Rubundo Island National Park
Uninhabited for decades, Rubundo Island National park has until recently been almost untouched by tourism. It has, though, become a sanctuary for threatened wildlife and has seen many species introduced over the years. With the opening of Rubondo Island Camp in 2013, the island has now become a wild safari destination particularly popular among game fishing and bird watching enthusiasts.
Until the middle of the 20th century, Rubondo was home to a community of people whose livelihood was dependent on fishing. This all changed in 1965 when around 400 inhabitants were relocated and the Rubondo Game Reserve was formed.
Between 1966 and 1969 the Frankfurt Zoological Society introduced 16 captive-born chimpanzees to the island. The animals had no rehabilitation or pre-release training. The chimpanzees were all wild-born and purportedly of West African descent, although there are no records of specific country of origin for the majority of released individuals but the founder chimpanzees had spent varying periods, from 3.5 months to 9 years, in captivity in European zoos or circuses before their release. The chimpanzees after one year were able to find and eat wild foods and construct nests for sleeping, and have now reverted to an unhabituated state characteristic of wild chimpanzees. From 16 founders the population has now grown to around 40 individuals
Following on from this success, several other mammal species were introduced to the island, including elephants, giraffe, white rhinos and the rare suni antelope. In 2000, 37 grey parrots that were victims of illegal trade were rescued and released on Rubondo Island National Park. The parrots rapidly took to their island home and they can be now found all over Rubondo.
Another great attraction to Rubundo Island National Park is its surroundings. In the 1950s, a proposal to increase fish catches in the lake by introducing the Nile perch (mbutta or Sangara) was adamantly opposed by scientists who feared that the lack of a natural predator for the non-native species would result in the imminent destruction of the lake’s bountiful ecosystem. They were right, and along with the consequences of overfishing as well as pollution caused by rapid human expansion around the shores, Lake Victoria has suffered.
That said, Lake Victoria itself is impressively the largest lake on the continent, the world’s second-largest freshwater lake, and the world’s largest tropical lake. It is so large it extends significantly into three separate African countries: Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. A rim of jungle highlands rises all around the immense lake, embracing the water in a forested bowl that’s dotted along its shoreline with small, busy towns. Visitors enjoy excellent natural sites with a surprising lack of tourist traffic.
Rubundo is set in this amazing scene where, despite the continued decline of Lake Victoria’s eco-system, it has managed to maintain and grow a thriving wildlife eco-system that is up there with any of Tanzania’s safaris.
• Bird watching: A variety of water birds, Eurasian migrants, and introduced African grey parrots. A High density of African fish eagles are distinctly visible. “Birds Islands” which serve as breeding grounds for water fowl are also memorable sights
• The Lake Victoria forming a spectacular sight for visitors with the deepest point in the lake (Irumo) forming part of the park.
• Magnificent view of one of the last remaining representatives of evergreen dense primary lowland Congolese forest with a unique habitat mosaic in the midst of high biodiversity value.
• Beautiful and attracting beaches such as Fly catcher, Mchangani and Michicoco
• Cultural sites such as “Ntungamirwe”, “Maji Matakatifu”, “Altare” and “Solo” which explain the life of natives who once stayed in the park
• Crocodile island
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Rubundo Island National Park Flora & Fauna
About 80% of the park is covered by a dense forest thus providing a variety of habitats to wildlife ranging from savannah, open woodland, and papyrus swamps to dense forest. These habitats form a home for various wild creatures such as sitatunga, bushbucks, velvet monkeys, genet cats, spotted necked otters, hippopotamus, and crocodiles which share the ecological niches with introduced species such as chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes, black and white colubus monkeys, suni and African grey parrots.
Rubondo Island National Park is also famous for holding a variety of migratory birds from different parts of the world and some birds native to the area such as the Emin Pasha Gulf and the African fish eagle.
However the island park is most noted for its effort in bringing rescued animals back into a complete wild. In addition to chimpanzees, seven other species were introduced to the island: Roan antelope and rhinoceros both now extinct, Suni antelope), elephants, twelve giraffes, 20 black-and-white colobus monkeys, and African grey parrots confiscated from illegal traders.
Rubundo Island National Park Location & Map
Rubundo Island National Park is located on the South-Western corner of Lake Victoria in the Geita region about 150 km West of Tanzania’s Mwanza city. Lake Victoria is the second largest lake in the world. The Lake is also the source of the longest river in the world, River Nile. The park itself occupies a group of islands covering 456.8 km2 of which 236.8 km2 is dry land and 220 km2 is water comprising of 11 small islets of varying sizes
The best way to get to Rubundo Island National Park is via Mwanza, which can be reached via Mwanza Airport that is served by regional flights from Dar es Salaam and Arusha. From Mwanza airport it is possible to fly to Rubundo’s airstrip via Auric air for a cheap fee.
Alternatively, Rubundo Island National Park can be accessed by road in approximately 4 hours drive on a tarmac road from Mwanza to Geita and a morum road from Geita to Nkome. Visitors travelling through this route can be picked up by the park boat at Nkome, and will take a maximum of one an half hours cruising to Rubondo main island (Kageye, the park HQ). Another route is from Mwanza/Bukoba to Muganza/Kasenda village where it takes a maximum of five hours from Mwanza to Muganza/Kasenda and only two hours from Bukoba to Muganza/Kasenda (this route also connects Tanzania with the neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Uganda and Kenya). Visitors travelling through this route can be picked by the park boat at Kasenda village, and will take about 20 – 25 minutes to Rubondo National Park.
Fast Facts On Rubundo Island National Park
Total Land Area
240 sq km About the same size as Cook Islands
Elevation above sea level
About 365 stacked giraffes
Nearest Major City & Airport
About 80 km East
When To Visit Rubundo Island National Park
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Gombe Stream National Park
Kitulo Plateau National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park
Katavi National Park
Rubundo Island National Park
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