Want to chill with baby penguins? New encounter coming to Gulfarium, but only for limited time

Special to Gannett/USA TODAY NETWORK

FORT WALTON BEACH — Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is celebrating two new additions to their endangered African penguin family.

The first penguin chick hatched at the Gulfarium Feb. 17, 2021 with the second following close behind on Feb. 20.

These penguin chicks were born to parents Ninja and Jelly. The first chick to hatch spent the first 3 weeks of its life being raised by Ninja and Jelly, with the second chick being raised by surrogate parents Missy and Tubbs.

“African penguins lay two eggs per clutch, and if both eggs hatch successfully, one of the chicks is often raised by surrogate parents,” said Patrick Berry, Gulfarium’s Senior Vice President.

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The two chicks born to the endangered African penguins in February are pictured at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach.

“This is to ensure that the adult penguins can focus on raising one chick at a time and provide that hatchling the best possible care. Our animal care specialists monitor the growth of the chicks with frequent weight checks to ensure healthy development.”

The Gulfarium team is excited to reveal that they will be introducing a brand new, limited-time-only encounter where guests can spend time with the two chicks in a behind-the-scenes setting while they learn about the different life stages of these adorable birds.

The Chillin' with Chicks encounter will only be available for reservations from 9:45-11:30 a.m. May 1-31 at the Gulfarium, 1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach.

Reservations are $79 for approximately 15 minutes, limited to visitors ages 8 and above.

“This is an opportune time within the chicks’ development to start socializing them with humans,” said Bryan Martin, one of the Gulfarium’s directors of animal management.

The elder of two new African penguins chicks at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach hatched on Dec. 13, 2020. It's sibling hatched four days later.

“While this encounter is not only fun and informative for our guests, it is also a great opportunity to provide essential socialization for our chicks before integrating them into our penguin colony as they continue to grow and mature.

“This will be highly beneficial for their long-term welfare and husbandry that they will receive throughout their lives. This time spent with guests will play an important role when it comes to healthcare checkups as they will be familiar with human interaction.”

Once the chicks have molted their fluffy down and grown their waterproof feathers near the end of May, they will be ready to learn how to swim in their habitat and remain with the rest of the penguin colony.

One of the penguins at the Gulfarium waddles around in his enclosure. [ERIN FRANCZAK/DAILY NEWS]

Reservations and park hours

Guests can book their spot on this amazing new opportunity by visiting www.gulfarium.com/chillin_with_chicks or by calling 850-243-9046, ext. 4.

The public is invited to follow the chick's progress on Gulfarium's Facebook page.  All updates, including milestones will be made available via Facebook.

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is located at 1010 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach. The park opens at 9 a.m. seven days a week. For details, call or visit www.gulfarium.com.