Bird Watching in Mabamba Islands

Bird Watching in Mabamba Islands

March 12, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

Are you looking for bird watching on Mabamba Islands? Mabamba Wetland also known as Mabamba Bay Wetland is a birder’s paradise located on the northern shores of Lake Victoria which is the biggest freshwater lake in Africa and second in the world. Mabamba Bay Wetland covers an area of approximately 16500 hectares and is characterised by small channels of marsh-filled, lagoons and dense papyrus vegetation. It is specifically situated on the border of the Kamengo and Kasanje sub-countries in Wakiso and Mpigi districts. Mabamba swamp is a Ramsar site part of the list of Wetlands of International importance as designated by the Ramsar convention.

Mabamba Wetland is just a short drive from Kampala Uganda’s capital city. The swamp is a bird-lovers destination and is home to over 260 bird species including the elusive and prehistoric Shoebill Stork. Here is why it’s a must-visit for nature and bird enthusiasts:

  • Shoebill Stork Encounters:

The wetland is one of the best places to see the elusive Shoebill Stork. This activity is also known as the Shoebill Stork boat tour as visitors are polled onto a wooden fishing boat by an experienced guide who knows where to locate the shoebill in the vast swamp. The Shoebill Stork is a prehistoric bird with a massive shoe-shaped bill making it a true icon for the wetland. Wildlife photographers and bird watchers shall be thrilled by the sight of this large and enigmatic bird.

  • Diverse avian species:

Mabamba Bay Wetland is home to a remarkable variety of bird species apart from the Shoebill Stork. The wetland’s unique habitat attracts both resident and migratory birds throughout the year. Some of the avian wonders one shall encounter while at Mabamba include the following: the African Purple Swamphen often seen wading in the marshes, the Swamp Flycatcher which is a small bird that flits about catching insects, the African Jacana known for its long toes which allow it to walk on floating vegetation, Papyrus Gonolek, Pallid Harrier which is a raptor that glides gracefully over the Mabamba Wetland, White-winged Warbler, the beautiful Blue Swallow which migrates to Mabamba, the Common Moorhen which is a water bird with red legs and a red beak, the Lesser Jacana which is a smaller relative of the African Jacana, the African Pygmy Goose which is a tiny duck species, White-faced Whistling Duck, the Squaco Heron which is a medium-sized heron with striking plumage, the Colourful Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Black Egret, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, on very lucky days the Wenys’s Weavers pick nesting materials from the Swamp to the nearby Mpaga Rain Forest where they nest, White-backed Duck, Black Crake, Rufous-bellied Heron, the small Winding Cisticola often found in grassy areas, and the Goliath Heron which is one of the largest herons globally, Allen’s gallinule, African Marsh Harrier is never a disappointemnt here and many more

  • African Jacana in Mabamba WetlandScenic Beauty:

The Mabamba Bay Wetland offers unique and magnificent scenic views. Imagine exploring a maze of papyrus reeds, floating vegetation and open water channels. The tranquil waterways, lush vegetation and expansive lake views create a magical ambience for your birding adventures.

  • Community Involvement.

Mabamba Wetland is a remarkable wetland where community involvement plays a crucial role in its preservation and sustainable development. Here local fishermen act as guides unlike in the past when local fishermen and birds were competitors for the same fish resources. These local fishermen now strive to preserve both the swamp and the birds by sharing their knowledge with visitors such as the History of the swamp and the naming of the swamp. Mabamba Swamp is named after “Lung Fish” locally known as “mamba”. Mabamba Wetland is not only a bird-lover’s paradise but also a testament to the harmonious relationship between the community and nature.

  • Taste Mouth-watering fresh fruits

Across the bay from Mabamba Swamp, there is fruit farming on nearby islands. Locals grow delicious organic fruits such as pineapples, avocados, and juicy tomatoes.

What to carry when going bird-watching at Mabamba Island?

When embarking on a birding adventure in the Mabamba swamp, it is essential to be well-prepared and here is a checklist of items to carry for an optimal bird-watching experience:

  • A pair of Binoculars
  • A camera to capture the beauty of the wetland and feathered inhabitants.
  • Hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from direct sunlight
  • A field guidebook where we recommend Birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe
  • Comfortable footwear
  • Proper clothing with a rain gear or an umbrella
  • Insect repellents to keep the pesky mosquitoes and other insects at bay.

How to get to Mabamba Island?

The swamp can be accessed from both Kampala and Entebbe.

From Entebbe, take the old Entebbe-Kampala Road and branch off from Kisubi. Drive towards Nakawuku and then Kasanje. Finally, reach Mabamba wetland after 90 minutes of driving through cultivations and open fields. Alternatively, one can take a motorised boat from the Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe for a scenic water crossing to the mashes and upon landing near the Island, you get into smaller motorized boats that take you in the channels and possible Shoebill sighting areas and thirdly you can take the Nakiwogo ferry which takes about 20 minutes to the landing then back into the cars and drive for about 20 – 30 minuted to the mabamba Bay for you best Shoebill experience in Uganda.

From Kampala, drive along Masaka Road for 30 kilometres. Upon reaching Mpigi, Branch off to the road heading to Kasanje trading center, and continue for about 22km until you reach Mabamba swamp.

What is the best time to visit Mabamba Island for bird-watching?

The best time to visit Mabamba Swamp for bird-watching is during the late morning hours and in the afternoon after lunch. These times offer optimal conditions for observing the diverse bird species mostly the Shoebill Stork which is a calm fisher once not interrupted, it could spend half of its day when still cool in an area not more than 10 square meters patiently searching and waiting on lung or mud fish which is its preferred dish, occasionally it has been sighted catching snakes, frogs and snails