For my birthday I pulled some leverage to swing a trip out to Busch Gardens. They offered flexible tickets for $12 for certain dates, and one of those happened to be the day after my birthday. Then, I used my cute blue puppy dog eyes to ask if we could visit with the penguins, and it worked!
I tried not to get too excited about the experience, reviews online seemed mixed, and I knew there was no guarantees with temperaments from wild animals.
We schedule the early meet and greet, which it turns out is usually the least booked. We arrived waaay early (obviously I was crazy excited).When the park employees waiting for us at the entrance told us that we were the only people on this tour I was proud that I managed to keep my shriek of joy on the inside level!
Then, the animal trainers met us, and a crew of 6 of them and two of us walked back into the empty park. Once in the penguin area I saw the black footed penguins splashing about in their large aquarium, I was mesmerized.
The trainers explained various facts about penguins. Luckily my husband was able to communicate with her. My brain just went “PENGUINS!” I was caught up in the adventure of tweaking my manual settings to captures these quick beauties. My new 50 mm lens was perfect!
After a few minutes of education, the trainer asked if we were ready to meet a penguin. Then, OH MY GOODNESS, there was a cute little buddy who turned the corner.
Immediately I decided to sit on the floor so I could watch this guy waddle around from a better vantage point. This guy was a magellanic penguin, named Jordan. Apparently, he is one of the most extroverted of the ambassador penguins on loan from the Seaworld parks.
At this point we were not allowed to pet the penguin, as he just gets to walk and waddle around us. Reaching out and petting him would have overwhelmed him. I had to hold my hands tightly in my lap not to reach out and cuddle him up!
Jordan the penguin waddled right up to investigate my husband. Husband had his arms crossed over his knees, and we’d seen what the penguin wanted when he cuddle up to the trainers; penguins like belly scratches. So husband moved his thumb ever so slightly on the penguin’s belly, and was rewarded with a happy penguin dance of flailing flippers. I only found this out later, but I mean the penguin was clearly asking for a pet.
With the 50mm it was hard to get a better shot, being so close to my husband, so I relied on the Busch Garden’s photographer. Honestly, the best thing would be to video tape the encounter so you can just absorb the adorableness.
Jordan the penguin walked around us for a little bit and we learned more about the personality of these ambassador penguins. The trainers said that they reminded them most like cats and that they have a tendency to chase laser lights around. Watching them waddle, and splash around, they reminded me more of dogs. They look like it a little when they scratch their heads with their feet.
The trainer got Jordan comfortable and we posed for our picture while lightly petting his back. His tiny feathers were locked together and reminded husband and I of snake scales. It felt less fluffy and more of the smooth velvet of reptiles.
You’d think after this encounter I could check experiences with penguins off my bucket list, but honestly I’m even more zealous to spend time with them. Seriously, can I just adopt one and raise it? Or is it too late to be an animal trainer? They did say that sometimes people have psychology degrees….I think I’ve found my backup career if counseling people doesn’t work out.