Mabamba swamp Tour in Uganda

November 26, 2021
Safari Updates

Mabamba swamp Tour in Uganda, Uganda is a perfect destination for birdwatching from all over the world. The wetland of Mabamba bay is the best place for the Shoebill Stork (Balaeniceps REX), Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocad. The wetland was selected in 2006 as a Ramsar Site and a wetland of international importance because of rare and attractive bird species such as the Papyrus Yellow Warbler.

Mabamba Bay swamp is a broad waterlogged area stretching through a long/small papyrus-filled channel around the outer showers of Lake Victoria in Entebbe Uganda. This is home to 38% of blue swallow’s global population and home to the endangered yellow warbler. With international assistance, Uganda’s government curbed encroachment onto the wetland and helped promote it as a leading birding destination. Tourists on an Uganda safari make frequent stops in the region to spot birds like the blue and yellow warblers, the papyrus gonolek, and the shoebill.

Mabamba swamp is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria west of Entebbe town occupying about 2424 hectares with marshes of papyrus, wetland grasses, and water lilies. Mabamba swamp is particularly famous for the elusive shoebill stock which is for the most sought after bird species by birding tourists and nature lovers from all corners of the world.

Mabamba Swamp is regarded as an Important Birding Area and a Ramsar site. This vast swamp is a home to over 300 bird species inclusive of regionally and globally threatened species, the wetlands are also known for the flocks of Palearctic migrant species between October and March. Besides the rare Shoebill stock other notable birds include the papyrus Gonolek which is among 7 of 12 victoria biome restricted species you can find in Uganda.

How to Reach Mabamba Swamp

Mabamba swamp can be accessible both on water and land, the easiest route from Kampala or Entebbe is by ferry via Nakiwongo landing site towards kasajja landing site with about 30 minutes. As well by land, you can use Kitende off Entebbe road towards Sisa trading center within about 40mins.

Birding in the Mabamba wetland is done using 2 means depending on your preference; you can make a choice of a canoe ride through the swamp or a motorized wooden vessel and ride through narrow water trails surrounded by marshes of papyrus.

Mabamba swamp is the most popular and presents the biggest chances of encountering the rare shoebill stock. This bird is the most sought-after bird species by birding tourists visiting Uganda and sometimes other categories of tourists do visit Mabamba to have a look and picturesque moments with this oversized and wonder-looking bird. Shoebill can only be seen in a few places all over East Africa among which Mabamba wetland is the most easily accessible and presents the best chance to sight catch this bird species.

Human Activities around Mabamba Swamp

Mabamba Swamp is endowed with a variety of Lungfish a known staple food for the shoebill stock, however, lungfish creates competition between the human population and the shoebills due to its high delicacy value among the surrounding Baganda community. This comes with another experience of observing fishing using traditional means. The fishermen had long held a superstition myth that seeing a Shoebill before fishing results in poor results for that day. However, this is because the Shoebill feeds on lungfish, and where the Shoebill is meant all the fish will move further into hiding. For the fishermen, it was a stroke of bad luck seeing a Shoebill and everyone could not enter into the wetland. The fishermen resorted to hunting the Shoebill species and killed them, this resulted in a decline in the numbers of these species, and shoebills are regionally threatened to extinct. This wetland was gazette as a Ramsar site in 2006 to ensure that the rare shoebill stock is protected and also big numbers of tourists visiting the wetland put up enlightenment and ended this conflict of the fishermen and the community.

The fishermen at Mabamba swamp rent their boats to birding tourists and earn a lot out of this, and even some fishermen and community members have been trained and established their bird watching tour guides association in Mabamba. The fishermen now entirely participate in protecting the Shoebill stock, so whenever they set out to fish in the swamp and see a Shoebill they keep a distance way not to disturb it and will gladly inform the tourists about where to locate it. The census shows about 15 species occupying the wetland.

Best Time to see a Shoebill In Mabamba Swamp

The best time to see the Shoebill in the Mabamba swamp is very early morning between 7 am to 9 am, and late in the evening at around 5 pm. And also do not miss a dramatic experience during mid-day, the shoebill is scooping out lungfish from the mud for its lunch, after spending hours in one place with attention to scoop any fish on its way.

Other Notable Bird Species in Mabamba Swamp includes;

African Fish Eagle, African Jacana, African Marsh Harrier, Purple Swamphe, African Green Pigeon, African Pigmy Goose, Black Crake, Black-crowned Waxbill, Black-headed Heron, Black Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Common Moorhen, Common Sandpiper, Blue Swallow, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Cattle Egret, Common Sqacco Heron, Winding Cistocola, Wood Sandpiper, Woodland Kingfisher,  Double Toothed Barbet, Great Cormorant, Great White Egret, Glossy Ibis, Goliath Heron, Great White Pelican, Green Cuckoo, Gull-billed Tern, Hadada Ibis, Harmerkop, Little Egret, Little Stilt, Grey Heron, Grey-crowned Crane, Long-tailed Cormorant, Long-toed Lapwing, Malachite Kingfisher, Orange Weaver, Papyrus Gonolek, Black-headed Weaver, Yellow-billed Duck Pied Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier, Northern Brown-throated Weather, Pied Wagtail, Pink-backed Pelican, Red-eyed Dove, Red-headed Love-bird, Pin-tailed Whyda, Purple Heron, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Speckled Mousebird, Spur-winged Goose, Spur-winged Lapwing, Village Weaver, Water Thicknee, White-browed Cuckoo, Swamp Flycatcher, Veilots’ Black Weaver, White-faced Whistling Duck, White-throated Bee-eater, White-winged Tern, Yellow-billed Kite.

Birding Tour at Mabamba Swamp

For the hardcore birding visitors who would want to maximize their stay bird watching Mabamba swamp and record many birds, birding will include trailing on water, forest walk and community walk where you can explore more habitats and birding spots within and outside Mabamba Swamp. Your bird-watching trail in Mabamba will be as follows:

Birding Mabamba landing site and parking avenue

The Mabamba landing site and parking area present an instant nice birding immediately upon arrival even before looking out into the wetland. The tall trees, shrubs, marshes, and thickets present quite a sizeable population of bird species and can surprise you with a welcoming special sighting. So, you can spend some joyful time scanning the magnificent habitats before embarking on the boat trip to explore the maze waterways of the Mabamba swamp.

The aggressive magnificent Red-chested sunbird which is a lake Victoria biome endemic presents to you a striking superb welcome, this bird species is often seen on the short trees and shrubs enjoying their daily delicacy. This is the most common bird around the Mabamba wetland. Other birds often sighted include Weyn’s Weaver, Village Weaver, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Yellow-throated Greenbul, Grey-capped Warbler, Splendid Starling, Lesser Striped Swallow, Swamp Flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, etc…

Birding on water trails on the lookout for the Shoebill and wetland specials.

Birding Mabamba swamp is carried on using a motorized boat or a canoe through the water trails covered by marshes of papyrus and other water plants. In most cases, boats are available with local riders eagerly waiting to take you to locate the Shoebill stock. The elusive Shoebill will be the first bird on our list to look for as soon as we embark on the boat. In most cases, the shoebill is located by the fishermen who have gone early in the wetland to catch their fish always helping out on locating and directing us to which pass should we consider.

Early morning between 7 am to 9 am is the best time to see the Shoebill stock when it is stalking and scooping lungfish by standing still for hours without movement aiming at any unlucky fish crossing its path. Later in the day, it is quite hard to find the shoebill because when it becomes hot the shoebill goes into hiding for resting, sometimes it is seen spreading out its wings and squatting in the grass.

After spotting the Shoebill stock proceed with our normal birding, encountering the several water channels to the Lake Victoria and away deep into the wetland maneuvering through thick marshes papyrus, and water plants.

Notable water birds not easily missed include: Purple Swamphen, African Darter, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Common Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, African Marsh Harrier, Long-tailed Cormorant, Yellow-billed Duck, Malachite Kingfisher

Birding cultivations and bushland around Mabamba swamp

You can increase your checklist by birding cultivation and bushes around the Mabamba swamp for more field species. This is normally done after coming back from the boat ride in Mabamba Swamp, birding here is done along the foot pass through bushland, grassing land and plantations presents dramatic surprises of woodland bird species. With this, you can go for some good hours until you feel that you have had a lot. Some of the common birds include Rufous-napped Lark, cuckoos, Sooty Chat, Grassland Pipit, Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher, scrub-robins, weavers, Lizard Buzzard, sunbirds, etc…

Birding in Nkima Forest

Nkima forest is reasonable a small think forest situated 2km away from Mabamba wetland and located along the hill overlooking the swamp, estimated to be about 20minutes walk away from the Mabamba landing site. Nkima forest gives you a worthwhile forest bird-watching experience as an extra to your water and woodland birding experience at the Mabamba swamp area. If you consider a day bird watching safari at the Mabamba wetland area, then Nkima forest must be included as a forest habitat to improve on the diversity of your checklist with forest bird species. Nkima forest will surprised with so many forest specials which are hard to tress from the big forests. It is a young forest going by the thick undergrowth covering the hill which creates fascinating views.

Other activities Tourist in Mabamba Swamp

Community Walk:  On the community walk tour in Mabamba Swamp. The local people have come up with the most brilliant ideas in their association of protecting and conserving Mabamba wetland, their association is called MWETA with the major aim of conserving this Ramsar site and the important bird area make it a better place. During the community walks, visit the local craft shops for some beautiful handmade gifts and souvenirs.

spot Fishing in Mabamba Island: Mabamba swamp offers the best fishing grounds and even before it was turned tourism center. The most common fish species caught in Mabamba wetland include Nile perch, lungfish, Tilapia, Mudfish. Our team will prepare for you the required fishing gadgets.

Spotting the Sitatunga antelopes: Mabamba swamp hosts a sizeable number of sitatunga antelopes. The best way to spot these antelopes in the Mabamba swamp is by taking a canoe ride through the marshes of papyrus. Sitatunga antelopes are almost to extinction because of poachers, of recent the government has put recommendable efforts to protect and conserve these antelopes.

Canoeing: Mabamba swamp offers the best way to explore it from several dimensions, Canoe ride will bring you closer to the shoebill stock, bird species, colorful butterfly species, and the elusive sitatunga antelopes. Our reservation team prepares for you the required gadgets such as life jackets and others.

Butterfly Watching: A big percentage of tourists visit Mabamba swamp for shoebill stock tracking, Mabamba swamp also hosts over 200 different species of butterflies and this has attracted a sizeable number of tourists and nature lovers from different parts of the world. Mabamba Swamp is one of the best places in Uganda where you can easily see the variety of butterfly species and for this, you will have an opportunity to spot species like the Abisaraneavei, Achaea aurivilli, Bicyclus sebetus, Acraea aganice,  Acraea consanguine, and among others.

Local fishermen interaction: Meet and exchange with the local fishermen, this will give you an opportunity to observe and learn about their current and traditional lifestyle. These fishermen have resorted their effort to protecting and conserving the shoebill stock and the wetland at large because of its economic benefit to them since most of them earn from tourists as local guides around the wetland, unlike in the past where they had conflicts with the shoebill stock due to competition because it feeds on the same fish (lungfish) they were looking for.

Where to stay in Mabamba

Mabamba swamp is located a 40-minute drive from Entebbe Town and about a 1-hour drive from Kampala city. There is no need to worry about where to spend your overnight since the distance is not too much from the major towns of Uganda. There is a bucket list of accommodation ranging from 1-5stars depending on your budget. The closest accommodation is Nkima Lodge located a 20-minute walk from Mabamba Swamp, in case you would like to stay in the forest-like environment we reserve for you this hotel.

Visit our website to book your day tour to Mabamba Swamp for the bucket list of experiences ranging from shoebill stock search, canoe ride, birding, and community tour among others.

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