Rubondo is one of over 3000 islands in Lake Victoria, the world’s second fresh water largest lake Lake. The lake covers over 68,800 square kilometers, bordering Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. In recent years, the lake’s ecosystem has suffered from human impact. The introduction on Nile.

Perch to the lake in 1954 led to the extinction of hundreds of other species of fish. However, the lake is home to hippos, crocodiles, spotted necked otters and the islands provides a refuge for the thousands of birds that pass through on migration every year.

The island gained national park status in 1977,providing protection for fishing grounds and extending to a number of smaller islands in the region. The habitats are diverse, from swampland, dense forest, woodland, plains and coast line.

Native species to the island include hippo, bushbuck, genet cats, civet cats, crocodile and sitatunga, a rare species of antelope that thrives in marshland, with its shaggy coat and webbed feet.

We are met by the camp Landcruiser and a national park official on a battered motorbike. After showing our passports and haggling over park fees, we clamber into the back of the car, ducking an assault course of hanging vines and creepers, as we bounce along to the camp. Orchids bloom blood red on the forest floor and the air is rich with the smell of wild jasmine.

A number of species were introduced to the island and flourished in the environment. Elephant, giraffe, white and black colobus monkeys and African Grey parrots adapted and thrived in Rubondo. The real success story is the islands’ chimpanzees.

Over 50 years ago, a group of chimpanzees were released from captivity into the forests, monitored by national park officials and university researchers. The chimpanzees formed a number of tight social groups, led by alpha males. These days, the captive chimpanzees and their descendants roam the island, unseen for weeks at a time.

We arrive at Rubondo Island Camp to glasses of freshly squeezed juice and towels. There’s a series of ten luxury tented bandas, curving around the outside of a clearing, looking down on the shore of lake Victoria. As we enter, a bushbuck looks up from her grazing, stares at us with liquid eyes for a moment and darts in front of me into the forest.

The camp staff haul in boxes of groceries flown over from Mwanza. As Rubondo is a national park, the camp is not permitted to grow food or introduce any new plant species, to prevent disruption to the natural ecosystem.

Jen, our host, offers to take me down to the shore and teach me to fish over a sunset drink. We head down to the beach, scrambling over the rocks to get to the perfect spot. She helps me bait my line with seaweed and cast it into Lake Victoria’s blue grey waters.

It’s not long before we have a small pile of fresh silvery fish we send to the kitchen. Around us, birds float serenely on the water, doing their own fishing. Egyptian gees, white egrets and a tiny kingfisher, feathers glowing like jewels, flits over rock to rock, skimming the water.

The sky turns pink and gold as we sip our drinks and talk, before one of the staff calls us in for dinner, hundreds of insects orbiting the light from his torch.

I spend breakfast defending my coffee from Kamikaze flies and watching the velvet monkeys deftly climb trees in search of ripe fruit, waving their blue bottoms at me. The hippos have visited in the night, leaving crumbling pad prints on the sand.

The camp managers tell me about their wildlife encounters, including the green mamba that lives in their office and I’m left hoping we don’t have a close encounter with any snakes during our stay. The staff let us know the Landcruiser’s ready and we climb in to take a tour of the island.

The mud track loops the island like a necklace and outdrive points out new chimpanzee nests a glimpse of them today. We spot a tortoise shuffling along in the grass and stop to take a photo, causing him to instantly retreat into his shell, clammed up despite our whispered coaxing.

There’s a rustling behind us in the woodland and we look up to see a sitatunga, its shaggy coat burred with grass, ambling towards the swamp.

We drive ahead, crunching through gears as we make our way up the hillside. The view is spectacular. Hundreds of fish eagles soar effortlessly on thermals, twisting into dives on a knife edge to swoop down to the water. I’ve never been interested in birds before, but I could watch this for hours, as they glide gracefully through the air.

The island’s elephants and giraffes are often found in the forest here, grazing on leaves before disappearing into the thickets.

The road continues down to the village where the camp officials stay with their families. Boats confiscated from poachers rust on the shore, paint peeling away in flaky strips. The camp’s boat is broken, so we won’t be taking a trip out to Bird Islands or around the islands, but there’s enough to do to keep us entertained.

The kids come to say hi to the mzungu, shyly answering my questions in Swahili, as their mothers look on, stirring bubbling pots of ugali on charcoal stoves. One of them pulls me to one side to show me a genet cat, spotted with its ringed tail, hissing at us from a rocky outcrop.

We head back to the camp to escape the midday heat when our driver stops the car abruptly, sending me sliding in the seat. He holds a finger to his lips and points past the trees. There’s a troop of chimpanzees, oblivious to us, some perched in branches, while others sit and groom each other. I watch, rapturous, before something alerts them to our presence and they flee into the forest. I’m grinning from ear to ear for the rest of our stay.

But there’s a sense of tranquility here, no lights, no pollution, no other cars or chattering guests. Just space, peace and the astounding diversity of nature, colorful butterflies that flutter by with their gossamer fine wings, wild flowers blooming on the forest floor, crocodile and hippo that live in the lake, and the thousands of birds that pass through on their migration. Whether you are looking for a quiet week away to recharge or a restful few days at the end of your safari, Rubondo is the place to go.

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