A colony of regal king penguins and cheeky gentoo penguins has arrived in Sydney, and they're here to stay.
Balmy Sydney is nothing like chilly Macquarie Island, one of the cloudiest places on Earth, where icy winds blow year-round. The island, a Tasmanian state reserve, is situated in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Antarctica and is home to creatures who love its challenging climate. Penguins – royal, gentoo, southern rockhopper and king, in particular – return there to breed every year.
In a world first, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, in Darling Harbour, has re-created the experience of being on Macquarie Island, complete with a colony of 30 king and gentoo penguins. The $9 million Penguin Island Expedition has all the elements penguins thrive on: icy water, snow and wailing winds.
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Visitors – or “explorers” – board a raft and head through subantarctic conditions towards the Macquarie Island Explorer Hut, where they can watch the penguins on land and under water, going about their business. The rafts glide past the penguin habitat, with only a small glass partition separating visitors from the birds. To stay cosy in the 6°C environment, visitors will be given blankets to rug up in.
The new attraction is the biggest investment Sea Life Sydney Aquarium has made since its opening 28 years ago. As well as being the first of its kind in the world, the exhibit will be part of an ongoing breeding and conservation project.
It's not just about cute penguins, though. The project is funding research into the impact plastic pollution is having on wild penguin colonies. The Aquarium is dedicated to teaching visitors about the impact of plastic waste and what we can do to prevent it.
Entry to the exhibit is included in the cost of general admission.