What we all know deep down, but don't want to admit
I remember walking across the causeway to Granite Island when I was only a kid. It felt like such a long distance back then. I would attempt to balance on the tram tracks, trying to outlast my older brother. My efforts were always unsuccessful unless my mum was there to hold my hand. When we were nearing the island, I'd be tugging at the bottom of my dad's shirt and asking "How many little penguins are we going to see?"
It's a different story now.
The causeway certainly doesn't appear as lengthy - I know now that it's only around 500-600 metres. Instead of balancing on the beams, I'm more concerned about dodging the horse poo. Also, sadly, the excitement that I once had has disappeared.
Granite Island has always been known as South Australia's habitat for baby penguins. Years ago, there were hundreds of them that lived in amongst the incredible rock formations. Although you couldn't see too many during the day because they were out swimming and hunting, at night it was a field park. In the year 2000, there were approximately 1,600 penguins.
However, the penguin population has been decreasing for a long time. Recent statistics prove there is only around 20 left. Also, the Granite Island Penguin Centre has shut after being in operation for 12 years.
Locals are trying to remain positive about the small colony that remains. But, any realist can see it won't be long until those 20 are gone - if they haven't already.
When walking over to the island to find a lack of penguins, visitors will no longer be able to suppress their sadness with ice-cream. The Granite Island Kiosk & Restaurant has shut its doors for good. No more getting a drink to quench your thirst after trekking around the island. No more coffee and cake while looking over the ocean. No more souvenirs from the gift shop.
Things have definitely changed for Granite Island.
Yet, it's important to remember that change can also be described as evolution. Though this little island (that was so big as a kid) may not have what it had 20 years ago, it actually now has more.
The Kaiki Walking Trail that orbits the entire island is in its best shape ever. The surface is even and well maintained for walkers and explorers. Also, the horse drawn tram is still intact and running more often that you would've thought. There are six different times that the tram leaves from the mainland each day.
Victor Harbor has so much new and exciting activities to offer. The Big Duck Boat Tours have started taking cruises from the causeway to watch whales and seals. There's also soon to be a tuna pen installed near Granite Island so tourists can 'swim with the tuna'.
This may be goodbye to the baby penguins of Granite Island, but it is not goodbye to one of South Australia's most popular, historic and scenic towns.