A brand new experience launched in September 2016, the Rubondo Chimp Habituation Experience is a unique opportunity for guests to be part of the habituation process. Available for a limited time, this is a rare chance to join a habituation team as they accustom chimpanzees to the presence of humans.
In the remote southwest corner of Lake Victoria lies the pristine forested island of Rubondo, home to a very special family of chimpanzees. Declared a sanctuary for wildlife in the 1960s, German zoologist Bernhard Grzimek relocated elephant, giraffe and even chimpanzees to the island. The 16 chimpanzees had been rescued from European zoos and brought to Tanzania. Within a year the chimpanzees were living wild and today, 50 years since their ancestors’ arrival on the island, guests have an opportunity to be part of the habituation process of the 40 strong family now living on the island.
The three-night habituation experience begins with a night at Rubondo Island Camp. This shore front property has 8 thatched cottages looking out over Lake Victoria. The main area is surrounded by the lake on two sides and playful otters can often be seen while you relax with a sundowner gin and tonic. The next morning it is an early start to go and join the chimpanzee habituation team. Depending on where the chimpanzees are on the island this could be by boat or safari car. Even while you are on your way to the chimps Rubondo’s forest is full of life – sitatunga, bushbuck and even elephant call the island home, not to mention over 40 species of orchid and a colourful array of butterflies.
Chimpanzees share 98% of DNA with humans and an encounter with our closest relatives is both exhilarating and humbling. Watching them hunt, socialize, care for each other and communicate, the common habits, mannerisms and characteristics we share with them are undeniable. At Rubondo you get to be part of the team that is habituating our closest relatives so sightings are not guaranteed – but to be involved in this process is a rare opportunity to be part of conservation in action.
After spending the day with the chimp habituation team you will spend the night sleeping out in a “fly camp” (simple dome tents with a bush bathroom and dinner cooked over the fire) for an adventure in the wild and interaction with the local trackers and guides. Listen to the sounds of the jungle as you drift off to sleep after a day in the forest. The next morning you can either head out with the habituation team again or head back to the lodge to fish, canoe and relax.
The three-night chimpanzee habituation experience starts from US$ 1,380 per person for a 3-night adventure in the wild, excluding flights.