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Mabamba 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 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 Swamp on Lake Victoria ©Martin Ngabirano

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

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

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.

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 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 Swamp 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.

fisherman, Mabamba Bay, Uganda
Local fisherman

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.

African Jacana, Mabambo Bay, Uganda
African jacana ©Martin Ngabirano
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 delicious organic sweet pineapples, nutritious avocados and juicy tomatoes.

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

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.

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.

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