Author: Janice Reed-Smith, former otter researcher on Rubondo, Director African Otter Outreach Project
Every trip to Rubondo seems to have a dominant theme, and every trip is different. I just returned from my first visit to Rubondo in two years and the theme for this trip was Asilia and beautiful insects! My purpose for two weeks on Rubondo was to check in on the otter population I studied for 4 years, visit TANAPA (Tanzanian National Parks) friends, and treat myself to a few days of holiday by spending part of my time at the new Asilia Camp.
The otters were there utilizing the rocky and forested shorelines as they habitually do. However, due to rough water conditions on the lake my sightings were brief with only one extended sighting along Irumo Point known for lots of otters and good fishing. To see the otters on shore takes understanding of their behavior and… patience. They spend approximately 60% of their time on land but you never know exactly where or when they will appear. It is tricky; keeping yourself aware enough to notice their typically quiet arrival all the while finding yourself distracted by the complexity of life around you. This time it was the butterflies, dragon flies, katydids, spiders and beetles that entertained and distracted me. I was aware of the abundant insect life but it was not until this last visit I truly appreciated the magnificent array of species. Noticing and identifying them are two different things but, that is where Asilia first came in. The camp has a first rate staff, including Head Guide Habibu, Habibu Hamadi Kisslo to be exact. He is one of those rare people who live to learn about their surroundings and through him I was able to identify, at least to type, all of the insects I spent hours photographing! I learned a great deal and found myself completely captivated by all the small creatures, and Habibu.
This island itself is a magical microcosm of East African lake ecosystems, one that is difficult to reach but easily accessible to those intrepid enough to try. It is a world that is worth visiting and exploring; a world that is enhanced by the Asilia Camp experience. If you are thinking of going I highly recommend it. Some of the best meals in Africa I have ever had, the camp itself is rustic luxury situated in a beautiful bay and staffed by interesting, friendly people. And, when you go, don’t forget to ask Habibu to show you the otters!