If you're spending a few days at Victor Harbor, drop by Granite Island to see the penguins. There are tours that start at dusk every night, seven days a week, a chance to watch the island's Little Penguins come up from the ocean and back to their burrows. It's important to book a tour beforehand either by visiting the Penguin Centre or giving them a call, as they like to keep groups a manageable size.
My friends and I went on this tour in late September, when the penguins were rearing their first clutch of chicks for the season. The tour started at 6.30pm (times vary according to when the sun sets), so we reached the Penguin Centre nestled on the mainland-facing side of the island at about 6pm.
While waiting for it to start, we were allowed into the centre so we could see the captive penguins - these are usually injured penguins who are treated at the centre and released when they've recovered. However, some of the penguins are permanent residents because they wouldn't survive in the wild after their injuries. The Penguin Centre keeps a blog about their captive penguins, so you can get to know them and their progress.
One of the captive penguins standing outside its burrow.
The penguins were really sweet - I didn't realise they would be so small. Quite fitting I guess, since they're the smallest of all the penguin breeds. I would have happily spent the rest of our half hour there watching them waddle around their enclosure, but it started to rain, so we headed indoors to see the interactive penguin display.
Our tour group consisted of around twelve or so people, and we set out, as the sun set, to look for penguins. In total, we saw four wild penguins, one of them a chick poking its head out of the burrow while waiting for its parents to return home. There was a huge difference between how the wild penguins and the captive penguins looked; the wild ones were definitely slimmer. I was saddened to find out that there are only around thirty penguins left on the island.
A wild penguin cleaning itself between the granite rocks.
Unfortunately for us, it rained throughout the entire tour, and the wind was blowing icy cold. I was happy to see the few penguins that we did though; like all wildlife tours, there is never a guarantee as to how many of the animals you'll be able to see. The tour guide was friendly and knowledgeable about the birds, and I felt that I learnt quite a bit from her. At the end of the tour, we even got to touch a couple of penguin skins that the guide brought with her. Her reasoning was that if people could feel the feathers for themselves, they wouldn't go out and try to catch an actual penguin and hurt it in the process.
It was an interesting experience for me, dampened quite literally by the weather. If you're looking to go on the tour, check the forecast, because you definitely do not want to be out there in the cold rain. If you're lucky, you might even get to see the penguins hurrying across the path to get to their burrows. This is a good activity whether you're going alone or with a group of friends or your family. For children, it's an great way of teaching them to appreciate wildlife.