Mabamba Wetland Sanctuary Bay

Most of Uganda bird watching tours take place in national parks which are far away from Entebbe and Kampala, however, Mabamba wetland is easy to get to for half day or full day trip for visitors staying around. One most sought after of the many species of birds is the Shoebill stork. Unlike Mabamba. Elsewhere the shoebill stork is found in Murchison Falls National Park and shores of Lake Albert near Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve but, these places cannot be visited in less time.

Birding in Mabamba

Visitors have one option which is to take a motorized wooden boat or traditional canoe led by a professional bird spotting guide (must be a member of the Uganda bird guides club) to navigate through the swamp. There are over 260 species of birds recorded in Mabamba wetland which is located in Mpigi district on the northern shores of Lake Victoria about 40 km from Entebbe town.

Mabamba wetland is one of Uganda’s 30 Important Bird Areas (IBA). It’s also one of the 8 IBA’s found within the Lake Victoria basin wetland ecosystem. It covers over 2000 hectares of thick boggy papyrus, wetland grass, woodlands and water lilies that not only provide habitat for globally endangered bird species such as papyrus gonolek, white winged warbler and pallid harrier, but also attracts migratory birds; recently, large flocks of migrant blue swallows (about 100 stronghold of blue swallows) as well as species of terns including gull billed terns, white winged terns and whiskered terns have often been sighted between March and October every year.

Best time for birding in Mabamba Wetland

At any time of the year Mabamba wetland is a good bird watching place and the birds of interest can be spotted mainly the shoebill stork, white winged warbler and papyrus gonelock. For those looking for migratory birds, the best time for birding is October and March.

Mabamba becomes a nesting and breeding ground for Palearctic migrants such as blue swallows, gull billed terns, whiskered terns and white winged terns. The osprey though not usually spotted like other migrant species, this bird of prey annually comes to Mabamba to feed on the rich lung fish a favorite for local fishing communities and they are the ones that report the rare sighting of the osprey.

Birding tours to Mabamba swamp begin early morning, and by the end of the tour, serious birders can write a checklist of about 150 species of birds, counting almost 70% of the total number of birds (interesting what a good bird guide can do for the day)!

Some of the common species found in Mabamba include malachite kingfisher (most beautiful bird), goliath herons and purple herons, back crowned night heron, several weavers such as northern brown throated, orange and yellow backed weavers, pygmy and spur winged geese, African fish eagle, hammerkop, glossy ibis, eastern plantain eater, great blue turaco, fork tailed drongo, pink backed pelican, double toothed barbet and many more birds.

How to get there?

From Entebbe town, Mabamba wetland can be accessed by road or speed boat ride. The latter is relatively expensive but faster taking 45 minutes from most hotels which organize boat trips on Lake Victoria.

However, the boat does not take you direct to the swamp, it stops in Kasenge trading center from there one can take a motorbike (boda boda) to Mabamba wetland. Once you reach, there are canoes that take a maximum of three visitors excluding the guide and canoe rider.

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