At a time when extreme heat and drought are consuming many parts of the world, there's a land far far south, where ice is life and life is scarce.
There you'll also find a rare and hidden beauty we know little about, simply because we can't live in that type of cold weather. But penguins, a small and resilient group of aquatic, flightless birds, thrive in the coldest place on earth.
There are 17 to 20 different species of penguins around the world, most of them native to the Southern Hemisphere. But you don't have to travel too far to get up close and personal with these neat birds.
At San Antonio's SeaWorld, park goers have been able to get a good look at the penguins for years -- but from behind a huge glass exhibit, separating people from the birds. Not anymore. A new one-of-a-kind penguin interactive experience is drawing visitors behind the scenes.
They can touch, carry, feed, and take pictures with the birds. I couldn't pass up on the opportunity! Just as I expected, my visit was incredible, unique and unforgettable.
San Antonio's SeaWorld is the ONLY SeaWorld in the country that now allows interaction with the penguins. At the exhibit, you'll find more than 200 of these feathery birds from four different species, including king, rockhopper, chinstrap and gentoo.
At first I was a little wary the birds would be hostile or aggressive, but the cute and cuddly birds turned out to be a lot more curious and friendly than I had imagined. One of them even climbed on my lap!
Supervisor Bob Flores has known these penguins for decades.
"It brings up a good point as far as conservation, not just these animals but all over the world," Said Flores, "We need to make sure that when you come in and see these animals, and once you see them up close and personal and you interact with them, then you get a better sense of what's incumbent upon us to take care of the environment as a whole."
Speaking of environment, as I mentioned before, penguins live in freezing temperatures. The exhibit was about 38 degrees with a wind chill factor of 27. As you can imagine, we were freezing. But before we walked in, Flores suited us up in jackets, pants and gloves.
"That's what most visitors can expect," he said. "We will provide the necessary clothing."
There are a few exceptions to entering. Visitors must be at least 8 years old and reservations must be made.
To get a glimpse of what the penguin interaction experience is like, check out the video link above.
For reservations: call (800) 700-7786 or visit the SeaWorld San Antonio website.