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Mabamba Bay swamp is a bird-lovers dream destination. It is home to 260 bird species, including the massive shoebill – Uganda’s most sought-after bird!

Shoebill, Mabamba Bay, Uganda
Shoebill in Mabamba Bay ©Martin Ngabirano

This papyrus swamp is characterised by small channels of marsh-filled water and lagoons and is located about 57km from Kampala city and an hour’s drive from Entebbe city. Lying on the edge of Lake Victoria, Mabamba Bay is a massive 16,500 hectares and is part of the list of Wetlands of International Importance as chosen by the Ramsar Convention.

Mabamba Bay on Lake Victoria, Uganda
Mabamba Bay on Lake Victoria ©Martin Ngabirano

Visiting Mabamba Bay is quite the adventure, especially when there are so many bird species to be spotted, including the elusive shoebill! Here are some great activities that you can get up to while touring the area:

Shoebill canoe tour

Getting into a canoe in search for this prehistoric-like bird is a great experience. The shoebill is an amazing bird to behold and certainly one of the world’s most iconic. Its massive beak and brilliant large eyes are usually spotted first.

Canoe, Mabamba Bay, Uganda
On a canoe tour seraching for shoebill ©Martin Ngabirano

According to Ismail, a local guide, shoebills like the bay because there are plenty of fish and the area has an extensive marsh which the locals have been passionate about protecting.

Shoebill, Mabamba Bay, Uganda
Shoebill eating a lungfish

Meet the local fishermen

There was a time when the local community used to be enemies with the birds as they competed for the same fish, but today many have been trained as local tour guides who now strive to preserve both the birds and the swamp.

They are happy to tell you a story about how Mabamba Bay is named after a lungfish locally known as ‘emamba‘. According to Hanington, a local guide who has lived on the bay for 20 years, the lungfish can survive on land for up to three days if it is watered every now and again.

fisherman, Mabamba Bay, Uganda
Local fisherman

Rediscover the beauty of the common birds

On a canoe tour, look out for birds in the reeds and on the water such as the hamerkop, papyrus gonolek, yellow-billed ducks, spur-winged geese, African jacana, and purple swamhens.

African Jacana, Mabambo Bay, Uganda
African jacana ©Martin Ngabirano

Right by the shores are trees where you’ll see a large amount of nesting village weaver birds, along with other birds such as the African marsh harrier and palm-nut vulture.

Palm-nut vulture, Mabambo Bay, Uganda
Palm-nut vulture ©Martin Ngabirano

Taste mouth-watering fresh fruits

Across the bay are little islands where the local people grow lots of organic sweet pineapples, avocados and juicy tomatoes.

Pineapples, Mabamba Bay, Uganda
Pineapples loaded at the Mabamba Bay

Enjoy the sunset by Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest freshwater lake, and the second largest freshwater lake after Lake Superior in the United States/Canada.

A beautiful sunset over Lake Victoria
A beautiful sunset over Lake Victoria ©Martin Ngabirano

Other sites to see shoebills in Uganda

There are other areas where you can spot the shoebill, such as at Delta point in Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Ziwa Rhino sanctuary and Semliki Game Reserve.

Contact Chigo Tours Africa to arrange a birding tour to see the shoebill and all the other wonderful bird species, as well as meet the local people and enjoy great sunsets!

Africa Geographic Travel
ChiGo Tours Africa

ChiGo Tours Africa is a small native safari company in Uganda with knowledgeable passionate guides; born in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – only park where chimps and mountain gorillas live. Our custom made, private and group tours are designed for people who want to experience primates in the wild, nature, birds and authentic cultural traditions in Africa’s most attractive ecotourism sites in Uganda and Rwanda.