Shoebill at Mabamba Swamp

The Mabamba Swamp is a famous spot for birdwatchers/avians and travelers that seek water birds. It is an extension marsh in the Wakiso District of Uganda that stretches through a narrow bay fringed with papyrus towards Lake Victoria.

It and its counterparts Lutembe and Makanaga swamps are famous for the globally threatened bird- The Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), but Mabamba Swamp is where one can easily see the shoebill compared to others. Mabamba Swamp is an important birding Area and supports about 190,000 birds that include the Blue Swallow, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, and other birds of global conservation concern. These in over 260 species that have been recorded here.

Tourist photographing The shoebill .


Locally referred to as “Bbulwe” in Luganda, the shoebill is the major attraction at the swamp. The shoebill is tracked on boats that ride through the small trails into the marsh. A shoebill tour to Mabamba is captivating to birders and non-birders the same way.

It is a visit to one of Uganda’s 34 IBAs (Important Birding Areas) and before 2006, Mabamba Swamp was a top fishing point on the fringes of Lake Victoria, but now that has overturned the biggest activity is watching. Bird watching here is done on water, savannas, bush, and forest.

On the water, bird watchers take motorized wooden boats from the always-waiting local fishermen. The Shoebill is the top priority during these tours and riders get help from fishermen who wake up early to check the nets cast from the night. They give information about the sightings which makes the tour a “Search game” as there is no specific location of these. The mornings are the best times to track and search for the shoebill at Mabamba Swamp.

Boat Ride to Mabamba Swamp

After sighting the shoebill, you can wade and wind through the water channels as you look for other water birds. Some highlights include the Malachite Kingfishers, African Marsh Harriers, Purple Swamphens, cormorants, weavers, ducks, and kingfishers, among others.

Other than the swamp, visitors can take on the savanna birding Area that stretches up to Nkima Forest and the Nkima Forest Lodge. It is a 2km walk as you bird in the bush and savanna before you enter the forest. Your guide can help you make the best of the Area to the forest that overlooks the Mabamba Swamp.

The stretch gives a combination of savanna and forest birds. Search for the Green Sunbird, the Nigrofinch, Weyn’s weaver, hornbills, cuckoos, Fluftails, wattle eyes, long claws, and bee-eaters, among others.

Shoebill at Mabamba Swamp

Getting to Mabamba Swamp

From Entebbe, getting to the swamp by road is about an hour and 30 minutes using the Entebbe-Kampala Highway. You join the Kampala-Masaka Road and make a turn at Mpigi. The drive on the African-brown matt for a few minutes to the site’s parking area. Or use the feeder road at Kisubi to Nakawuka-Kasanje. 

Also, you can take a boat from the Nakiwogo Landing Site. It is a journey that immediately immerses you into the beautiful birds of the lake and a cruise on one of the world’s largest inland water bodies- Lake Victoria.

For bird lovers, a visit to Mabamba Swamp can be a great introduction to the Birds of Uganda and a better way to start or end your safari to Uganda.

Book your day shoebill tour to Mabamba Swamp

1 Day Mabamba Swamp Shoebill tour.

Read About the Shoebill.