Mabamba Swamp

Mabamba Swamp is located on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, 12 kilometers west of Entebbe. The Swamp covers over 2424 hectares and is covered in thick marshes of papyrus, water lilies, and other wetland grasses. Mabamba will captivate both birders and non-birders. The wetland is Uganda’s most important birding site, with over 300 bird species living there. Mabamba is a vitally important ecological area. Mabamba Swamp was designated a ‘Wetland of International Importance’ by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 2006 because it contains globally threatened species.

Mabamba Swamp

The Mabamba Swamp is designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International (IBA).

With the help of international partners, the Ugandan government has reduced encroachment on the wetland and helped promote it as a leading birding destination in the country. The government has initiated community sensitization programs in Mabamba Bay Wetlandas Uganda to deter encroachment and inform people about the importance of the swamp to the Eco-system.

They have also been encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities provided by local bird tourism. Because they know every inch of the swamp, some of the fishermen are now employed as bird guides. People living near the swamp are now aware of the consequences of destroying the wetland as a result of community sensitization.

They have also embraced tourism and the opportunities it provides. Tourists on a Uganda safari frequently stop in the area to see birds such as the blue swallow, yellow warbler, papyrus gonolek, and Shoebill stork, which we will discuss in greater detail shortly. You might also be interested in the other activities available in Entebbe.

How to get to Mabamba Swamp

The Mabamba Bay Swamp is accessible from both Kampala and Entebbe. Those traveling from Entebbe should take the old Entebbe-Kampala road and branch off at Kisubi. From Kisubi, one travels to Nakawuka, then Kasanje, and finally to Mabamba. Those traveling from Kampala have two choices. The first option is to take a taxi from the new taxi parking lot to the Kasanje trading center. After arriving at Kasenje trading center, take a Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi) up to Mabamba, which is 13.5 kilometers away. Alternatively, one can take the Masaka road for about 30 kilometers and then branch off to Buyege. The distance between Buyege and Mabamba is approximately 22 kilometers.

Instead of taking the road described above, a speed boat through Lake Victoria is a more convenient and easy way to reach the swamp from Entebbe town. The lake route is more adventurous and allows you to admire Lake Victoria while avoiding Entebbe town and the airport. A speed boat ride from Mabamba to the starting point takes 45 to 50 minutes. Speedboats can be rented from several hotels in Entebbe or from the Entebbe sailing club. The boats are in excellent condition, comfortable, and equipped with life jackets. These large speed boats, however, are not suitable for navigating the papyrus swamps. When you get close to the Mabamba wetland, you must prepare to board smaller canoes used to navigate the papyrus swamps.

Expect to see a lot of birds when you arrive at the starting point. There are guides and fishermen waiting to take you deep into the wetland to see the birds. Boatmen and bird guides are both well-organized. They have a leader who speaks for them. Visitors are assigned a boatman and a guide by this spokesperson. The canoes can only accommodate three birders (excluding the guide and boat driver). You must first pay a $7 community charge at their small office. The boat and Guide cost about $35 when purchased together. You should bring a life jacket or request one because many boats do not have them. These boats’ and birding guides’ owners are locals from nearby communities. You are giving back to the community and helping to save the birds and other creatures in the wetland by paying for their services. People are less likely to destroy something that benefits them.

The Shoebill stork in Mabamba Island

Mabamba Wetland is well-known for its Shoebill, Uganda’s most sought-after bird by birdwatchers. Non-bird-watching tourists are also drawn to the Shoebill due to its unusual appearance and massive size. The rare bird can only be found in a few places in Uganda, and Mabamba Swamp is the most accessible and reliable, with the best chances of seeing the Shoebill in Uganda, if not Africa.

Mabamba SwampMabamba Swamp is abundant in lungfish (called “mamba” in the native language), a favorite food of the Shoebill. However, the lungfish is also a popular target for local fishermen, putting it in competition with the Shoebill. The fishermen had long believed that seeing a Shoebill (locally known as ‘Boolwe’) would result in a poor catch that day. But this is not so far-fetched because the Shoebill feeds on lungfish, and the fish will flee wherever the Shoebill goes. Seeing a Shoebill when going out to fish in the wetland was a bad omen for the fishermen. They hunted and killed the Shoebills, causing a decline in their numbers and nearly driving them extinct here.

The Shoebill was given some protection by the Ramsar site in 2006. However, bird watching on the wetland enlightened the fishermen and community. The fishermen make a lot of money renting out their boats to birdwatchers, and some of them have even been trained in birding and guiding. The fishermen now protect the Shoebill, so that when they go fishing and see a Shoebill, they move away from it so as not to disturb it and will gladly tell tourists where to see it. Mabamba Wetland is said to be home to about 12 Shoebills.

Best time to see the Shoebill

The best time to see the Shoebill in Mabamba swamp is early morning, say 7 a.m., before there is more activity on the wetland, but by this time the Shoebill is also hunting for lunch fish, which it does by standing in one place for a long time or even hours looking out in the water waiting for fish to cross so it scoops it with the big strong shoe-like bill that instantly breaks the fish.

Other birds seen while at Mabamba swamp

African Fish Eagle, Purple Swamphe, African Green Pigeon, African Jacana, African Marsh Harrier, African Pigmy Goose, Black Crake, Black Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-crowned Waxbill, Black-headed Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Blue Swallow, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Common Sandpiper, Common Sqacco Heron, Double Toothed Barbet, Glossy Ibis, Goliath Heron, Great Cormorant, Great White Egret, Great White Pelican, Green Cuckoo, Grey Heron, Grey-crowned Crane, Gull-billed Tern, Hadada Ibis, Harmerkop, Little Egret, Little Stilt, Long-tailed Cormorant, Long-toed Lapwing, Malachite Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier, Northern Brown-throated Weather, Orange Weaver, Papyrus Gonolek, Pied Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail, Pink-backed Pelican, Pin-tailed Whyda, Purple Heron, Red-eyed Dove, Red-headed Love-bird, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Speckled Mousebird, Spur-winged Goose, Spur-winged Lapwing, Swamp Flycatcher, Veilots’ Black Weaver, Village Weaver, Water Thicknee, White-browed Cuckoo, White-faced Whistling Duck, White-throated Bee-eater, White-winged Tern, Winding Cistocola, Wood Sandpiper, Woodland Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Weaver, Yellow-billed Duck.

Birding Experience at Mabamba Swamp

Nile Delta Boat Cruise in Murchison Falls National Park


Birding on while the water

Birding is done from a motorized wooden canoe/boat on the Mabamba wetland. There are plenty of boats available, and local riders are eager to take you to see the Shoebill. When you get into the boat, the first bird you should look for is the Shoebill. Fishermen who go out early in the morning to find what they caught in their nets can sometimes provide information about where they saw the Shoebill. Otherwise, it’ll be a game of searching in the known grasses where the Shoebill enjoys hunting.

Morning is the best time to see the Shoebill because it stalks lungfish by standing still for long periods of time, even hours until an unlucky fish crosses its path. Later in the day, when it gets hot, the Shoebill rests by spreading its wings and squatting among the grass, making it difficult to find. It is also seen flying high in the sky to cool down. After observing the Shoebill continue with normal birding, exploring the several water channels towards Lake Victoria and away deep into the wetland wading through thick papyrus and grasses.

Some of the water birds not easily missed include: Purple Swamphen, African Marsh Harrier, African Darter, Common Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Long-tailed Cormorant, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Yellow-billed Duck, Malachite Kingfisher

Birding around the landing site

Even before entering the wetland, the Mabamba landing site and parking area welcome you with some excellent birding. The tall trees, shrubs, and thickets are home to a variety of birds that may surprise you with a lifer or a rare sighting. So, before taking the boat trip to explore the water channels of the Mabamba wetland, you can spend a few minutes or an hour scanning the habitats.

The striking Superb Sunbird has been a frequent sighting here, often seen in short trees and shrubs picking insects from tree branches before colliding with an aggressive Red-chested Sunbird (Lake Victoria biome endemic) that is everywhere.

Other birds often sighted include Yellow-breasted Apalis, Weyn’s Weaver, Village Weaver, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, Grey-capped Warbler, Yellow-throated Greeenbul, Splendid Starling, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Lesser Striped Swallow, Swamp Flycatcher,


Birding along the edge of Mabamba Swamp

The pleasant trail (a footpath) that runs along the wetland can round out your birding trip to Mabamba and add to your list of field species.

After returning from the boat trip on Mabamba swamp, take this footpath that begins on your left just before the exit. The path runs alongside the wetland, through cultivations and bushland, and past a sparse eucalyptus tree plantation that can provide some surprising woodland species. Because the trail is quite long, you can walk for a couple of hours until you’ve had enough.

Other activities and attractions in Mabamba swamp Uganda


The Mabamba Bay swamp is covered in muddy waters, papyrus, and reeds, but it also connects to Lake Victoria’s clear water. This combination of clear waters and muddy wetlands provides fishing opportunities. It is also worth noting that fishing is the primary economic activity in the area. The most common fish caught are lungfish, tilapia, Nile perch, and mudfish. These are extremely tasty fish, with two of them (tilapia and Nile perch) in high demand on the global market.

Sightings of Sitatunga

The Mabamba wetlands sanctuary is one of Sitatunga’s last strongholds in Uganda. The sitatunga, also known as the swamp antelope, is a shy and elusive creature. They are frequently found alone and only rarely with others. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one moving among the papyrus reeds. Sitatungas are an endangered species due to habitat loss and hunting/poaching for meat. The Uganda Wildlife Authority is working hard to reduce poaching and protect these amazing creatures’ last remaining habitat.

Village walks and visits to craft shops

A settlement/slum with fishing stalls is located outside the Mabamba swamp. A tour of the nearby villages is both enlightening and humbling. You will have the opportunity to interact with the fishermen, their families, and other local residents. Following a tour of the settlements, you can purchase souvenirs from the artisan shops constructed just outside the wetland. Baskets, mats, huts, sandals, stools, and bags made of papyrus/reeds are among the items available.


While canoes are typically used for fishing and birding tours around the wetlands, an adventurous visitor can hire one for the sole purpose of exploring the wetland. The fisherman will ferry you through the vast swamp to Lake Victoria.

Where to stay in Mabamba

Nkima Forest Lodge:

At the moment, Nkima Forest Lodge is the only decent place to stay near Mabamba. It’s a nice mid-range lodge in the heart of the Nkima forest, with views of the Mabamba wetland and Lake Victoria in the distance.

The main house, which houses the lounge, restaurant, and library, is located on top of the hill and provides a beautiful view of the forest.

The lodge has eight cottages located down the hill in various areas of the forest interior. The cottages are self-contained and beautifully furnished, with inside washrooms. They have a deck where you can sit and enjoy views of the forest, and you can see monkeys swinging by, squirrels, birds, and other forest inhabitants from the comfort of your lodge.

The lodge also has a deck high up near the forest canopy where you can sit and relax with near eye-level views of birds and monkeys, as well as partial views of Lake Victoria in the distance through trees.

This is a nice getaway near Entebbe for nature lovers. For birders beginning their trip to Uganda, this is an excellent lodge to stay near Entebbe and begin your birding in Mabamba and Nkima Forest.

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John Doe

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