The Penguins at the park had always been a fan favorite and many awaited anxiously to find out what would replace them. While other zoos across this country may boast about having a few penguins- No one really had the habitat size, breeding success or number of species that Seaworld Parks boast. So when the Orlando park decided to change their penguins, people got a little worried.
(Keep reading for the full story and report)
While Seaworld Orlando has never really 'removed' anything animal related, only changed themes, people feared the penguins would no longer have their own dedicated area within the park. However, once construction pictures begin and the park spilled the beans about the project, people rejoiced.
|The original "Penguin Encounter" -Image from Orlando Theme Park News|
Some of us even called this building "Home". Myself included, I can still smell it. A combination of wet carpet, bird poop and fish. I can hear the music playing in the back of my skull with it's highly peppy tune that made you want to waddle along and follow it, like some kind of flightless penguin pied piper. It featured an 'up close' area with a 'people mover' belt in front and a huge viewing gallery just before that. In my opinion, the best part came second and was often overlooked- the smaller area which held the Puffins. This area was off the belt tucked back in the building and rarely ever crowded. Another little known fact- this was one of the most secure buildings in the park. Very thick, reenforced concrete built to stand up to hurricanes and the Florida heat- it was the main home of "Hurricane Ride-Out" teams.
|Area Panoramic- Click to Enlarge|
Everything was re-finished with snow, ice and mountains. Giving folks a feel for what the antarctic looks like. Rocks and Snow bulge out of the Florida sand, making you wonder for a moment just where you ended up. It's beautifully done with plenty of little hidden gems lurking around inside, look around the area. If your careful, you'll spot penguin carvings and even a penguin shaped area new the entrance. They transformed a stocky, imposing building into something akin to a work of theme park art.
Penguins like cold and I do mean COLD. Inside it kept at an icy 30 degrees. While for several minutes it does feel lovely compared to the often high heat of Orlando, you'll be shivering moments later.
It's Puck you'll follow at this point, learning and exploring with him. From this pre-show you next move into a queue line where you get to join Puck on his first big swim in the ocean. You can chose two versions of the ride- Mild or Wild. The major difference is how much tilting and spinning your trackless vehicle will do. We chose 'mild' as we had a friend who isn't big on wild rides and her wee monster with us and she's a bit of a chicken (don't worry, we're trying to fix that in the wee monster! Mama is pretty hopeless- but that's a story for another time).
Each scene is visually beautiful as you can see from the picture to the right. Through screens you'll keep following your penguin guide deeper into trouble. Finally you'll reach a large screen where you dip and turn, being chased with Puck by a leopard seal. This is major difference in the rides, the 'wild' side has a LOT more movement then the 'mild' size does at this scene. Naturally you'll escape and your ride vehicle will park and you exit into the massive new penguin viewing area.
This exhibit is massive, twisting in various directions in what seems like an endless area of penguin crazy. It's simply a beautiful, huge area filled with a reported 245 live penguins of various species. Featured here you'll find King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, Rockhopper Penguins and Adelie Penguins all living together. Giving you the full illusion that your in the Antarctic and could reach out and touch the animals. However, I wouldn't suggest it as they are carefully guarded by employees.
One could easily spend as much time as they like inside, your not rushed through anything here. It's more a matter of how long you can tolerate the icy cold temperatures inside. You'll probably notice an oder at this point- Penguins are rather stinky birds. To keep the environment clean for both birds and guests Seaworld replaces the nearly 20,000 pounds of snow each day and cleans the exhibit multiple times per day. Once you pass the open viewing area you can head downstairs and view a huge underwater area, watching the penguins swim and chase through their new and improved area.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I support what Seaworld is doing, both the education and conservation programs they have in place do great works. I don't always agree with their methods but I fully believe their heart is in the right place.