Little Penguin Habitat (Fairy Penguin Island at SEA LIFE Weymouth)

As most of the new Oceania Pack animals didn't really fit into my existing zoos, I decided to make standalone habitats for them, starting with the little penguin. In Europe, these birds are kept at only one zoological collection: SEA LIFE Weymouth in England. The habitat they live in is called Fairy Penguin Island by SEA LIFE and I set out to recreate it.

Initially, I only used two reference images I found online but then I realised they weren't enough and searched YouTube for walkthrough videos. I found two which gave a pretty in-depth look at the habitat and began my recreation. I feel like I was able to recreate it to a satisfactory level but I obviously couldn't make it 100% exact from the scant references I had at my disposal. One big omission from my version is what I assume is a small off-show enclosure but the only reference I had for it was a grainy satellite image, so I left it out.

Whilst I only ever intended for this to be a quick throwaway project, I ended up working on it for about a week, mostly due to the amount of intricate netting I had to make.

This is an overview of the whole build (try ignore the surroundings as this is a standalone habitat which isn't part of a whole zoo):

There's five viewing windows into the outdoor enclosure which allow you to view the penguins without having to go through the walkthrough. I know a lot of bird walkthroughs in Europe are currently closed in real-life due to the risk of bird flu:

There's also viewing windows which look into the indoor section; these feature some theming, with a thatch roof and stone blocks. I'm in love with these new thatch pieces, especially the smaller skirt ones used here. They have a much better texture than previous thatch items and the fact they're now flexicolour is even better:

The windows look onto a dry area which the penguins can climb onto. Some of the reference images I looked at showed some plastic or rubber tiles, so I created my own using vent pieces: 

The indoor section is accessed through a set of double-doors. In real life, these doors look more like staff access doors than a public entrance to an exhibit, so there's a sign nearby to clarify the matter. Despite this project being fairly short-lived, I did pick up a few useful methods from it, such as using the backs of windows for a good door texture and placing other doors inside them to provide door handles. These methods are probably common knowledge at this point but they somehow eluded me for all this time:

This is the immediate view upon entry. As in real-life, the design is quite unusual with very vibrant colours and thick, curved walls  — it wouldn't look amiss in LEGOLAND. For some added context, in real-life, I believe this building previously housed a crocodile-themed water ride (and possibly some crocodile exhibits but don't quote me on that):

Looking back at the doors we just passed through. The area features a small seating area, complete with a life buoy made out of gutter pieces for extra theming:

Just like in real-life, the pool seen here is the only pool the penguins have access to. I'm not sure why they don't have an outdoor pool but I'm guessing they just didn't have the space for it. The penguins must not mind too much as they have bred successfully multiple times:

The interior features lots of natural lighting thanks to the glass panels in the ceiling, as well as some plants to give it a more exotic feel. The plants in real-life are artificial, so I tried to create my own by using some of the more "cartoony" plants combined with a faux tree trunk:

There's two underwater viewing windows which provide a view into the pool. To my surprise, the pool is deep enough for the penguins to dive:

Creating the pool was one of the biggest challenges of this build as the game endeavoured to keep the water level far too low. After struggling for hours and almost giving up, I found a solution by chance. There's a useful trick where you can create tanks using glass barriers and then lower each panel one-by-one to the waterline. This allowed me to hide the glass barriers within the outer wall. Another thing I did was change the height of the terrain underneath, just in case it influenced the height of the waterline in some way:

Sadly, my problems didn't end there. As the tank was fully enclosed by glass barriers, the game wouldn't allow the penguins to access it from the outdoor enclosure. I eventually got around this issue by deleting a section of the glass barrier and raising the terrain to act as a shoreline instead. I then used desert rock pieces to bulk up the area. Surprisingly, the rocks were fully traversable for both the animals and staff!

The land area is viewed through three glass windows to prevent negligent guests from sticking their fingers into the enclosure. I also added two heat lamps to provide some heat. On the left is one of my faux palm tries:

In a corner is the keeper access area. I used the back of another window to create the door and the texture it provides is one of my favourite things about this build:

To enter the outdoor enclosure, you pass through a PVC curtain. I guess in real-life this would keep out flies and other insects:

The outdoor area is heavily planted with temperate plants that would survive in the British climate, like tree ferns and cabbage palms. These plants are also coincidentally appropriate for the New Zealand-native birds. A thatch porch also adds to the exotic/beach vibe I was going for:

Fairy Penguin Island is described by SEA LIFE as a walkthrough enclosure but nothing in my reference material pointed to that being the case. The penguins cannot walk across the path as they are fully enclosed behind a wooden/mesh barrier. The netted roof creates the illusion that you're in the same enclosure as them but in reality you are completely separated. The outdoor enclosure features 

At this stage of the build, I was very eager to have it finished so I freestyled the path and fencing rather than copying reference material. In real-life, the path widens out in places and runs slightly longer than how I created it:

The outdoor enclosure features a number of wooden shade structures, as well as some small nest boxes for privacy:

The enclosure is fully netted over and to say it took a while to create would be an understatement. I went through several versions until I finally figured out how to do it and I love the result. It's just a shame the game doesn't render it properly:

In real-life, a lot of outdoor penguin enclosures are fully netted over due to the risk of wild birds bringing in avian flu:

I hope you enjoyed this literary tour! Whilst I spent a lot longer on this build than I wanted to, I did learn a lot of useful things from it and I think the result was worthwhile. It's just a standalone habitat for now but I may go back and build a whole zoo for it. Until then, thanks for reading and see you in the next post!