Mabamba Marsh is a bird-lovers dream destination. It is home to 260 bird species, including the massive shoebill – Uganda’s most sought-after bird!
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 is a massive 16,500 hectares and is part of the list of Wetlands of International Importance as chosen by the Ramsar Convention.
Shoebill boat tour
Search for this prehistoric-like bird in a boat is quite an experience! You will be polled around in a massive wooden fishing boat by an experienced guide who knows where to find shoebills in this vast swamp. To prepare yourself for the birding encounter of your life, read this interesting article about shoebills
According to Ismail, a local guide, shoebills like Mabamba because there are plenty of fish – thanks to the local fisherman who are passionate about protecting this precious wetland area.
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 resource, but today many local people have been trained as tour guides who now strive to preserve both the birds and the swamp.
They are happy to tell you a story about how Mabamba Marsh is named after a lungfish locally known as ‘emamba‘. According to Hanington, a guide who has lived on the Marsh for 20 years, the lungfish can survive out of the water for up to three days, if it is watered every now and again.
Rediscover the beauty of the other birds
While on the boat and searching for shoebills, be sure to look out for other species such as blue swallow, pallid harrier, papyrus gonolek, swamp flycatcher, pigmy goose, lesser jacana, white-winged warbler, Viellot’s weaver, grosbeak weaver, black-headed weaver, northern brown-throated weaver, Clarke’s weaver, palm-nut vulture and Carruther’s cisticola.
Taste mouth-watering fresh fruits
Across the bay are little islands where the local people grow delicious organic sweet pineapples, nutritious avocados and juicy tomatoes.
Enjoy the Lake Victoria sunset
Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest freshwater lake, and the second largest freshwater lake in the world, after Lake Superior in the United States/Canada.
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.