Rubondo Island National Park safaris, tours & holiday packages
Forested retreat on Africa's largest lake
Little-visited Rubondo Island protects the largest extant tract of Tanzanian forest in the Lake Victoria Basin and an accompanying wealth of unusual aquatic wildlife.
Among the strangest protected areas in East Africa, Rubondo Island was set aside as a game reserve in the 1960s, with the intention of using it as a breeding centre for introduced populations of vulnerable Congolese rainforest species. This plan never quite came together, but the 240-square-kilometre island is still home to several survivors of the short-lived experiment, among them chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes, black-and-white colobus monkeys and a flock of African grey parrots.
Introduced species aside, Rubondo is undoubtedly the best place in Africa to see the localised sitatunga, a large swamp-loving antelope distinguished by its uniquely splayed hooves, while spotted-necked otters and large-spotted genets frequent its only camp.
We were astounded at how easy it was to see sitatunga – we must have encountered a dozen on our first forest walk – and were also thrilled to have a long clear look at a family of otters lazing on the rocks in front of the camp.
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The murky waters of Lake Victoria – Africa's largest lake – lap the shores of Rubondo, meaning that the island can only be explored by boat or on foot. Boat trips into the swamps can be wonderfully rewarding for birders, with African fish-eagles being a dead cert (the island boasts an unusually dense population) along with marsh dwellers such as purple heron, long-toed plover, blue-headed coucal and swamp flycatcher.
The forest paths also offer great birding, with Blue-breasted kingfisher, snowy-headed robin-chat, common wattle-eye and green twinspot among the more conspicuous species. The black-and-white colobus monkey is also quite common, but chimps are only likely to be seen if you track them specifically, and even then sightings are far from guaranteed.
Rubondo Island Map
Rubondo Island's location on Google Maps