Mabamba Swamp is the natural habitat for the most sought after Shoebill,it is an extensive marsh stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with papyrus towards the Western main body of Lake Victoria. It has the status of an unprotected area with bird species globally threatened. This Important Bird Area (IBA) is one of the best marshy areas along the Northern shores of Lake Victoria for bird watching close to Kampala. Mabamba Swamp is a major wetland birding site well-known for the elusive Shoebill one of Uganda’s most sought after bird by most birders and nature lovers.
The wetland has over 300 bird species recorded and that includes birds like the African purple swamp hen, African water rail, Pallid Harrier, Swamp flycatcher, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler and the Blue Swallow Common moorhen, lesser jacana, African jacana, African pygym goose, White-faced whistling duck, Squacco heron, Blue Breasted Bee-eater, Winding cisticola, Goliath Heron and many others.
Bird watching is mostly via canoe, where you will navigate waterways in the lily pads and papyrus swamp. Swamp is an extensive marsh stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with papyrus towards the western main body of Lake Victoria. Use of the boat is good because it gives you an opportunity to view several other birds that you may otherwise miss if you are in a car.
Mabamba Swamp can also be reached from Kampala or Entebbe and the easiest route is through the Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe where you take a 10 minutes’ ferry crossing to Kasanje landing and from there drive for about 20 minutes to Mabamba passing through cultivations and open fields that will provide plenty of garden birds.

Shoebill in Mabamba Swamp

Mabamba Swamp is one of the best and most convenient places to see the elusive Shoebill. After a few minutes in a small canoe the papyrus reeds open up into a flat grassy wetland where a number of Shoebills can regularly be seen. It can be easily seen in the morning hours standing still for long periods awaiting the movements of their prey and then suddenly strike quickly. This however doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to see it any other time of the day.
Boat tour across Lake Victoria highly recommend though you can reach Mabamba by road. Reaching Mabamba by boat gives you an opportunity to see many of the birds than when you are in a car. Sometimes even the shoebill may dodge you in the canoes only to be seen as you approach or leave by boat.
The exciting birding experience in Mabamba swamp also happens along the way as you travel to the swamp. There are other birding spots with a variety of habitats. After birding you can choose to follow a woodland and savanna trail up to the sand mining quarry to utilize chances of other species apart from the wetland birds.

Meet the local fishermen

Unlike the previous days the local community is now friendly with the birds as they compete for the same fish. Many have been trained as local tour guides who now strive to preserve both the birds and the swamp. They happily tell you stories about how Mabamba Bay was named after a lungfish locally known as “emamba”. The lungfish can survive on land for up to three days if it is watered every now and again.

A visit to mabamba swap is worth your coinage because of the special nature of the birdlife in a swamp (a special and rare kind of bird life). The birding experience in this areas is such a rewarding experience for any birder.