Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo

The Penguin Plunge has been open at the Calgary Zoo since February 17. Since I consider waiting in a two-hour-long line with my children to be way more painful than a bikini wax, we delayed until this past weekend to visit the black and white feathered swimmers in their new Antarctic-like home.

The penguins are perfectly suited for life in Calgary as they come from a frigid polar land.

Our strategy worked. After arriving right when the zoo gates opened at 9 a.m. — and getting to see a flock of the Humboldt penguins in their outdoor enclosure — we only had to wait for 30 minutes to go inside the new exhibit. Because The Boy gets restless in these types of queuing situations, I walked Bennett down to the bridge after explaining we’d have to immediately turn around and march back up to the Penguin Plunge again. At which point he screamed, “I don’t want to see the penguins!!” (Because were so close to the hippos at that point.) Sigh.

I dragged him back right as a zoo lady began explaining the rules, including, “Don’t pet the penguins even though they’ll be really close,” and “Don’t lift your kid up over your head to see the penguins because he might fall into frigid water filled with penguin poop,” and “If a penguin catapults itself out of the water, over the glass and onto the concrete floor, don’t attempt to pick it up.” Wow, what hijinks might occur inside? It sounded exciting!

Bennett loved watching the penguins swim but sadly didn't get to pet or swim with one. Avery was somewhat turned off by the strong poop smell.

Upon entering the inside space I didn’t know where to look first. A walkway takes visitors between two large pools surrounded by faux snow-capped rock outcrops that are crowded with waddling penguins. We saw king, rockhopper and gentoo penguins diving from the rocks into the water, where they swam with grace and a speed that almost makes you dizzy. Huge panes of glass allow kids and adults to see their antics underwater. It’s an amazingly well-done exhibit and your allotted time (15 minutes) goes by fast. The zoo lady was right: the flightless birds are so close you can touch them. Well, my husband did, anyway. “Petting a penguin is on my bucket list,” he said, somewhat defensively.

Bennett really could have reached over and petted one of them but he listened to the zoo lady and refrained from breaking the rules.

Both kids loved watching the penguins though Avery was weirdly preoccupied with making sure I got a picture of her next to the fake penguins on the way out.

Here she is with four faux penguins.

Overall a great experience. We’ll be back little penguins, because I’ve added a new item to my bucket list!

Have you been the the Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo? Did you pet them or witness one jumping over the glass? Or, did your kid fall in to the water??

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