Rubondo Island Camp, Rubondo Island National Park
Rubondo Island – in the southwest corner of Lake Victoria – is for those seeking the thrill of adventure in a truly wild area, all but untouched by man. The camp – the only lodgings on this verdant island – immerses you in this lush and unspoilt ecosystem.
From its lakefront location to the ecofriendly design of the eight fabulous cottages, the camp offers unrivaled access to this one-of-a-kind destination, where elephant roam wild, colourful birds and butterflies flit through the pristine indigenous rainforest and the waters teem with hippo, crocodile and the iconic Nile perch.
Snapshot of Rubondo Island Camp
- Unique island wilderness experience in Africa’s largest island national park
- A birder’s nirvana: outstanding variety of species in a pristine subtropical rainforest & Great for fishing with exceptional guides, boating safaris, nature walks & wetland excursions
- Unique opportunity to be part of a pioneering chimpanzee habituation experience
Rubondo Island Camp Rates
Accommodation & Amenities
Rubondo Island Camp is the only lodge on Rubondo Island, the largest island national park in Africa. Tropical forests provide a protected habitat for wildlife that includes sitatunga, elephant, giraffe, 200 species of birds and wild chimpanzees. The deep waters of Lake Victoria also offer spectacular fishing for record-breaking Nile perch.
This unique corner of Africa is a sanctuary, to be enjoyed by only a handful of fortunate – and intrepid – travellers
Meals are served alfresco at the main lodge area, with the lapping waves of Lake Victoria marking the passing hours of island life. Spend the afternoon relaxing in a hammock with binoculars and a bird guide or cool off in the swimming pool. When the sun dips below the horizon, watch the hippo emerge from the water to graze on the fringes of camp.
Delicious home-style cooking is our speciality, and breads, cakes, biscuits, fresh fruit salads and homemade sorbet are made daily. Eat your breakfast in the dining area or outside on the breakfast deck with a fabulous view of the lake. Buffet-style lunches on Rubondo are often served outdoors to make the most of our spectacular location. If a tropical rainstorm curbs outdoor activities, you can join our head chef for a lesson in local cuisine – and savour the fruits of your labours afterwards for lunch. Evening drinks around the campfire on the beach are followed by relaxed family-style dinners under the stars next to Lake Victoria.
With the camp in the midst of a protected island sanctuary you will have plenty of superb sightings and game-viewing opportunities. Exciting sightings include:
• Spot-necked otter
• Bush buck
The very best time for rewarding game viewing is in the cooler early mornings and late afternoons, when the animals are at their most active. Depending on the season, your day may start slightly earlier or later, but the general pace of life on Rubondo is focused on giving you the very best possible experience. We usually delay the start of our day until the sun penetrates the tall trees of the rainforest that surrounds us. If you have booked a private game-viewing vehicle do discuss personal schedule preferences with your guide.
06:00–06.30 Wake-up call with hot tea & coffee
06:30–07:30 Following breakfast, depart for a morning forest walk or a canoe safari, or leave slightly earlier, taking a picnic breakfast with you
09:30–1130 Return to the lodge, followed by breakfast (if you wish)
13:30–16:00 A spot of fishing or siesta time: read a book or just relax in camp while the hippo grunt in the lake in front of you
16:00 Afternoon tea and freshly baked cakes
16:30 Depart for a guided forest walk
18:30 Arrive back at the lodge
19:30 Drinks on the beach followed by dinner under the stars
FAMILY SUITABILITY LEVEL
Rubondo is an excellent choice for families with children aged five and older. Personal attention, guiding, accommodation and service are all focused on creating a superb safari experience for both children and adults.
Families of six or more are guaranteed private safari vehicles, and special activities and programmes for children include (but are not limited to):
✓ the identification of animal tracks;
✓ learning about local cultures;
✓ guided nature walks; and
✓ learning bush skills.
This small and exclusive camp consists of just eight waterfront cottages – all built by hand using traditional skills and local materials – that blend seamlessly into the verdant landscape. The cottages are shaded by lush indigenous forest and all have en-suite bathrooms with hot running water and flushing toilets.
It’s a rare privilege to set foot on Rubondo. Bar a handful of park wardens, wildlife researchers and camp staff, the island is uninhabited by humans and has been set aside as a refuge for threatened chimpanzees, families of elephant and the shy sitatunga antelope. This unique corner of Africa is a sanctuary, to be enjoyed by only a handful of fortunate – and intrepid – travellers.
Papyrus swamps host the secretive sitatunga, a semi-aquatic antelope that should be on the must-see list of any seasoned traveller
Lying in the southwestern corner of Lake Victoria, the island itself is 26 kilometres long and ranges from 3 to 10 kilometres in width. Over three-quarters of its 25 000 hectares are blanketed in pristine and untouched equatorial forest. Surrounding Rubondo on all sides are the waters of Lake Victoria, a crucial breeding ground for tilapia and the enormous Nile perch.
In the cloak of the forest, bushbuck forage undisturbed, while papyrus swamps host the secretive sitatunga, a semi-aquatic antelope that should be on the must-see list of any seasoned traveller. From November to March, wild orchids bloom in the forest, attracting a dazzling array of butterflies. And with over 300 endemic and migratory bird species, the island is an ornithological paradise.
Today, the island is also a crucial refuge for chimpanzee and an ambitious habituation project.
Activities from camp are focused around discovering and enjoying the remarkable ecosystem of the island. An astonishing array of birds and wildlife waits to be discovered and highly trained guides lead game excursions deep into the forest. Activities aren’t restricted to dry land either: boat trips and fishing excursions making for a memorable way to experience the island.
Chimpanzee Habituation Experience
Home to a very special group of chimpanzees whose ancestors were brought here in the 1960s as part of an ambitious conservation project, today you can be part of the habituation process. Available for a limited time, this is a unique opportunity to join the habituation team as they accustom the chimps to the presence of humans and witness them up close in the wild.
Daily forest drives by boat and in open vehicles are conducted by Asilia’s expert wilderness guides. These excursions take in the breathtaking scenery, diverse vegetation and prolific bird and micro life.
Guided walks through the pristine equatorial forest are tailored to each guest – walks can stretch from a one-hour stroll to full-day or multi-day hikes, incorporating a stay in the exclusive tree-house or a fly camp on the beach. With the wildlife at eye-level, there is no better way to experience the wonders of the island.
Discover the hidden corners of the island and soak up the tranquillity of your surroundings, or spot the varied aquatic life from the boat and try to catch a glimpse of the hippos, otters and monitor lizards in the water.
Rubondo Island offers some of the best fishing in East Africa and is renowned worldwide among anglers for the standard of the fishing guides and the opportunity to catch one of Africa’s biggest and most sought-after freshwater species – the Nile perch. Catch-and-release fishing can be done from the camp, on the beach or rocks on the shore or from a boat.
With over 300 endemic and migratory bird species, Rubondo Island is an ornithologist’s dream. December to March is best for spotting migratory birds, but with the varied habitat of the island, there is something new to record all year round.
Rubondo Island became a game reserve in 1965, when it was recognised as an area of special beauty and particular importance in the natural world. The government of the time relocated the 400 Banyarubondo people living on the island to the neighbouring islands with similar ecosystems. In 1977, the island was designated specifically as a National Park.
A perfect animal sanctuary
From 1966 to 1969, Professor Bernhard Grzimek of the Frankfurt Zoological Society released 16 chimpanzees in four cohorts onto Rubondo Island. The chimpanzees were all wild-born and purportedly of West African descent, although there are no records of their specific country of origin. Rescued from various European zoos and circuses, the chimpanzees had spent from 3½ months to 9 years in captivity.
The first cohort of chimpanzees arrived in Dar es Salaam aboard the German African Line’s steamship ‘Eibe Oldendorff’ on 17 June 1966. The animals had no rehabilitation or pre-release training but after one year on Rubondo they were able to find and eat wild foods and construct nests for sleeping.
In 2000, 37 African grey parrots rescued from illegal traders were released onto the island. The birds had been confiscated at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta airport in transit from Cameroon to a market in the Far East. Rubondo was selected as the best place to release them back into the wild, partly because it is so rich in fig trees – the African greys’ favourite. The high-pitched screeches and whistles of the parrots are a common sound on Rubondo.
Several other species – such as roan antelope, rhino, elephant and giraffe from difficult circumstances – were also introduced on the island. Today, hundreds of species flourish here; they have adapted to the forest and can continue to live in harmony as nature intended.
Rubondo Island Camp
Since the 1960s, there have been very few visitors to Rubondo Island. The Tanzania National Parks Authority offers basic accommodation, but Rubondo Island Camp is the only camp on the island – we really do have this pristine wilderness to ourselves. Asilia Africa opened the camp on 1 June 2013, and the eight rooms – built using local materials and techniques with to ensure minimum environmental impact – are nestled into the surrounding forest.
Asilia’s aim is to structurally improve the prospects for the area. Turning Rubondo Island into a profitable sustainable travel destination will have many local economic benefits. Our efforts to habituate the community of 40+ chimpanzees on the island is a long and arduous task that will ultimately ensure a steady stream of visitors, who wish to see our closest cousins in their natural habitat. This is one way to secure the viability of this wildlife refuge for generations to come.
Our 2018 Rates
Rubondo Island Camp rates include: Full board accommodation, all drinks (except champagne, cellar wines, premium brand spirits), game drives, boating safaris, swamp excursions, nature walks, chimpanzee experience, fishing & fishing permits, transfers to/from Rubondo airstrip and laundry service.
Rates below exclude: Any applicable park/conservancy fees, any applicable camping/concession fees, and conservation charge, totalling approximately US$ 80 per person per night. TANAPA chimp permit (should they be introduced), exclusive fishing boat hire, flying doctors/medical evacuation insurance, flights & airport taxes, gratuities, items of a personal nature, additional lunch (picnic or in house) US$25pp.
Year Round Rate:
US$ 675, 50 per person per night based on 2 people sharing accommodation