Step beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, where I recently had an unforgettable adventure. This isn’t just any day at the zoo; it’s a unique opportunity to engage intimately with one of the world’s most charming creatures – the African penguin. The park’s special penguin experience promises more than just viewing; it offers a chance for up-close and personal interactions, allowing you to connect with these endearing birds in a way you never thought possible.
Prepare to be enchanted by their playful antics and captivated by their distinctive personalities, all in a setting that brings you closer to nature’s wonders.
I found out about this opportunity after seeing multiple TikTok videos about the penguin swim. I had no idea that we could even do something as cool as swimming with penguins right here in the heart of Kansas. I decided to bring along my best friend, who shares the same love for penguins as I do.
From the moment we entered the park, Tanganyika offered an ambiance that was nothing short of exciting. The scent of fresh funnel cake fries and the distant sounds of goats who have their heads out begging for food, added to the excitement. The open and inviting environment was a testament to Tanganyika’s dedication to animal welfare and conservation.
Our day’s agenda included the highlight of swimming with penguins—an experience I never thought I would have the chance to check off my bucket list. But before the penguin experience began, my friend and I decided to explore other animal encounters the park had to offer. One noteworthy attraction was feeding lemurs at Lemur Island.
As a child, my love and interest in penguins came from the movie “The Penguins of Madagascar” and the online multiplayer game called “Club Penguin.” These cherished memories filled me with nostalgia and only added to my eagerness to meet the real-life stars of my childhood dreams.
A Look at My Penguin Encounter at Tanganyika Wildlife Park
My anticipation began to build as we arrived at Tanganyika, knowing we were about to embark on a unique penguin encounter. We checked into the VIP room about 15-30 minutes ahead of time, to allow us to get suited up for the adventure.
In the room, there were free drinks and unique items made from their animals, such as resin footprints and paintings which made the experience even more inviting.
Emily, a member of the concierge team, welcomed us warmly and had our gear ready, which included a snug wetsuit, shoes, and a cozy towel for post-swim warmth. When booking the penguin swim, the team takes note of your size beforehand so everything was ready for us when we got there. Emily instructed anyone with jewelry for it to be removed as the penguins love anything shiny.
After a brief introduction with each other, Emily escorted us to get changed. After everyone was ready, Emily led us to the penguin exhibit, Trouble Makers Cove.
The Swim Begins
Entering the penguin exhibit, we were greeted by Sam, a friendly and knowledgeable keeper who guided us through this fun experience. The penguin pool was a beautiful recreation of the coast of Africa, complete with realistic river rocks and chilly waters. It was easy to forget, even for a brief moment, that we were in the heart of Kansas.
We were guided to the penguin pool, where we met our aquatic companions for the day—Nugget, OG, Jordie, Nani, and Paco. As I put one hand on the rock bridge and walked down the sloped side of the pool into the water, my enthusiasm was mirrored by the penguins, who were no strangers to new friends.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was a designated person on the land to assist with capturing the perfect up-close shots. They willingly took our phones or cameras to ensure that we could focus entirely on our interactions with these delightful birds in the water.
In The Water
Sam introduced us to the penguins as they swam gracefully in their crystal-clear pool. Their agility and underwater grace were captivating, contrasting with their clumsy yet endearing waddle on land.
We were treated to a unique opportunity to engage with the penguins in the water by handing them playful toys, such as cat toys and feathers. It was fascinating to observe their playful antics as they interacted with these special toys, which are typically reserved for swim experiences.
Penguin Selfie Time
After approximately 30 minutes in the water, our Penguin Swim adventure came to a close. Our guide invited us to take individual and group photos with OG, Nugget, and Paco on the front rock. This was the perfect way to capture the day’s essence and create lasting mementos of our unique experience.
Leaving the penguin habitat, I not only carried unforgettable memories but also gained an appreciation for Tanganyika Wildlife Park’s role in raising awareness and supporting the conservation of endangered species. The penguin experience was more than just an encounter; it was an experience of a lifetime.
Watch this video for a first-hand view of the penguin swim.
An Interview With a Zookeeper: Penguins and Other Creatures at Tanganyika Wildlife Park
While visitors are enchanted by the charismatic penguins during the Penguin Swim, few understand the dedication and daily routines of the zookeepers. I had the privilege of sitting down with Sam O., a zookeeper with a deep love for the animals under her care, particularly the penguins.
Sam’s daily routine is a symphony of care, enrichment, and training, all aimed at ensuring these penguins have the best life possible. These charming birds, also known as “jackass penguins” due to their donkey-like braying call, have a special place in Sam’s heart.
A Day in the Life of a Penguin Keeper
7:00 am – Sam begins her day with crucial pool and water quality checks and pool maintenance. Clean water and a comfortable habitat are essential for the penguins’ health and happiness.
7:15 am – Sam’s next responsibility is to shift the juvenile and non-breeding penguins onto the exhibit. This process allows these young penguins to explore and interact with visitors, contributing to their socialization.
8:00 am – Sam preps the penguins’ morning fish, including any necessary supplements or medications, which takes about an hour. This process is repeated at 2 pm, ensuring the penguins’ nutritional needs are met.
9:00 am – With the penguins well-fed and content, it’s time for cleaning and maintenance of their holding areas. This includes everything from spraying floors to scrubbing mats, crates, and the kitchen. Sam ensures that the penguins’ indoor pool is refilled, providing them with a refreshing place to swim and play.
The well-being of the penguins goes beyond their physical health; it extends to their mental and emotional stimulation. Sam reveals some of the creative enrichment methods that the penguins adore.
Fun Fact: One of their favorite toys is the bubble machine, which creates a fun and dynamic underwater environment for them. They also get special toys in the penguin encounter meet and greet, which are some of their favorites. Cat toys on a wand also captivate their attention, especially during the beloved penguin experience.
Training: Another crucial aspect of Sam’s work as a penguin keeper is training. She talks about training a select few penguins to walk down the aisle during weddings, an experience that delights both the newlyweds and guests. Training these naturally non-food-motivated penguins can be a challenge, but it’s a rewarding endeavor.
Other Tanganyika Experiences: If swimming with penguins just isn’t your thing, the park offers a variety of extraordinary animal encounters. Marta, another penguin keeper, recommends the otter meet and greet, and the sloth tour, allowing guests to get up close to these unique animals in their habitat.
These meet and greets are not only thrilling but also educational. The different animal experiences at the park help raise awareness and provide insight into what we can do to help protect these creatures in the wild.
Fun Animal Facts about other TWP animals: To round up the interview, Sam and Marta shared some fascinating facts about the animals in the park. Did you know that giraffes have an 18-inch long tongue and the same number of vertebrae as humans, but their vertebrae are exceptionally large? Sloths can’t fart, which is quite a quirky trait. And otters, those skilled swimmers, must be taught how to hold their breath.
In the world of animal care and conservation, the keepers at Tanganyika Wildlife Park play a vital role in ensuring the well-being of the creatures and in fostering an understanding of these animals.
Reflections and Takeaways From My Penguin Experience
My penguin experience at Tanganyika Wildlife Park was special. It was a journey into a world that, while
thousands of miles from the coast of Africa, was no less captivating. The encounter immersed me in the realm of penguins, leaving me with a newfound appreciation for their charm.
Tanganyika Wildlife Park’s dedication to conservation, education, and animal welfare shone through every aspect of the penguin experience. I left the park not only with cherished memories but also with a deeper understanding of the vital role that zoos and sanctuaries play in preserving the diverse and delicate ecosystems of our planet.
For anyone seeking an extraordinary and heartwarming experience with penguins, Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a must-visit destination. It offers a unique opportunity to connect with these charismatic birds, learn about their conservation needs, and support efforts to protect their wild counterparts. My penguin encounter was more than just a visit to a zoo; it was an unforgettable experience.