Weirdly, I have spent quite a lot of time in the company of penguins – swimming with them in the Galapagos, hiking with them in Antarctica, and now taking a morning stroll with them in Basel.

No matter how much time you spend with these birds, they are never boring. They are the personalities of the ornithological world. Slightly off-balance, slightly funnily-shaped, noisy and belligerent – they are the best-dressed, worst-mannered diners at the birds’ dinner party. But they are undeniably hilarious. I could, and have, watched them for hours. And it turns out that I didn’t have to travel to the ends of the Earth to do so.

Winter in Basel zoo is Penguin party time. As long as the weather stays below ten degrees, the birds go for a morning walk, accompanied by their keepers and a rag-tag bunch of spectators. There are no walls, no glass, no railings between you and the birds, just don’t touch them and you can pretty much get as close as you like. Although you might not want to get too close. Penguin poop is a sticky thing…



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