Penguins may very well be one of the most strikingly unique species of animal on the planet. Even a small child can recognise the distinctive black-and-white (although not always) patterns that define these birds. In fact, some of their appeal is derived from the almost human-like quality that they exhibit when they congregate together or waddle back and forth. Many of us may never have an experience to see a penguin in the wild unless we travel to the North Pole... Correct! Penguins are not found in the northern hemisphere! All penguin species in the wild can either be encountered in the southern half of South America, the Galapagos Islands, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and of course Antarctica – the South Pole!
Although we may enjoy nature shows on television that follow a group of intrepid filmmakers braving freezing temperatures in the middle of virtually nowhere, eager travellers can actually view these interesting creatures without having to wrap themselves tightly in a parka and hire a dog sled for a few days, or weeks, or even months. There are many cities which play host to the penguin and it is worth having a brief look at a couple of the most popular.
Not quite at the south Pole, this location is the southernmost city in the world and there are numerous guided tours which take tourists through the Patagonian forests to eventually reach rocky shores that host these penguin communities. Native species in Southern Chile and Argentina are the Magellanic, Southern Rockhopper and Macaroni Penguin.
Phillip Island, Australia
This has been one of the most popular regions to view penguins in the 20th century. Only a ninety-minute drive from the bustling metropolis of Melbourne, tours can be purchased that are led by a local ranger and the visitor can literally walk through countless bustling penguins along the shoreline. In this part of the world, live the Little (Blue or Fairy) Penguin, and in the outlying islands; Eastern Rockhopper and Yellow-Eyed varieties.
While observing penguins in the wild may prove to be a fascinating idea, there is no guarantee that they may be around for the visitors’ viewing pleasure – they have busy and difficult lives to be getting on with, often out at sea. There are many instances where the traveller’s eyes will instead fall upon an empty beach and nothing more. For this reason, some may choose to find penguins in the protective enclosures that a zoo provides. These establishments themselves also providing vital educational and conservation activities to ensure we can interact with penguins for generations to come. Let us have a look a few of the best nature establishments to peer at a penguin.
Melbourne Aquarium, Australia
This aquarium currently offers two different species of penguins to view; the King Penguin and the Gentoo Penguin. These are both two of the most common and visually recognisable species in the world. Besides getting a bird’s-eye view (no pun intended) of these creatures, having a chance to see penguins being fed up close is an experience not to be forgotten.
Saint Louis Zoo, United States
Although a zoo in the middle of the heartland of the United States may appear strange to some, the penguins do not seem to mind in the least. This zoo contains four different types of species; the highest number of different penguins in captivity in the United States. That’s a fun fact – and much to do with penguins is fun!
Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland
If one wishes to have a look at penguins in the Northern Hemisphere, Edinburgh Zoo is a good choice. In 2013, the King Penguins here are just about to enjoy a fantastic new enclosure with a sandy beach and a diving board!
Some conservation establishments in the UK also allow the opportunity to get even closer to the animals – with packages to be a zookeeper for the day! This is what I did a little while back, and the penguin meal time was a smelly but fantastic experience.
The penguin is without a doubt one of the most unique animals the ecosystem of the earth has to offer. While many of us may be unsure about a journey to Antarctica to possibly stumble across a group of penguins, all of us know how to get to Heathrow and via Heathrow Express can hop on a flight from London for a more comfortable journey to meet these extraordinary creatures.