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Rubondo Island National Park

About Rubondo Island

Rubondo is a tropical island near the western shores of Lake Victoria and is about as pristine a place as it is possible to find. There has been no human habitation on the island for decades, and it is covered by primary tropical forest, interspersed with small patches of savannah and swamp.

The main island and 9 other smaller ones were grouped into Rubondo National Park in 1977.

Boating along the rocky shoreline is one of the key activities to enjoy. Clean sandy beaches overhung with huge forest trees fringe the bays, and there is a large piece of papyrus swamp on one side which is a magnificent waterbird habitat.

Wildlife at Rubondo Island

Wildlife is everywhere. A rare swamp loving antelope, the sitatunga is found amongst the papyrus stands, and the elephant is often seen on the shores along with masses of hippo, crocs, an occasional leopard, vervet monkeys, etc. In the forests themselves, there is of course a variety of smaller wildlife, including genets, civets, bush pigs, etc. and unhurried forest hikes are one of the activities to enjoy.

Chimpanzees were introduced at the end of the 1960s and following a recent intensive habituation program, they are now approachable by visitors. So, this beautiful island paradise is now a place where one can enjoy watching man’s closest living relative, and without the arduous mountain trekking of other chimp habitats.

Rubondo is also a place rich in birds. Nearly 400 species have been recorded including the African grey parrot. The diversity of habitats from open woodland to papyrus swamps and evergreen forest attracts numerous resident and migrant species. The Island has an abundance of storks, hornbills, herons, and birds of prey, including the highest density of fish eagles anywhere in the world, with their haunting cry a constant background sound.

For bird enthusiasts, an afternoon and evening boating in the papyrus swamps is a must.

Rubondo is a great place to go fishing for Nile Perch (catch and release), and some fish can regularly exceed 10 – 15 kgs., and occasionally top 50 kgs. and more. This fishing is done from a small sport-fishing boat in the deeper waters around the island.

Things to do at Rubondo Island

  • Chimpanzee habituation experience. Under the supervision of a guide, it is possible to approach chimpanzees on foot and to quietly watch them for a limited period.
  • Game drives. Game viewing in an open vehicle is conducted on simple forest tracks.
  • Nature walks. Go hiking for an hour, several hours, or even for a day or two overnighting in a lightweight fly camp on one of the small sandy beaches.
  • Educational walks through chimpanzee habitat
  • Birding.
  • Boating safaris. Enjoy time on the water in an open motorboat or in your own canoe.
  • Catch-and-release fishing.


The National Park offers a small chalet with 5 double rooms and 1 triple room, a Rest House with 1 double and 1 triple, and a youth hostel for 36 persons and up to 4 teachers. These accommodations are self-catering, and visitors can use a kitchen and dining area facility. There is also one luxury tented camp on the island.

Getting There

Bey Air

There is an airstrip on the island and regularly scheduled flights from all the main safari destinations in Tanzania

Bay Road

Mwanza is the nearest city from where it is possible to arrange a private boat taxi to and from the island

Safari ideas

Rubondo can feature in a boat Lake tour which starts at either Musoma Town or Burigi Chato National Park and includes Saanane Island and possibly other Lake islands. Such a tour could also include the Serengeti.

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