The famous birding spot in Uganda, Mabamba wetland is situated in the western part of Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria. The wetland covers an area of 2,424 ha consisting of thick marshes of papyrus, water lilies, and other wetland grasses. It is a recognized UNESCO site and an Important Birding Area.
About 300 bird species call this swamp home, the shoebill stork is the most seen bird in this area. Papyrys Gonolek, Goliath Herons, Spur-Winged and Pygmy Geese, Malachite Kingfisher, Papyrus Canary, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Carruther’s Cisticola Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-billed Tinkerbird, Yellow-billed Ducks, Yellow-backed Weaver, Yellow warble, Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-Billed Stork, Yellow-billed duck, Yello-billed Kite, Woodland Kingfisher, Wood Sandpiper, Winding Cistocola, White-winged Warbler, White-winged Black Terns, White-throated Bee-eater, White-shouldered Tit, White-faced Whistling-duck, White-browed Cuckoo, White-browed Coucal, Whiskered Terns, Whinchat, Weyn’s Weaver, Weaver birds, Water Thicknee, Violet-backed Sterling, Village Weaver, Veilots’ Black Weaver, the Blue Swallow, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Tawny Eagle, Tambourine Dove, Swamp Flycatcher, Stripped Kingfisher, Squacco heron, Spur-winged, Spur-winged Lapwing, Spur-winged Geese, Speckled Mousebird, Slender-billed Weaver, Slender-billed Gull, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Sand Martin, Sand Martin, Saddle-billed Stork, Ruppell’s Long-tailed Sterling, Rufous-napped Lark, Rufous-bellied Herons, Ross’ Turaco, Red-shouldered Cuckoo Shrike, Red-headed Love-bird, Red-eyed Dove, Red-chested Cuckoo, Red-billed Fire-finch, Pygmy Geese, Purple Heron, Pint-tailed Whyda, Pink-backed Pelican, Pied Wagtail, Pallid Harrier, Orange Weaver, Olivaceous Warbler, Nothern Brown-throated Weather, Mosque Swallow, Marsh Harrier, Malachite Kingfisher, Long-toed Lapwings, Long-tailed Cormorant, Long-Crested Eagle, Long tod lapwig blover, Little Stilt, Little Egret, Little bee-eater, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Lesser Jacana, Intermediate Egret, Harmerkop, Hadada Ibis, Gull-billed Terns, Grosbeak Weaver, Grey-rumped, Grey-Headed Sparrow, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Grey-headed Gulls, Grey-crowned Crane, Grey Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Grey Parrot, Grey Heron, Green Cuckoo, Great White Pelican, Great White Egret, Great Cormorant, Great Blue Turaco, Grassland Pipit, Goliath Herons, Glossy Ibis, Fulvous Whistling-duck, Fork-tailed Drongo, Fork-tailed Drongo, Fly catcher, Flappet Lark, Feral Pigeon, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Eurasian Hobby, Eastern Grey Plantain Eater, Double Toothed Barbet, Crowned Hornbill, Comrants, Common Waxbill, Common Stonechat, Common Sqacco Heron, Common Sandpiper, Common Moorhens, Common Greenshank, Common Bulbul, Cattle Egret, Carruther’s Cisticola, Brown Snake-Eagle, Brown Parrot, Blue-headed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Coucal, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Blue Swallow, Blue headed coucal, Blue Breasted Bee-eater, Black-winged Stilt, Black-headed Weavers, Black-headed Heron, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Black-crowned Waxbill, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black- headed weavers, Black Headed Gonolek, Black Headed Gonolek, Black Egret, Black Crake, Banded Martin, Ashy Flycatcher, Ashy Flycatcher, Angola Swallows, Afrikan Jakana, African water rail, Pallid Harrier, African Water Rail, African Pygmy Goose, African Purple Swamp-hen, African Pigmy Goose, African Pied Wagtail, African Marsh Harrier, African Jacana, African Hoopoe, African Green Pigeon, . Migratory birds are also usually seen in the month of October to march.
The shoebill stork has made Mabamba Wetlands famous. Birders from all over the world visit Uganda mabamba swamp in particular eager to see this ancient bird in its natural habitat. It is most common near lake areas of Africa but mostly seen in large numbers in Uganda. The shoebill stork gets the name from its shoe like head, some people refer to it as the ugliest bird because of its ancient look. Adult Shoebills weighs about 14 pounds and can live for more than 50 years. It is a shy and solitary bird, 2 shoebills are rarely seen together unless it is mating time.
The period between September and March are the best for birding. However, the shoebill can be seen all year round and the whole day. But the best time is during the morning as they search for food. They mostly feed on fish smaller water birds, water snakes, frogs, lizards, Turtles, Crocodiles (young), Snails, Rodents, frogs which are abundant in the swamp.
On arrival, you will pay a $7 community charge payable at the wetland office. $35 for the boat and local guide. A life Jacket is highly recommended for safety. This money paid is away and is giving back to the community and helping save the birds and other creatures in the wetland. People are less inclined to destroy something that is of a benefit to them.
Other areas in Uganda where the shoebill can be seen include Murchison Falls National Park (delta), Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Lake Mburo National Park Queen Elizabeth National Park (Ishasha Sector), Nabajuzi Swamp (in Masaka), Semliki Wildlife Reserve and around Lake Kyoga.
Besides birding, there are other activities done at Mabamba like; sport fishing, village walk, butterfly watching, canoeing and spotting the sitatunga antelope.
The swamp can be accessed from Kampala, Entebbe, and Masaka.
From Entebbe, you can follow the old Entebbe- Kampala road and branch off from Kisubi. Then drive to Nakawuka to Kasanje and reach Mabamba.
From Kampala you can take 2 routes: drive to Kasanje trading center. After reaching the Kasanje trading center continue to Mabamba approximately 13.5 km.
From Masaka road, you branch off after about 30 kilometers to Buyer. The distance from Buyege to Mabamba is about 22km.
A boat ride to mabamba is highly recommended, it is the shortest and most exciting journey, you will have a chance to enjoy the cool breeze of Africa’ largest Lake Victoria as you see numerous water birds. The ride takes about 45-50 minutes.