Walking around Destin Habor (in February 2014) I saw fliers for different things, one of those was a picture of kids feeding penguins at the local zoo/aquarium…..then I discovered those kids had that pleasure for only $18.00 (and then the price of admission)! I checked the website and they still had openings while I was visiting Dad.
He was eager to take me to the Gulfarium where he had watched the dolphin shows as a kid. I was a little worried that I was an “older” participant…but I was excited none the less.
We signed up for the early feed, and I felt like a rock star as they LED ME INTO THE ANIMAL HABITAT! I then realized my long lost dream of being an animal trainer. I’d brought my GoPro on my travels and it was a neat vantage point while I was feeding the tiny birds since I couldn’t have a camera in my hand. Family members are welcome to take pictures from afar, and a staff member also offers pictures at the end.
It was incredible to see these cute tuxedo’d characters waddling around me. These were Black footed penguins usually native to South Africa. I quickly learned how to hold the fish properly so it wouldn’t flop around. At one point, one of the penguins (Mushu) pecked at my pant leg. I ended up feeding most of my smelly fish to one particular bird. The trainers were surprised, as Dapper is normally very picky. Yay! I made a new penguin friend! In this instance I wasn’t allowed to pet the birds, since they didn’t want to distract them during the feeding process, but it was cool to pay for an experience to contribute to their well being instead of them entertaining me.
After attempting to too smelt my fishy hands we walked around the rest of the gorgeous zoo aquarium, seeing the beautiful gulf coast to the side.
This quickly became my favorite aquarium (and I’ve been to the large one in Baltimore) because of its intimate size. All of the trainers were friendly and passionate about their jobs. We were able to watch the sting ray feed, and see as she put vitamins in their food to help care for them. I learned that they use different colors/patterns to indicate which feedings for which animal.
Then, we got to watch the powerful flippers of the dolphins launch them out of the air during the dolphin show.
It was an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to go back and meet and greet some more of the animals. If I was local, I would seriously visit this place every day! Also, it looks like they just added a “Discover Penguin Session” in which you will be able to feed AND pet a penguin for $39.00!