Located in the southwest of Lake Victoria, Rubondo Island National Park is Africa’s largest island national park.
The park spans the main Rubondo island and 11 smaller islands covering 457 square kilometers. The main island is 26 kilometers long, and 80% of its surface is covered by pristine, untouched forest, fringed with soft sandy beaches. There are no villages here, so the only inhabitants are park rangers, researchers, and the staff and guests of Rubondo Island Camp.
Wildlife highlights here include chimpanzee (these are in the process of being habituated by researchers, so sightings are rare and not guaranteed), various species of monkey, the rare sitatunga antelope (which hide in the papyrus swamp), elephant, giraffe, and more than 200 bird species, including the largest known population of fish eagles in Africa.
The water surrounding the island is rich with fish, including tilapia and the Nile perch. Visitors can expect a truly remote, unique, and wild destination – perfect for travelers with a real sense of adventure who are looking for their own slice of paradise.
1. Rubondo Island National Park Location
The largest island national park in Africa, Rubondo offers a truly off-the-beaten-track Jurassic Park experience.
Rubondo Island lies in Lake Victoria’s southern part (the second-largest lake in Africa, after Lake Tanganyika). The island is 26km in length and varies in width from 3km to 10km. The grassy Masa hills in the southern part of the island form a high 1,486m above sea level.
Rubondo has been almost untouched by tourism. Though, it has become a sanctuary for threatened wildlife and has seen many species introduced over the years.
2. How to Get to Rubondo Island National Park
During high season, scheduled and charter flights are available from Mwanza, Arusha, Lake Manyara, Serengeti, and dar es salaam. Charter flights only are available during the low season. The Park can be reached by road from Mwanza (includes a boat transfer to the island). The best idea is to contact park staff before planning a trip to Rubondo for transportation details.
3. Wildlife in Rubondo Island National Park
While ninety percent of the park consists of forest, the other ten percent includes landscapes of wide savannahs to sandy shores, to swamps of papyrus by the lake. These environments make for a plethora of wildlife in Rubondo National Park.
When looking to the water, you will see yellow-spotted otters catching tilapia as their primary form of nutrition or fishers anxious to catch Nile perch. As this fish species can weigh over 100 kilograms, this would be a great coup for any avid fisher.
Emerging from the lake onto the banks are crocodiles, who, with their beady eyes, can move quickly between land and water when prey is present.
Among the many large mammals in Rubondo National Park are hippopotamuses, vervet monkeys, genet, mongooses, bushbucks, and aquatic sitatunga (a breed of antelope) who are all native to the island. As the island serves natural protection, other endangered animals, such as chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus, elephants, and giraffes, have been placed into this habitat.
These faunas live among tamarinds, palm trees, sycamore figs, and taproots. Besides, the island boasts wild jasmine, 40 species of orchid, and other sweet-smelling flora.
Overhead, you will hear fish eagles with their characteristic black, white, and brown feather pattern sing together in couples. Other immigrants to the island include African grey parrots brought to Rubondo National Park after being taken from illegal exporters. While the fish eagles are somewhat musical, the African grey parrots merely squawk as they flitter in the trees.
4. Climate at Rubondo Island National Park
With an average low and high temperature ranging from 66 -80 F (19-27 C), Rubondo Island Park offers a pleasant climate throughout the year with humidity primarily in the forests that cover the majority of the park, and the most comfortable months are June through September. The short rainy season at Rubondo is from November to December, with occasional showers between January and February, with most of the long rains occurring from the middle of March through May into early June.
5. Rubondo Island National Park Entrance Fee
Rubondo Island National Park entry fee is $20 per day, and you’ll need to also pay for either a boat or charter flight to the island.
When you plan a safari to Tanzania, it is important to know the Government Park entrance fees you need to pay before entering each Tanzania National Parks.
It is also important to know that if you plan to pay the Tanzania National park fees yourself, then you need to pay the Tanzania National park fees with a Visa or Master Card Only as no cash is accepted.
6. Rubondo Island National Park Activities
- A variety of water birds, Eurasian migrants, and introduced African grey parrots
- A high density of African fish eagles distinctly seen
- Animal species including Sitatunga, Elephants, Giraffes, Hippos, Bushbucks, Pythons, Crocodiles, Chimpanzees (not fully habituated), Bush pigs and Suni
- 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 attractive beaches such as Fly catcher, Mchangani and Michicoco
- Important gulfs of Irumo and Kamea
- Clear sighting of both sunrise and sunset
- Cultural sites such as “Ntungamirwe,” “Maji Matakatifu,” “Altare,” and “Solo” explain the life of natives who once stayed in the park
- “Birds Islands,” breeding site for waterbirds
- Crocodile Island.
7. Best time to visit Rubondo Island National Park
The best time of year to visit the park is in the dry season between June and August, where wildflowers and butterflies are abundant. In the wet season of November to March, December through February are the best months to view migratory birds.
The best time to go is between December and February when hordes of migratory birds descend upon the island for birders. During the dry season (June to August), blooming wildflowers attract thousands of butterflies.
8. Accommodations in Rubondo Island National Park
Rubondo Island Camp is the only suitable tourist accommodation in Rubondo Island National Park. This very comfortable deluxe Safari Tier 2 camp features eight lakeside cottages and a treehouse, and you enjoy the utmost privacy as the cottages are spaced between 30 and 65 feet apart.
Inside, you find a homely atmosphere with all of the necessary modern conveniences for your accommodating safaris in Eastern Africa, such as large comfortable beds, lighting, and full bathrooms with rain shower, flush toilet, running water, and washbasin.
Each cottage sits on the shores of Lake Victoria, and your private shaded veranda with a sitting area is perfect for spending your days napping, writing in your journal, or watching the grazing and feathered wildlife at the lake.
Being lakeside means that you can stay in bed and enjoy a myriad of morning warm tones across the surface of the lake. The soft sounds of water on the shore, grazing hippos, and enchanting songs of wild birds welcome you to another day in the sanctuary of Rubondo Island Park.
The camp staff provide you with admirable service during your stay and are always available to answer your questions and provide you with whatever you may need. Families planning to travel with AfricanMecca are welcome at the camp, and children (age 6 and above) have access to many fun activities, such as fishing, dhow sailing, bird watching.
The camp offers a triple family room so that parents can easily watch over their youngsters. If the tranquility of the island does not soothe your nerves and ease your muscles, you may also choose to be pampered with a massage during your stay. Power at the camp is provided with generators, and some charging stations are available for your use.
10. Safety and Security in Rubondo Island Park
General Safety in Rubondo National Park
Rubondo Island National Park is a very safe destination, in our opinion. There is virtually no crime in Tanzania’s parks and reserves. Some crime occurs in urban centers, so normal precautions should be taken when visiting cities and towns during your trip (see ‘Cities & Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ below). The vast majority of people don’t have any crime-related issues on their safari.
Wildlife Viewing Safety in Rubondo Island National Park
Wildlife viewing is very safe as long as you follow the advice and direction of your expert guide.
Malaria & Vaccinations in Rubondo Island National Park
Several vaccinations are recommended for Tanzania – consult your travel clinic or local doctor before your trip to Africa. Guarding yourself against malaria in Mwanza is also important. Antimalarial drugs and the use of a mosquito repellent (those including DEET are the most effective) are advisable, as well as covering up bare skin in the evenings.
One of Tanzania’s least visited, Rubondo National Park, is an island and several close-by islets covering 490km sq of unspoiled rainforest in southern Lake Victoria. The lack of visitors makes Rubondo national park a tranquil place to relax, with wildlife viewing guaranteed despite heavy forest.
Animals include elephants, hippos, crocodiles, (non-habituated) chimps, and the endemic aquatic sitatunga antelopes, as well as a wide variety of birdlife. There are also huge swarms of fireflies by the lakeshore come evening time, making quite a spectacle.