New Zealand: Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s

After visiting Devonport, on the ferry back to Auckland, we had to choose between a whale and dolphin watching cruise and Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s. The wind was aggressive and cold enough to encourage us to opt for Sea Life. Plus, Tarlton’s has the world’s largest display colony of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic penguins. It was time to see penguins, even if they are in captivity. They also have one of the coolest vehicles in the world. I just wished it would have played a selection of shark music. (You know, the “Jaws” soundtrack, Mack the Knife, Baby Shark, Fins… Am I missing any shark songs? (affiliate links) Let me know in the comments.)

The first part of the exhibit explores the history of Scott Base in Antarctica and allows you to dunk your hand in cold sea water. Why did I do this? It was as cold as I expected. There are other activities that you can try as well. We were in a hurry to get to the penguins, especially knowing that we needed to catch the last shuttle back to Auckland.

The polar plunge: Dip your hands in icy Antarctic water.
No, I did not last 30 seconds. (Don’t @ me with your jokes.)

After watching a few penguins swim through their water area, we proceeded up the ramp and were greeted by the glorious sight of King penguins just standing around. What else does royalty do? One was sleeping on an incline with only one foot to keep traction, the other was tucked into its body. There were other penguins that seemed to be sleeping as well. Some looked up to the sky and stretched their necks.

King penguins at Sea Life Kelly Tarlton's
King penguins at Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s

Then a trio of Gentoos decided to enter the picture. Their wings were spread out as they waddled into the frame. One decided to go diving. The others stopped to look at all the humans looking at them. Penguins in the background decided to shout out for some reason. One of the Gentoos took an active interest in Patch Penguin; we think the Gentoo was wondering how Patch got to the other side of the glass.

Several of the Gentoos were incubating eggs. One was carrying a rock in its beak. It ran a few circles before I lost track of it and couldn’t see what it did with the rock. The penguin nodded their heads and then shook them. This was a highlight of the trip so far. We will probably never be able to see these particular penguins in the wild (unless we get a lot more people interested in our Patreon page, buying my books, or reading this blog [shameless plug]).

Pro Tip: If you wait long enough the horde of people will pass, and you can have one on one time enjoying the penguins. Second Pro Tip: Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s offers a Penguin Experience; it’ll set you back a pretty penny, but you’ll get so close to the penguins you can smell them.

Tarlton was an underwater enthusiast who wanted everyone to experience seeing life under the sea, the way that divers do. The underwater tunnels do just that for visitors as sharks, rays, and other fish glide overhead. They even have an automatic walkway that moves you slowly through the exhibit, so you can feel like you’re a part of the current. The rays are much larger than I expected them to be.

There are a lot of different kinds of fish to see and a lot of educational areas, including one about sea turtles and another about sea horses. The building itself goes under the road, so that the waves in the harbor are allowed to beat on the glass at the café. Sea Life Kelly Tarlton’s was definitely worth the stop. We probably could have watched the fish and the penguins a lot longer. (For more, check out photos from Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium.)