A quick but important note about this new experience: while you do get very close to the penguins, you’re not allowed to pet or feed them yourself. There are strict rules in place about protecting these exotic animals from all the exciting new germs and diseases us humans might be carrying for them. For their safety, feeding and handling is limited to the pros at Wonders of Wildlife. Also, according to McHaffie, they bite. And it hurts.
Some tips for the tour:
• Make sure you dress warm, it really is cold in the enclosure (43 degrees) and you’ll be in there for about 15 minutes.
• Wear flat shoes, ideally something athletic and at least a little waterproof. You’ll need to step in a shallow tray of disinfectant on your way in and out to protect the penguins.
• You won’t be able to take your phone in to take pictures. If that annoys you, imagine how much more annoyed you’d be if you dropped your expensive smartphone and had to watch it slide into the icy water forever.
• The youngest age allowed is four years old. Remember that it’s cold in there, and there are some steep steps to climb in and out. Kids under 14 must be accompanied by an adult (18+).
• If you’ve had cold or flu symptoms within 48 hours of going to the exhibit, book it for another time. Even if you’re feeling better, that kind of sickness can be very dangerous for the penguins.
• Anyone working with, or who regularly handles, poultry livestock or other birds will not be allowed in due to the risk of disease.
• Come with questions. Cailtin McHaffie demonstrated a huge wealth of knowledge about gentoo penguins so the more you ask, the more you’ll learn.