, a word first about penguins….
They’re brilliant, obviously. They way the waddle about on their back legs, looking all quizzical and cheeky. A few animal parks in the UK now allow you to touch and feed the penguins, but only if you’ve bought a special experience like these in advance.
Which penguins can I feed in which zoos?
There are three main types of penguin in the UK’s wildlife parks:
Drusillas wildlife park in Sussex has two different types of penguins:
- Rockhopper penguins
The smallest of the crested birds, and you’ll recognise their jaunty yellow feathers on their heads that look like funny eyebrows.
- Humboldt penguins
These birds have short feathers that look like a smart dinner jacket, and a black stripe running across their white chests in an ‘n’ shape
Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire has a single type of penguin:
- African Penguins
The world’s most common penguin, also known as the jackass penguin because it makes a noise like a donkey. These look very similar to the Humboldt penguin above.
To the casual penguin feeder, these birds are pretty similar, and they all get up to the same cheeky antics. Unless you’ve got a specific favourite, I’d recommend you choose based on price and how close the experience is to where you live. Offers at different zoos come and go, for example Chester zoo periodically offers a penguin feeding experience, but most of the time, this isn’t available.
Here’s a list of all the penguin feeding gift days available right now.
Alasdair’s top tips for feeding penguins
- Wear old clothes – you’ll leave smelling like a fish market
- Watch out for your fingers – you might get a little peck
- Bring your camera, but don’t let the penguins get hold of it!
So how do you feed a penguin?
That sounds like the setup for a joke, but basically, it’s exactly what you’d imagine. Pop into the enclosure with one of the experienced animal trainers from the wildlife park, and a bucket of fish. The parks time these experiences around the time of the animals’ normal feeding habits, so they’ll be expecting their dinner when you arrive. You stand there with the bucket while they rush around your feet with gaping shouting beaks.
You can pop the fish in a beak at a time, or throw handfuls into the crowd of penguin-madness. Personally, I don’t think there’s much more entertaining than having a penguin waddle up to you and taking a fish out of your hand, head first, and swallowing it in one go.
The actual day lasts around half an hour, but that’s plenty of time to get covered in squawking penguins and let them eat enough so they’re full. They’ll normally get bored of you after feasting on fish, but they’ll be more than happy nibbling on your shoelaces and jumping into the water.
Swim with a penguin
I’ve recently seen an increase in ‘swim with a penguin’ experiences, and I think it’s amazing, but with a few strong caveats. The main problem is you need to be PADI registered, to enable you to dive with the penguins. Also, you are required to take your own wetsuit. This means the experience is only open to really experienced people – your average member of the public (like me) will not be permitted to take part.
So if you know a penguin lover who is also a trained diver, then this is an absolutely amazing opportunity. If they’re not an expert diver then save your money, because they can’t do it 🙁
Adopt a penguin
If you don’t fancy smelling like a trawler but still love penguins, then there are a few ‘adopt a penguin’ gifts available too