Africa’s Super Secret Safari Island

Dying to escape to a secluded island where you can have a safari adventure and go completely off the grid? Care to experience what it may be like to be outnumbered by wildlife? Have what it takes to spend a day hiking through the rainforest and bush to find a chimpanzee colony? Then one of Tanzania’s best kept secrets is the luxury destination for you: Rubondo Island. Nestled off the coast of Tanzania in Lake Victoria, this island is home to one of the most unique safari experiences Africa has to offer. It’s a rare opportunity to experience a side of Tanzania and true unaltered ecosystems few are able to see.

Rubondo Island Camp is the only accommodation on the mostly uninhabited island. There is no cell service and power is from a nearby generator. Flights leave from Serengeti National Park to the 24 miles long island in Lake Victoria where crocodiles inhabit the shores. During your stay you can also find elephants, hippos, giraffes, chimpanzees and countless beautiful birds and butterflies, just to name a few! In this secluded and unique wilderness experience, humans are wholly outnumbered.

However, Rubondo Island Camp is far from roughing it. The luxury accommodation is inclusive of meals (at the on-site restaurant utilizing local ingredients from nearby farms) and activities. The camp features eight luxury huts as well as a beautiful tree-house and open-air lodge that sits just on the shoreline. Guests can also enjoy spa treatments and relaxing by the pool while reveling in the true serenity of unspoiled nature. Rubondo Island Camp is gaining prestige and notoriety for its conservation efforts and unique immersive experience.

The camp has recently undergone renovation and is now part of Asilia Africa. Managing several high end African camp accommodations, Asilia Africa is dedicated to maintaining the high standard of ecological sustainability and eliminating the camp’s carbon footprint, while also offering guests a true luxury and once-in-a-lifetime experience on this historic island.

In the 1960s, the Tanzanian National Park Service designated the island a protected endangered habitat with the involvement of famous German Zoologist Bernhard Grzimek. Grzimek won an Academy Award in 1959 for his documentary film “Serengeti Shall Not Die” and dedicated himself to introducing endangered wildlife to Rubondo Island. In the 1960s, the Frankfurt Zoological Society began the successful introduction of a population of chimpanzees to the island from circuses and zoos across Europe. This colony of chimps has doubled in size since then and is one of the main attractions of the island.

While it’s a rare to see the colony of chimpanzees, visitors to Rubondo Island still enjoy hiking through the lush forests to try to spot them. The dedication to responsibly habituating the chimps to more human visitors is admirable and often one of the most celebrated naturalist efforts in Africa. In addition to the famous Rubondo Island chimp colony: elephants and giraffes have also been successfully introduced without upsetting the native ecology of vervet monkeys, spot-necked otters, crocodiles, hippos, sitatungas (similar to an antelope), and several enormous species of lizards and other reptiles.

The island is also home to one of the most sought-after bird-watching experiences. Screeches and whistles from parrots and countless other beautiful bird species can be heard all over the island. Eagles can be spotted hunting on the bank of the lake.

Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world and borders three countries: Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The lake continues deep into Tanzania and Rubondo Island is located in the Southwest corner of the lake.

Rated one of National Geographic’s “38 Unique Lodges of the World,” Rubondo Island Camp fulfills the National Geographic standards of sustainability, authenticity, enrichment and excellence. The camp offsets their carbon footprint with a community forestation program. Water conservation is also of utmost importance. Rainwater is harvested and grey water is reused when possible. There is organic compost on-site, no plastic water bottles are used (stainless steel reusable containers are available for use) and natural air conditioning replaces any kind of electric cooling system. The camp is the only human presence on the island and is dedicated to protecting the sensitive ecology with minimal impact.

National Geographic also offers a unique opportunity for guests to Rubondo Island: a Moring Village visit led by a resident to the mainland village of Kasendai. Visitors can learn about this typical Tanzanian village on the coast of Lake Victoria via an informal visit to local markets full of handmade crafts and “upcycled” goods, along with the village’s amazing vegetable garden where the camp’s restaurant gets its produce.

Rubondo Island Camp also offers sustainable catch and release fishing of the famous Nile perch, many different safari opportunities via boat, on foot or in an open-air vehicle, canoeing, sunset sailing on a dhow (a traditional sailing boat), hiking or relaxing by the pool. Whether in the open-air common areas or your own luxury chalet, the rustling of the unique island nightlife can be heard at dusk and into the evening as the chimpanzees and other wildlife move around during the night.

While the rangers at the park are consistently and responsibly habituating the chimpanzee colony to humans, should you not see any chimps in person while hiking on Rubondo Island, you can take advantage of the camp’s extensive library on the chimpanzee and habituating them in their new home. It’s also very common to strike up a conversation with a member of the research team over dinner. This immersive wildlife experience is lauded by visitors to Rubondo Island time and time again regardless of whether they saw the chimpanzees in person or not.

If you’re looking for a truly active wilderness experience in one of the most ecologically conscious, picturesque environments in the world: Rubondo Island Camp awaits!

This article originally appeared on Demand Africa.

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