Lying in the southwestern corner of Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world and the source of the White Nile, the whole of Rubondo Island is given over to conservation. It is Africa’s largest island national park (26 kilometres long and varying from 3 to 10 kilometres wide). Over three-quarters of its 25 000 hectares are blanketed in untouched equatorial forest – an unusual protected habitat for Africa’s wildlife.
It’s a rare privilege to set foot on Rubondo. Bar a handful of park wardens, wildlife researchers and camp staff, the island is uninhabited by humans and has been set aside as a refuge for threatened chimpanzees, families of elephant and the shy sitatunga antelope. The surrounding waters of Lake Victoria are a crucial breeding ground for tilapia and the enormous Nile perch. This unique corner of Africa is a sanctuary to be enjoyed by only a handful of fortunate – and intrepid – travellers.
The Masa Hills in the far south of Rubondo are the island’s highest point (1 486m above sea level but just 350m above the level of the lake). Four volcanically formed hills linked by three isthmuses make up the island. Much of the land is covered by pristine mixed evergreen and semideciduous equatorial forest with a dense understorey of liana. Patches of grassland and some acacia woodland are dotted between the forests. Rocky areas and sandy beaches make up the eastern lakeshore, while the papyrus swamps on the western shore are a watery haven for the shy sitatunga antelope, a semi-aquatic animal that is a prized sighting.
From November to March, up to 40 species of wild orchid bloom in the forest, attracting a dazzling array of butterflies. And with over 300 endemic and migratory bird species, the island is an ornithological paradise.
Rubondo Island - Lake Victoria
The only guest accomodation on the island this small and exclusive camp consists of just eight waterfront cottages – all built by hand using traditional skills and local materials – that blend seamlessly into the verdant landscape. The cottages are shaded by lush indigenous forest and all have en-suite bathrooms with hot running water and flushing toilets. The private treehouse is set slightly further into the trees and is perfect for a true wilderness escape, surrounded by the lullabies of the forest wildlife.
Tropical forests provide a protected habitat for wildlife that includes sitatunga, elephant, giraffe, 200 species of birds and wild chimpanzees. The deep waters of Lake Victoria also offer spectacular fishing for record-breaking Nile perch.
Meals are served alfresco at the main lodge area, with the lapping waves of Lake Victoria marking the passing hours of island life. Spend the afternoon relaxing in a hammock with binoculars and a bird guide or cool off in the swimming pool. When the sun dips below the horizon, watch the hippo emerge from the water to graze on the fringes of camp.
Number of tents 8
Family Tent 1
Style bush cottages
Activities forest walks, boating, swimming, fishing, chimpanzee treks
Ellie says, "Rubondo remains another of my absolute favorites for the sheer peace and drenching in nature that is possible here. While the only large animals here are elephant those who love the less showy side of nature will be in paradise."
Recommended fishing enthusiasts, bird-lovers and those looking for a retreat