Penguin Island Encounter FAQs

How do I buy a Penguin Island Encounter? 
Click here to buy a Penguin Island Encounter online or call 01244 650 281. You will then be asked to select a date for your Encounter. Don’t forget, weekdays outside of school holidays are slightly cheaper should you select one of these dates.

If you opt for a gift wrap option, we will send out a gift pack containing your Encounter voucher, gift message and everything you need to know. What if I don’t opt for the gift wrap option? After your purchase is complete you will receive an email confirmation confirming your purchase and everything you need to know about your Encounter – what, when & where!


What if I don’t opt for the gift wrap option? After your purchase is complete you will receive an email confirmation confirming your purchase and everything you need to know about your Encounter – what, when & where!


I am a member. Do I get a discount?
Members and adopters receive a 10% discount on the price of this Experience (phone orders only).


Do I have to pre-book my Penguin Island Encounter?
You will be asked at the point of purchase to select one of our available dates for your Encounter. Weekends do get booked up fast, so we cannot guarantee any set dates.


What's included in the price?
Penguin Island Encounters at Chester Zoo offer you the chance to get up close and personal with our colony of Humboldt penguins that play an important role in a European wide breeding programme and support other colonies in other zoos. As well as meeting these flightless birds, you will have the chance to feed the penguins and ask one of our Keepers any questions you may have. Your admission to the zoo is also included and you are free to enter at any time within our normal opening hours.

Is there anything else I need to know about the Penguin Encounter?
  • The zoo covers a large area so there is a certain amount of walking involved in getting around from the entrance, to the meeting point and to the animal enclosure
  • The penguin’s enclosure mimics their natural environment so has uneven surfaces with rocks, deep gravel beds and a short but steep incline
  • When feeding you will be standing near to a deep water pool where the penguins like to swim so you/they should be a competent swimmer
  • The penguin feed sometimes attracts wild birds who may be flying quite close to you
  • Watching animal feeds is very popular with other visitors and the penguin feed takes place in front of the public
  • During the preparation and feeding you will be handling whole raw fish
  • Whilst all our animals in the zoo are kept in the best of health and we have strict hygiene procedures in place all animals may carry pathogens that can be transmissible to humans which might be a risk to those with a suppressed or compromised immune system


Is there an age restriction?
The Penguin Island Encounter is suitable for adults and children aged five years and over, however, children (5 – 15 years) must be accompanied by a spectating adult paying normal zoo admission (1 adult per 1 child). Children aged 5-15 years must be accompanied onto the Penguin Island by their spectating adult; please be aware that spectating adults will not be able to take part in the Encounter.


Are there any other restrictions?
Regrettably certain guests will be unable to take part including people with epilepsy, relevant phobias or known allergies, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals. Whilst every effort is made to accommodate those with a disability or learning difficulty, due to practicality and health and safety this cannot always be achieved, please contact Chester Zoo for advice before purchasing.


Will I have a uniform?
All participants will be issued with wellington boots and special overalls that they can wear over their clothes before entering the Penguin Island. You will also be provided with gloves when handling fish to feed the penguins.


How long does the Encounter last?
The Encounter session will last approximately 30 minutes (some of the time will be spent meeting with your Keeper and being briefed across the zoo to the Penguin Island).


How many people will be taking part at the same time as me?
There will be a maximum of two people taking part at any one time.


How often will the Penguin Island Encounters be taking place?
There will be one Encounter available on selected days throughout the week (both weekdays and weekends). Encounters do get booked up fast so be sure to secure your date. Please note that prices do differ throughout the week and school holiday dates.


Do I get to touch the penguins?
No. Here at Chester Zoo we respect all our animals. Penguins do not enjoy being touched or petted as much as they enjoy the feeding.


Is the welfare of the animals compromised?
Care is taken at Chester Zoo that close encounters are organised so that the welfare of the animals is not compromised. Penguins have the choice of whether to approach the feeding area or not. The collection is maintained in such a way that it is large enough to allow appropriate rotation of individual animals to ensure suitable frequency of use and to allow for rest periods.


What if I become scared of the animals and don’t want to take part?
No one is made to do anything that they do not want to do. If you wish to leave the Experience at any point you are welcome to do so. However, most people find that taking part in the full Encounter is the best way to get the most from the Experience.


Will there be someone qualified with me?
Yes, a qualified Keeper will be with you at all times to explain and supervise the activity.


Is it dangerous?
The animals you will encounter are habituated to human contact and do not normally display behaviours which pose a threat to visitors. However, it should be recognised by visitors that no animal is absolutely predictable and there is always a small amount of risk of unpredictable behaviour.

Our team will continuously monitor the animals and conduct the Encounter sessions in such a way as to reduce the likelihood of such unpredictable behaviour.

It is a condition of participation in the session that the risks and restrictions have been understood and agreed to. All guests will be requested to clean their hands with hand sterilizer before and after close contact with animals.

Guests will also be asked to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water and will be asked to wear any gloves supplied by staff. When feeding the animals, care must be taken as rocks are slippery, especially when wet.


Do penguins bite?
Penguins will bite and peck if they become irritated.


What happens if the weather is bad?
The weather should not affect the Experience. In cases of severe weather the Encounter may be cancelled and rescheduled for another day.


Will this Experience be available all year round?
Penguin Island Encounters will be available throughout the whole year, including winter months.


Can I bring a guest?
Additional spectators are welcome to come along to watch your Encounter; you can even buy their ticket at the same time as buying your Penguin Island Encounter, or spectators can simply pay normal zoo admission on the day.

Please note that spectators will not be able to take part in your Encounter in any way.


Will I be able to take photographs?
We recommend that you bring your camera but you must ask permission before you take any photos. This is to reduce the risk of changing the behaviour of the animals taking part in the session.


Why can so few people feed the penguins each day?
Zoo keepers and staff veterinarians carefully monitor all of the animals’ diets to ensure their health.


Can I bring my own food to feed the penguins?
No, zoo keepers and staff veterinarians carefully monitor all of the animals’ diets to ensure their health, so all feed will be provided.


How many penguins will be there be? How much do they eat? How many of them are left in the wild?
Our Keepers are very knowledgeable and will be on hand during the Penguin Encounter to answer any specific animal questions you may have.


Can I get a refund on my Experience?

Under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 you have a right to cancel your order and or return an item purchased through the Chester Zoo online shop within 7 (seven) days of delivery for any reason. Chester Zoo will refund your payment card with both the item cost and original posting and packaging cost within a reasonable period of time.

Unfortunately Chester Zoo is not able to refund the cost of return postage and packaging. Please note this does not include the right to return personalised items and admission tickets. A refund can only be made to the purchaser on the same card originally used for payment. A refund can not be given once a booking has been made or on extended, expired or exchanged vouchers.


Any other questions?
If you have a question which is not covered in this list, please email and we will respond as soon as we can. Please call 01244 650281 if you have any urgent queries on our Penguin Island Encounter.