Skip to main content


Come and visit them at Polar Adventure!

  • SEA LIFE, Polar Adventure

Feel the chill with our Gentoo Penguins!

The Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) is the third largest species of penguin, with only the Emperor and King penguins being larger. They are the fastest species of penguin, capable of reaching speeds of 22mph underwater.

During the winter months, you will notice that the lights in our penguin enclosure will be in low light or going into a sunset cycle of reds and that the penguins will be settling in for a night’s sleep. This is to ensure we closely match the conditions found in the Southern Hemisphere – where Gentoo penguins are found. The variation in light cycles and temperature is designed to encourage their natural seasonal behaviour including a yearly moult, nesting, and breeding. At this time of year, that means the sun sets earlier at Penguin Point. This practice is based on years of worldwide experience in maintaining the best possible conditions and to ensure that Gentoo penguins breed successfully.

The Gentoo Penguin is monogamous, so two penguins will pair for a breeding season and share all the responsibilities of nest building, nest guarding, egg incubation and the rearing of offspring equally, and they are found to bow to each other to cement their pair-bond. It is not uncommon for penguins to mate for life, but on average a pair will stay together for around three breeding seasons before finding a new partner.

Penguins are playful! They love to slide down icy patches on their bellies and take turns to dive into the ocean. Did you know their black and white pattern is a form of camouflage? It helps them blend in with the water and keep safe from predators.

The Gentoo’s go through a process called a "catastrophic moult". Once a year they lose all their feathers all in one go, and replace them with a brand new set. During this period, they may not eat for around 2 weeks. They eat lots of extra food and gain a lot of weight beforehand to make sure they have adequate energy reserves for this process.

Penguins are found almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere. They are ‘flightless’ birds but they can soar through the water like a torpedo to catch fish! They eat fish, squid and shrimp in the wild. The colour in the shrimp they eat is what makes their feet and beaks orange. They also They feed their chicks by regurgitating partially digested food straight into their mouths. YUCK!

There are a number of threats that Gentoo penguins face in the wild - namely unsustainable fishing practices depleting their food sources, marine pollution (causing them to ingest plastics) and climate change.

Swimming penguins

Gentoo Penguins

'Penguin Point’ is a magical opportunity to get to know our amazing Gentoo Penguins! Gentoos are the third largest species of Penguin in the world after the Emperor and Kings.

Gento Penguin Diving

Wild Gentoos live in one of the harshest landscapes on the planet, so this species is specially adapted to life in the cold. Their body is covered in an insulating layer of blubber and they eat lots of fish to maintain it. They also have a layer of woolly, insulating feathers covered by a second layer of smooth, waterproof feathers which helps to keep the warm in and the cold water out. Our enclosure has been specially designed to keep Gentoo Penguins cool and comfortable.

You see that on the land these birds waddle around in a comical manner, but under the water is a different matter! Through the underwater viewing window you'll see how graceful they are when they're swimming; Diving and swooping around as if they could fly.