Rubondo island is a national park that is located on the south western part of lake Victoria. It is the larger of two national parks located on the Tanzanian side of the lake, the other being Saanane island; However, unlike Saanane, Rubondo is seldom visited, mainly because of its remote location and high travel expenses (see getting there below). The majority of tourists that do visit it are normally game fishermen and bird enthusiasts .
Rubondo island is a lot larger than Saanane, in fact is is so large you would need a 4x4 vehicle to cover most of its area. It has a total area 237 square kilometres, and is largely uninhabited (except for the tourists), with more than 90 percent of it being untouched rain forest. There are absolutely no rivers on the island, and its highest point - Masa hill (southern end) lies 350 meters above the surface of the lake .
HistoryRubondo island was first established in 1965 as a game reserve and a sanctuary for some of the country's animals. At that time, there were about 400 people of the Zinza tribe living on the island, most of them being predominantly fishermen and part time farmers who were later on relocated to nearby islands by the then government of Tanganyika . Over the years, several species of animals were added to the island, including:
Chimpanzees in 1966
The Roan antelope (now extinct on island)
The rhinoceros (also extinct on island)
The Suni antelope
Black and white Colobus monkeys
The African grey parrot
These were all in addition to the many that were already present on the island such as crocodiles and turtles.
What to do on the island ?Rubondo island is a fully fledged jungle national park, with almost all animals you might find on an equatorial jungle. Activities on the island include
Game or sport fishing
A boating safari
A 4x4 jungle safari
Camping and other activities at a campsite
Visiting the chimpanzee habitat
In general, the island allows you to experience and get close to a barely touched jungle at the heart of east Africa and there are more activities available if you chose to stay at the islands hotel.
Accommodation on the islandThere are several accommodation options while on the island, with the majority being campsites and houses owned by the park authorities - TANAPA .
Bandas Several houses located north of the air strip each with a capacity of 6 beds. These are owned and run by TANAPA
The park hostelAlso owned by TANAPA and with a total capacity of 20 beds
The public camp siteTANAPA owned tents at an allocated campsite and a maximum capacity of 12 beds (whole campsite).
Special campsites These are 10 campsites located at different points throughout the island and owned by the park authorities
The cheapest form of accommodation while on the island would be renting one of these which do come with a few good amenities such as hot water (some of them), king size beds, mosquito nets, and western styled toilets. Some of the campsites/houses even have a communal fully equipped kitchen and bathroom, along with electricity. All the bandas or campsites are open to all tourists for a fee, with residents paying less than non residents. You can also choose to sleep in your own tent at the island's campsite for an even closer time with nature, but you still would be required to pay a fee.
The other accommodation option on the island is a safari camp/hotel located a few kilometres south of the air strip and although this is more expensive, it is rather perfect if you have some cash to spare and really want to enjoy your time on the island. Whichever accommodation option you choose, just remember to book it before hand as they do on rare occasions get full.
Rubondo island is located on the south eastern part of Lake Victoria and inside Tanzania. Its location puts it a minimum of about 5 Km from the mainland - Kisaho in the west, with several smaller islands located scattered around it. For more information on the island's location, please see the map below.
Getting to the islandThere are two main methods of getting to Rubondo island, namely by air and by boat. The air method uses a small airstrip that is located on the eastern shore of the island with a very small airport building, flying in using small charted aeroplanes from one of the nearby airports such as Mwanza. It also gives you unprecedented views of the lake from the air, and if you are lucky you may also get an aerial tour of the island before landing on it - a good option albeit expensive.
The other option of getting to the island is by boat, renting one of the TANAPA owned ones from one of the ports nearby such as Kasenda or Nkome . Now don't expect any cruise liner or yacht, most of these a speed boats or small boats some of which let you stay as close to the water as possible, but they do give you a life vest, which is normally compulsory. Due to the sensitive nature of the place as a game reserve, other boats would require special permission to get there.
The boat does give you the option of a boating tour around the island before finally docking on it, with the guide being more than happy to answer most of your questions. Although you could still arrange to have the tour if you came in by plane. So a good option of transport would be to come in by air and leave by boat, with an added tour of the island by boat in between.
References1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubondo_Island_National_Park - accessed on 1st April, 2017 2.http://www.tanzaniaparks.go.tz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=170 - accessed on 1st April,2017 3. Photo - Peter Levey [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 4. Photo - By Macabe5387 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 5. Photo - Peter Levey [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons