Ski Dubai snow penguins turns 5!

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must know by now that there’s a ski resort inside a mall in Dubai. Ski Dubai is the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort which opened in 2005. This massive facility has 22,500 square meters of indoor ski area where you can ski (of course) and do lots of fun in the snow. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world.

I must admit, I dread the idea of going inside Ski Dubai. After having experienced 10 winters in Japan complete with sub zero temperatures and snow while living in the mountainous region of Nagano prefecture, I am done with the cold.

However, snow will always be something that gets the kids happy and excited.

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So, did you also know that aside from snow inside Ski Dubai, there are also…PENGUINS? Like, real ones?  Snow + PENGUINS, oh yay!! That got me excited as well.

Ski Dubai offers Penguin Encounters with the Ski Dubai penguins – currently there are 28 resident penguins. At the start there were only 20 of them. The King and Gentoo Penguins at Ski Dubai reside in the most sophisticated habitat in the UAE. The enclosure consists of several areas including a private pool, a top deck area with rocks, and a private holding area.

My daughter Pristine visited the penguins at Ski Dubai five years ago when they were new so she’s so delighted to be able to see them again, and this time, with her little brother Benjamin! Our tour started  as we made our way through a dark tunnel, complete with ice on the wall and snow under our feet. Ah, that familiar crunchy sound of fresh snow!

We were told that Ski Dubai is the only place in the world where the public are allowed to touch penguins and were given instructions on how to hug them (always from behind, to prevent a scratch from a sharp beak). Benjamin was hesitant at first but that’s understandable, if I were a five year old, I would probably freak out too seeing Happy Feet characters alive and moving right in front of my eyes!

Then we were led into the second enclosure to meet a King Penguin; the second largest breed of penguin in the world and pretty impressive with his bright yellow feathers. This was the bird we would be allowed to touch.

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Normally, private photography is not allowed on penguin encounter sessions but for this event, they let us in with our phones and a staff helped take our photos.

snow bunnies 2 We learned a lot on this penguin encounter session. The guide/trainer provided simple explanation and wonderful lessons for all age groups to help understand these birds, their habits, behavior, etc.

While I am not a fan of animals in captivity, I am a bit relieved to learn that there are strict rules in place for the penguin’s welfare and they are rotated so as not to be overwhelmed. Also, Ski Dubai regularly directs funds back into penguin conservation and research projects through the non-profit charity Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute.

After the penguin encounter, the kids played a bit in the snow. It was Benjamin’s first time to see a snow, however unreal. We’ll take it, for now. We had lots of fun at the snow park but after an hour or so, it was time to head outside. We can’t feel our fingers anymore!


Please bring your own insulated gloves, hat and warm underwear as you cannot rent them there, only ski suits for the kids and long down jacket for adults. I had to sacrifice looking ridiculous with a kiddie beanie with a red braid just to warm my frozen ears!

We were guests at Ski Dubai for the penguin’s 5th birthday bash. As usual, all opinions are my own.

Top 10 things to do in Dubai

There are lots of things to do when staying in Dubai but here are the top ten in my mind.

1. Beaches – Dubai is home to the world’s cleaniest beaches with fine, white sand. When visiting, if there’s one thing you musn’t forget, it’s gotta be your favorite sunscreen.

Mamzar Beach

Pristine and my friend from Japan admiring the clear waters

2. Desert Safari – just an hour outside of the city lies the golden desert. You can book a safari tour that will take you to the desert, experience dune bashing and have a great dinner of Arabic/Indian food. If you’re worried of motion sickness, ask your tour operator the duration of the desert ride so you won’t have to be sick in your trip.

3. Cruising the creek – Dubai is divided into two by a natural water formation called Dubai Creek. The creek holds a lot of history and up to this day, the traditional wooden boats are still available for anyone who wants to cross the creek the way the inhabitants did before all the ‘rush’.


4. Shopping for gold – Dubai is bling heaven. A visit to Dubai’s gold souq (Souq is Arabic for market) is worth your time even if you’re not interested in buying jewelry, strolling down the lanes of the gold souq provides “entertainment” for the eyes as shop window after shop window is filled with gold necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings and brooches, all in 22K or 24K. Gold prices here are among the lowest in the world.


5. Golf – You didn’t expect golf courses in the desert, did you? There are a lot of nice golf clubs in Dubai including the only Tiger Woods designed golf course and golf resort in the world (planned).

6. Heritage Tour – Take a tour to see old Dubai at the Dubai Museum and Dubai Heritage Village.


A local woman preparing traditional food, in a traditional way at Heritage Village

7. Dining – Every resident and visitor in Dubai will go through the maze of diverse foods and beverages in this city. With Dubai’s diverse population, it’s not surprising that the city has a wide range of dining options, covering everything from Malaysian to Moroccan.

8. Skiing – Ski Dubai is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East and offers an amazing snow setting to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing or just playing in the snow.



9. Hot Air Balloon Rides – While I haven’t tried this, I know that hot air balloon rides are definitely one of the most exciting things to do while in Dubai. On your hot air balloon, you can view the Dubai skyline and spectacular landscapes of mountains and azure waters, as you go high up in air, almost into the endearing arms of the blue sky.


10. Shopping – Dubai is literally a shopper’s paradise. Dubai holds shopping festivals twice a year, one in winter starting around January (Dubai Shopping Festival) and one in the summer called Dubai Summer Surprises where you can get good bargains. Huge malls are sprouting on a regular basis so the competion results in even more bargains for shoppers!

When in Dubai, which of these would you do first?