We recently brought you news about some changes at SeaWorld’s newest attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, which are improving guest experiences. This week, SeaWorld gave MiceChat a behind the scenes tour of the Antarctica facility and a preview of the new “Penguin Up Close Tour.” So put your parka on, because we are going to Antarctica!
When guests take the Penguin Up Close Tour, they won’t go to the entrance of Antarctica. Instead, they will need to trek back further in the park, past Antarctica, toward the Pacific Point Preserve. There, they will be escorted backstage. Sadly, no pictures are allowed in the backstage areas, so we do not have anything to show you back there. Guests should note that you must dress appropriately for going backstage at Antarctica. While it might be a hot and sunny Florida day, inside Antarctica it will be 30 degrees. After a few minutes, you will feel it down to your bones! So layer and bundle up!
Once backstage at Antarctica, you instantly feel the cold. While not 30 degrees as it is in the enclosure, it is a cool 60 degrees, and you will notice it looks like any normal hospital or school. One of SeaWorld’s Aviculturists greeted us and gave us the run down on the penguin species, along with protocol for being inside Antarctica.
SeaWorld’s animal care facilities are incredible with how detail oriented they are with their animals. Their record room, along with their food prep kitchen, are things to marvel at. Every day, hundreds of pounds of fish are prepared in their food prep area, yet looking at it you would think it was a pristine restaurant kitchen for people. Nothing but the best for SeaWorld’s penguins!
Just past the food prep station, there is a corridor with two large doors like you would see on a commercial freezer. These are the doors to get into the Antarctica exhibit. Once our group was in the “freezer room,” which was much colder than the other corridor, they shut the door we came through like an air lock and then opened the door to let us into Antarctica!
Once the door opens, you feel the blast of the 30 degree temperatures, and with the loud honking, you know you are about to walk into the penguin habitat!
Once inside, you notice that the front and back of the habitat was themed and that there is never a break in theme. I was half expecting the back of Antarctica to look like the Endor trees at Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I was pleased to see that the entire habitat was completely themed and full of details. I tip my hat to SeaWorld’s designers, led by Brian Morrow. As you peek around the corners of the rocks that obscure the people, you can see the large glass wall where the ride vehicles get their first look at the penguins.
Since my first visit to SeaWorld when I was 8 years old, I have wanted to touch a penguin. And this was the reality of that dream! The bright eyed kid came out in me as I was able to get close and pet a Rock Hopper and King Penguin. During the whole experience, the SeaWorld Animal care team was available to answer questions and provide insight about the animals. For example, if a penguin has a black arm band, then it is a boy and if it has a white arm band if it is a girl.
Since SeaWorld started caring for Penguins over 40 years ago in San Diego, they have pioneered penguin care. In the wild, Penguins only live to around 20 years of age. However, at SeaWorld they are living longer and some are now in their 30s. With older penguins, SeaWorld has had to overcome some unique obstacles like joint pain and cataracts. For joint pain, SeaWorld gives the elderly penguins medication in the gills of the fish they eat, and SeaWorld pioneered cataract surgery on penguins to help the birds see better and have a better quality of life. When you are behind the scenes, you get to observe those tender moments between the Animal Care team, and the animals they work with, where you truly see and feel that this isn’t just another theme park. This is a place where people truly get to connect with animals.
After the up close tour, we got a special extra that isn’t included on the normal Up Close tour, where SeaWorld introduced us to one of their Magellanic Penguins which don’t reside in the Antarctica exhibit because they prefer warm weather (50 degrees).
Guests who want to take this amazing and frigid behind the scenes tour are advised to book in advance because space will be very limited. You can register online (click here) or call the reservations number at 888-800-5447. Compared to other backstage tours here in Orlando, this tour is pretty inexpensive, with kids starting at $39.00 and adults at $59.00
After your penguin tour, make sure you stick around for summer nights. Not only will you get to experience Antarctica at night with a much shorter wait time, but if you decide to skip Shamu Rocks, you will get a unique view of the fireworks!
We want to thank everyone at SeaWorld and their Animal Care team for an incredible experience. In next month’s episode of the Unofficial SeaWorld podcast, we will be featuring some great behind the scenes Antarctica audio from the tour. Until then, sit back relax, and enjoy episode 7 of the Unofficial Seaworld Podcast, where we talk about Summer Nights, at all 3 SeaWorld parks, along with the full audio of Sea Lions tonight!