Rubondo Island

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Rubondo Island National Park lies in the southwestern corner of Lake Victoria, the second largest in the world and source of the Nile and is the largest island National Park in Africa. Bar a handful of park wardens, wildlife researchers and camp staff, the island is uninhabited and purely a refuge for threatened animals. The deep waters also offer spectacular fishing for record-breaking sized Nile perch. The island became a game reserve in 1965 when the Tanzanian government relocated 400 Banyarubondo people living on the island to neighbouring islands. In 1977 it was then recategorized as a National Park. Between 19966 and 1969 the Frankfurt Zoological society released 16 chimps in 4 cohorts onto the island. The chimps were all originally wild-born and of west African descent but had been rescued from various European zoos and circuses. The chimps had spent varying periods, from 3.5 months to 9 years in captivity before being released on Rubondo Island. They had no rehab or pre-release training but after one year on Rubondo they were able to find and eat wild foods and construct sleeping nests. This was the first ever attempt to rehabilitate captive chimps. From the 16 founders the population has grown to around 60 individuals. Three quarters of the island is blanketed in untouched pristine tropical forests which provides a protected habitat for not just chimpanzees, but sitatunga, elephant, giraffe and 300 bird species, including 37 African grey parrots rescued from illegal trade.

The first and only camp on the island, opened on the 1st June 2013, but don’t worry this is an attractive and immensely tranquil lodge comprising of 8 thatched cottages and run by experienced staff. Activites include trekking with habituated chimps, birding (best between Dec to Mar), catch and release fishing, cultural visits, guided walks and for pure relaxation.

Open between June and March you can access the island with daily flights from Arusha, Serengeti and Kigali or by vehicle with a ferry from Kasenda.

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