An add on to the Northern Circuit, Rubondo Island, a small unique park on an island in the far Eastern Corner of Lake Victoria is Tanzania’s only aquatic National Park. For those wanting a total contrast to the plains of the Serengeti, Rubondo Island is ideal. Rubondo can be reached by air from the Serengeti or from Mwanza, Tanzania’s second largest city. For those with more time Mwanza itself is worth a visit, just to see its busy lakeside port, take a trip with a local fisherman, or just to see the strange, humped, rocky islands that dot the shores of the lake.
Rubondo Island has a long history, the Germans proclaimed this small, beautiful island a forest reserve but then in 1966, Professor Bernhard Grzimek, who did so much to protect the Serengeti, conceived the idea that Rubondo would make an ideal sanctuary for the breeding & protection of some of the endangered rainforest species from the neighbouring Congo. The plan never came to complete fruition, but the island has served as a fruitful breeding ground for other introduced species such as chimpanzees, elephants, Black and White Colobus monkey’s, and even Grey Parrots from Cameroon. The Islands indigenous species are also interesting, the semi-aquatic Sitatunga, looks like a large shaggy bushbuck, it has hooves especially adapted to marshland; and there is no better place in Africa to observe the Spot-necked otter, which feeds on fish and frogs. Then there are hippopotamus, crocodile and the Water Monitor, one of Africa’s larger lizards.
Rubondo is small, only 28kms from north to south and nowhere more than 10kms wide, but two or three days on the island make an interesting excursion. The eastern lake shore has sandy beaches and there are peaks on the forested island up to 1,460m –The climate is perfect and between December & March an estimated 40 different species of terrestrial orchid come into bloom. Fishing, watching game, chimp tracking, bird -watching, or just relaxing in one of the lodges are all on offer.