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.
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.
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.
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.