I made some new friends today.
40 to be exact.
They are small, round and walk a bit funny.
No, they are not OAP's
I'm at Longleat Safari Park if you were wondering
We almost didn't make it!
Silly road works had closed the key motorway in Wiltshire!
After a terribly long 2-hour drive, we abandoned the car in an empty plot, sprinted across the car park in our wellies, dodging the muddy puddles and hundreds and thousands of screaming children and only just made our 1:45pm appointment to meet Matt.
Matt is the expert on penguins at Longleat. If there is anything you've ever wondered about penguins, Matt's your man!
Here he is with his penguin posse.
Longleat Safari Park was the first drive-thru safari park to open outside Africa way back in 1966.
The safari park was the first of its kind anywhere in the world and completely revolutionised the way captive animals - by letting the animals roam freely and visitors were caged up in their cars.
Longleat is also the home of the 7th Marquess of Bath and his stunning estate and gardens are open to the public in the summer months.
But lets get back to the little black and white fellas...
Matt filled up his bucket with stinky fish and led Tom and myself in to the enclosure along with 2 other couples - we were getting the super exclusive treatment
Matt showed us how to feed the penguins without getting our fingers bitten by the little critters
They were like dogs scrambling for treats
You'd think they'd never been fed before!
Then it was our turn to feed them
In front of crowds of onlookers
They were so cute!
But very feisty!
I almost lost my fingers one too many times
Tom seemed to have them more under control
And just when you thought they were starting to like you...
They would turn your back on you and waddle to the next feeding visitor
It's all about dat fish
You got no fish?
You got no friends
They are called Humboldt penguins
They grow up to about 70cm and weigh approx. 4-5 Kg
Did you know penguins moult their feathers every year? A bit like a snake sheds his skin.
During the 3-4 weeks of moulting period, they come ashore in the wild which means they aren't catching fish or eating. For this reason they fatten themselves up before they moult to stand the long period with no food.
But these guys get fed every day when they moult and one greedy bugger grew up to 8 Kg! That's one fat penguin!
After feeding, Matt led us all through in to another part of the enclosure
We went through the human gates
They went through the penguin gates
Here we get a chance to get up close and personal to some of the friendliest penguins of the group
These three female penguins were the stars of the show
They loved the limelight and the attention
Did you also know you can't tell if penguins are male or female just by looking at them?
Male and female penguins look almost identical, unlike ducks for example, and all of their reproductive organs are inside
The only way you can work it out is by doing a DNA test on them or if they end up laying an egg!
That's why the penguin keepers tag the females on their right fin and the males on their left so they can identify them with more ease
Look at them!
Practically fishwalk models
He's the clumsy one of the group
Not only does he have a twisty beak which gives him his name, but he's just a bit clumsy with life in general
He has trouble catching fish and always falls over his own feet, so I kept an extra special eye on him and fed him a few extra fish
He was my favourite!
I think (hoped) he liked me too!
I do wonder what the are saying to each other...
"Smile and wave boys. Smile. And. Wave."
"You know there will be fish later if we just smile and wave"
I need some fish in my mouth though
Thank you lil' penguins
You can have some more fish now!
If, like me, you're a penguin lover then the penguin experience at Longleat is well worth the money and the time. You get taken behind the scenes to the penguin pen and even get to play with the penguins inside penguin island!
You can find out more here.
Longleat is THE place to go if you are crazy about animals, they have just about every feeding experience you can think of including visiting the park after dark! Have a surf through their website and see what takes your fancy!