Penguin Encounter at Aquarium of Niagara in Niagara Falls, U.S.A.
There were two rules Dan Arcara, Director of Exhibits at Aquarium of Niagara, said we must obey during our Penguin Encounter. First was avoiding putting our faces near the penguin’s beak and the second was standing clear of her backside.
While visiting Buffalo over the Christmas holiday, my family and Annette, best friend from junior and senior high schools, ventured over to Aquarium of Niagara to see what’s changed since I last visited, which was probably about 30 years ago. I’d just seen my friends new Clear Water Aquariums set-up and was itching to go back. My friend didn’t have penguins though, so this was a definite highlight of my trip.
Turns out, much has changed! Exhibits seemed brighter and more natural. An octopus opening a jar holding Mr. Potato Head and its lunch kept us fascinated for most of our visit. We also admired the collection of vibrant poison dart frogs and diversity of fresh and saltwater sea life in this compact aquarium.
Back to the Penguin Encounter…
For the Penguin Encounter, we entered a (not so) secret door where we could see behind some of the exhibit tanks. We watched Dan walk into penguin exhibit and return with Opus under his arm, carrying her almost like a much-guarded football. Opus, a Humboldt Penguin typically native to warm climates of Chile and Peru, was born at the aquarium March 16, 1988, making her a couple months shy of her 24th birthday.
As he set her down, he warned me again about staying clear of her backside and within seconds, she shot out a white streak of liquid poop. Whoa!
“See what I mean?” Dan said.
The encounter with Opus lasted at least 15 minutes, maybe 20, and Annette and I took turns petting the little sweetie pie. With the popularity of such movies as Happy Feet, March of the Penguins, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Aquarium of Niagara’s Penguin Encounter allows kids (at least 8 years old) to get up close and personal with the flightless birds.
Although tempting to grab and hug a penguin, it’s frowned upon. OK, it’s just something you CAN’T do.
Petting and observing are acceptable and we sure did that. I suppose I was expecting the penguin to feel rough but she was quite soft to the touch because of her fine feathers. Because of her age and arthritis setting in, Opus waddled a little bit before resting on her belly to garner “oohs” and “ahhhs” from her new fans. Opus wasn’t affectionate and cuddly but she was comfortable in front of the camera and didn’t seem to mind being touched.
Penguin Encounter at Aquarium of Niagara
The cost to participate in the Penguin Encounter is $75 per participant which includes getting up close and personal with a Humboldt Penguin, the encounter includes a photograph with the penguin and a photo CD available for $20. Remember, this is for visitors 8 years old and older. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling (716) 285-3575 ext. 211.
Other Animal Encounters at Aquarium of Niagara
During the “warmer” season in Western New York, get a big ol’ wet kiss either from a California sea lion or harbor seal during the Sea Lion or Harbor Seal Encounter. For $75 per participant, work with a trainer in an interactive play session with one of the marine mammals while learning more about the species. The session is about 15 minutes long, a photo CD is available for $20 and open to those ages 8 years old and older. Call (716) 285-3575 ext. 214, for reservations.
Ever feed sushi to a seal? Well you can with the aquarium’s Wanna Feed a Seal? program. At 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. daily, anyone can feed the Pacific and Atlantic Harbor Seals from the public area of the outdoor pool a cup of fish for $5. (No, it’s not REAL sushi.)
Like anything, the aquarium reserves the right to cancel or change programs content and price without notice so it’s a great idea to visit their website and call prior to your visit. Tel: (716) 285-3575 ext. 214, www.aquariumofniagara.org.
Perfect for the aspiring marine biologist, a memorable gift or just for bragging rights, Aquarium of Niagara offers various marine animal interactive programs in addition to affordable educational fun.
Admission is $10 adults, $6 for kids 3 to 12 years old, $8 for seniors 60 and older and children 2 and younger are free. Parking is free.