You are here:

Rubondo Island National Park (Lake Victoria)

Rubondo Island

Overview

Wildlife

Birds

Best Time To Visit

Weather & Climate

Getting There

Malaria & Safety

Overview – Rubondo Island
Shrouded in untouched rainforest, Rubondo Island National Park stands as a distinct ecological paradise. This secluded island, nestled within Lake Victoria, serves as a sanctuary for chimpanzees. The initial group of chimpanzees, rescued from zoos and circuses, has fully adapted to the wild after being relocated to Rubondo. The island offers visitors the unique opportunity to follow the tracks of these chimps or simply unwind along its jungle-bordered shores. Adding Rubondo to your Tanzanian safari itinerary promises an enriching blend of adventure and tranquility.
rubondo island (3)
Best Time To Go
From June to September, the weather is sunny and dry.
High Season
From June to September, Rubondo Island remains uncrowded.
Size
457km² / 176mi²
Altitude
1,136-1,486m / 3,727-4,875ft
Pros & Cons
Hidden Gem: Chimpanzee Trekking Beyond the Beaten Path
Untouched Wilderness: A Birdwatcher's Paradise in the Heart of the Rainforest
Adventure Awaits: Explore Forest Drives, Boat Excursions, and Fishing Expeditions
Accessible Wilderness: The Convenient Gateway to Chimp Trekking Adventures
Exclusive Retreats: Select Stays in Secluded Settings
Intimate Jungle Paths: Exclusive Routes for Chimpanzee Tracking
Wild Encounters: The Thrill of Tracking Semi-Wild Chimpanzees
Wildlife
Chimpanzees made their initial journey to Rubondo Island back in the 1960s, marking the beginning of a new chapter for the island’s wildlife. Over the years, these primates have thrived, giving rise to generations that have branched into two distinct groups. One of these groups is now part of the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, offering visitors a closer look at these fascinating animals. Alongside the chimpanzees, Rubondo Island has become a haven for other species as well, including elephants and giraffes. Despite their size, these larger animals can blend into the landscape with surprising ease. Yet, it’s the elusive sitatunga antelope that truly sets Rubondo apart, making it one of the premier destinations in Africa for those hoping to catch a glimpse of this rare and bashful creature.
Scenery
Nestled within the expansive embrace of Lake Victoria lies Africa’s largest island national park, safeguarding not only the main Rubondo Island but also an additional 11 smaller islets. Spanning 28 kilometers (17 miles) in length and varying between 3 to 10 kilometers (2 to 6 miles) in width, Rubondo Island is a secluded tropical haven, far removed from the hustle and bustle of crowded tourist spots. The island is predominantly cloaked in a thick canopy of forest, intertwined with lianas (woody vines) that weave through the underbrush. Hidden along its shores are secluded sandy beaches, which serve as tranquil watering holes for elephants and a variety of other wildlife in search of a drink.
Weather & Climate
Rubondo Island enjoys a delightful Dry season from June to October, characterized by clear skies and minimal cloud cover, followed by a humid Wet season extending from November to May. Throughout the year, the island maintains steady temperatures, with daytime averages hovering around 26°C (79°F) and nighttime cooling to approximately 18°C (64°F). Rainfall during the Wet season typically does not disrupt outdoor activities, though the month of April, which marks the height of the rainy period, might be less ideal for visits.
Best Time To Visit
The optimal period for visiting Rubondo Island spans from June to September, offering sunny, dry weather ideal for island exploration and chimpanzee tracking. The Wet season, running from November to May, presents more of a challenge for chimp trekking as the forest trails tend to turn muddy and slippery. However, this season also brings the rewards of witnessing a vibrant display of birds, flowers, and butterflies. It’s important to note that the island’s sole private lodge takes a break and closes from April to May, although accommodations managed by the National Park remain operational during these months.
​Wildlife & Animals – Rubondo Island

Rubondo Island National Park’s standout feature is its community of semi-habituated chimpanzees, making it a prime destination for those eager to observe these primates in a closer yet respectful manner. In addition to chimps, the island is home to thriving populations of giraffes and elephants. Guides skillfully lead visitors either by vehicle or boat to spot these majestic animals in their natural habitats. Interestingly, you don’t have to venture far to encounter bushbucks; they are plentiful across the island. The wetland-favoring sitatunga antelope is another species that guests can often spot without the need for a dedicated trip.

Chimpanzee
Hippo
Buffalo
Zebra
Wildebeest
Elephant
Giraffe
Cheetah
Leopard
Lion
Black Rhino
Gorilla
Wildlife Highlights

Embarking on a boat journey across Lake Victoria stands out as a memorable experience during any visit to Rubondo Island. This adventure guarantees sightings of numerous hippos and imposing crocodiles. Additionally, be on the lookout for spotted-necked otters, whose playful antics are a common sight in this area. As you navigate slowly along the island’s forest-clad edges, you may also have the fortune of observing elephants quenching their thirst or catching a glimpse of primates like chimpanzees or Kilimanjaro colobus monkeys, the latter having been relocated from Arusha National Park, as they forage in the treetops.

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

The prime months for chimpanzee trekking on Rubondo Island fall between June and September, a time characterized by scarce rainfall, ensuring that the forest trails remain dry and easily walkable. While Rubondo Island welcomes visitors year-round, and rain seldom disrupts planned activities, it’s worth noting that April, the height of the Wet season, might present more of a challenge. During this period, the island’s singular private lodge takes a brief hiatus and closes its doors from April to May, though accommodations provided by the National Park stay available to guests.

Wildlife Photos
rubondo island (4)
​Birds – Rubondo Island
Rubondo Island National Park, with its register of nearly 300 bird species, stands as a beacon for birdwatching enthusiasts. The park’s draw, for many, lies in the rich variety of waterbirds it hosts. Key attractions include several islands that serve as nesting grounds for large congregations of egrets, ibises, and cormorants. The air is often filled with the African fish eagle’s distinctive cry, adding to the park’s wild soundtrack. Another sound to be attentive to is the screech of grey parrots. In 2000, around 40 of these birds, previously caught in the illegal pet trade, found freedom on Rubondo Island. Witnessing these sociable parrots in flight, enjoying their liberty, is among the myriad of unique experiences that Rubondo offers to its visitors.

Notable Birds in Rubondo Island

Black kite
common
Tambourine dove
Occasion
Little egret
common
Reed cormorant
common
Grey parrot
common
Best Time for Bird Watching

Birdwatching on Rubondo Island shines from November to April, highlighted by migratory arrivals and resident birds in breeding colors. However, April’s heavy rains may dampen birding activities. Chimp trekking is prime from June to September, during the Dry season. Note: the island’s private lodge closes in April and May, but National Park accommodations stay open.

Facts & Figures

Bird Species

450+

Migratory Birds

Nov to Apr

Best Time To Visit – Rubondo Island

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Rubondo Island National Park welcomes visitors all year round, but the ideal period for a visit is between June and September, characterized by sunny, dry weather. The Wet season, spanning November to May, sees forest trails becoming slippery, posing a challenge for chimp trekking adventures. However, a brief dry period in January and February offers excellent conditions for bird watching and butterfly spotting. While accommodations within the national park remain open year-long, the park’s sole private lodge takes a break during April and May.
Best Time
June to September features sunny and dry weather.
High Season
During April and May, the sole private lodge is closed.
Low Season
From June to September, there is little to no rainfall.
Best Weather
April marks the peak of the wet season.
June to October – Dry Season
Endless Blue Skies and Abundant Sunshine
Tracking Chimpanzees is Easier Under Dry Weather Conditions
Fewer mosquitoes means less risk of malaria
Birdwatching Flourishes in the Wet Season
The Wet Season Brings an Abundance of Flowers and Butterflies
November to May – Wet Season
Bird Watching Peaks with the Arrival of Migratory Birds
Butterflies Thrive in Abundance
A Floral Wonderland: Orchids and Lilies Galore
Forest Paths Become Slippery Following Rainfall
Expect Regular Rainfall and High Humidity
Wildlife Photos
rubondo island (4)
Weather & Climate – Rubondo Island
Weather conditions in Rubondo Island National Park are agreeable year-round, with daytime averages at about 26°C (79°F) and cooler evenings dipping to roughly 18°C (64°F). The year sees little variation in temperature, but precipitation levels do change. The Dry season spans from June to October, noting that October often experiences considerable rainfall. The Wet season, from November to May, divides into short rains in November and December, followed by long rains from March to May, with a somewhat drier interlude in between, though this dry period can be subtle.
Dry Season – June to October

During June, July, August, and September, the climate is predominantly sunny and arid. Humidity levels are more comfortable than in the Wet season, creating ideal conditions for various activities, including chimp trekking.

 

Come October, there’s a noticeable uptick in rainfall, particularly as the month progresses. This increase in moisture also brings higher humidity, intensifying the warmth and making conditions feel more muggy.

Wet Season – November to May

In November and December, known as the ‘short rains’ period, rain is a frequent occurrence, though it rarely lasts the entire day, leading to numerous overcast days.

 

January and February mark a brief respite between the short and long rains, with precipitation diminishing and periods of sunshine breaking through the clouds post-rainfall.

 

During March, April, and May, the ‘long rains’ season takes hold, reaching its zenith in April with significant rainfall. This time is characterized by high humidity and warmer temperatures, which can make the heat feel particularly stifling.

Rubondo Island National Park (Lake Victoria)
Rubondo Island Photos
rubondo island (3)
​Getting There – Rubondo Island

Many travelers heading to Tanzania choose to land at Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), conveniently positioned between the towns of Arusha and Moshi. It lies roughly 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Moshi and 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Arusha. Alternatively, one can fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam and then take a connecting flight to either Arusha Airport (ARK) or back to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). As part of your safari experience with Bush 2 City Adventure, we include airport pickup and transportation arrangements, ensuring a seamless transition to your Rubondo Island safari extension.

Rubondo Island National Park, nestled in Lake Victoria, is most conveniently reached by small plane.
Main Park Map
Tanzania Travel Guide Map
Airlines & Ticket Prices

For information on airlines flying to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) or Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), and to compare ticket prices, we recommend using Skyscanner.

Domestic Flights

Rubondo Island features its airstrip, offering access through both regular and charter flights from key locations like Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Arusha, and the Serengeti National Park. For those aiming to blend their journey with a gorilla trekking excursion in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, direct flights from Kigali make it a seamless experience.

 

For travel to Rubondo Island, the following airlines provide services:

 

Coastal Aviation offers daily flights from the Serengeti and direct routes from Kigali International Airport.

Auric Air provides daily services from the Serengeti, including options for connecting flights to Kigali International Airport.

Passport, Visa & Other Entry Requirements

For comprehensive information on passport, visa, and additional entry requirements for Tanzania, please visit our FAQ section on the Tanzania page

​Malaria & Safety – Rubondo Island
Safety

We consider Rubondo Island National Park to be a highly secure destination for visitors. Its status as an uninhabited island naturally contributes to its safety. Like anywhere globally, urban areas tend to have higher crime rates, so we advise taking standard safety measures when exploring cities as part of your itinerary (for more details, refer to ‘Cities & Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ below).

Malaria & Vaccinations

Malaria poses a minor risk on Rubondo Island. To safeguard yourself, we recommend the use of antimalarial medication. Utilizing mosquito repellent, especially those formulas enriched with DEET, alongside dressing in long pants and long-sleeved shirts during evening hours, can further enhance your protection. Additionally, it’s wise to consult with a healthcare professional regarding any vaccinations you may need before your journey.

Wildlife Viewing

Chimpanzee trekking on Rubondo Island is considered to be very secure. The chimpanzees here are semi-habituated, meaning they generally maintain a distance from humans. Over time, as they become more accustomed to human presence, they’ll likely pay little attention to visitors, allowing you to observe their natural behaviors. For your safety, a comprehensive briefing will be provided before you embark on your trek. Additionally, your guide will offer instructions during your time among the chimps. Please also pay close attention to the ‘Chimp Trekking Safety Precautions’ outlined below.

Photo Gallery of Rubondo Island National Park (Lake Victoria)

Map of Rubondo Island National Park (Lake Victoria)

Photo Gallery of Rubondo Island National Park (Lake Victoria)

Main Park Map

Our Destinations