Exploring Mabamba Wetland in Uganda
Mabamba wetland sanctuary is a big waterlogged area expanding through the narrow papyrus-filled channel along the shores of Lake Victoria in Entebbe. Mabamba swamp is traced in is Kasanje village of Wakiso district and the visitors will just need 40 kilometers from Uganda Capital Kampala. Mabamba is a local word that was named after the abundant lungfish in the place. Mabamba wetlands are important to the local people living in the area for example the water from the swamp is used at home and for domestic animals, they also use wetlands for fishing and harvesting papyrus for craft materials. All these help them to improve on their standards of living.
Mabamba swamps are among the top birding areas in Uganda with over 260 bird species. Mabamba wetland also have 38% of the total population of blue swallows on the earth as well as a natural habitat for the unique endangered yellow warbler. In 2006, Mabamba wetland was listed as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar to raise global awareness and the funding necessary to protect the swamps from destruction. The population increased around the swamps, as many peoples were interested to live close to the swamp. This has led to swamp encroachment a threat to the biodiversity in the swamp. This has reduced the number of creatures and birds over the year.
The government of Uganda and international partners have been working hard to control encroachment on the swamp. They have promoted the Mabamba wetland as the leading birding area in Uganda. Also facilitated local people the importance of the wetlands and encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunities provided by bird tourism in the area. Today, some of the bird guides are the local people as they are experts of the wetlands and they even know the implications of destroying the wetlands. Most tourists are interested in visiting Mabamba wetland to sight the rare endangered Shoebill stork, the blue swallow, the papyrus gonolek, and the yellow warbler.
Watching the unique Shoebill Stork in Mabamba Swamp Uganda.
Most tourists are interested in visiting Mabamba swamps because of the Shoebill Stork. The unique shoebills are among the most sought birds on the earth. The natural habitats for the rare shoebill are found in Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Zambia, and Rwanda. The shoebills are also called the whale-headed stork. They are large in size and a female shoebill stork weighs 5kgs whereas the male has about 4kgs on average. Adult’s shoebills are grey and the juveniles have orange feathers. They have the longest bills which are said to be related to pelicans and storks. These birds are shy in nature and elusive. The shoebill stork feed on fish, insects, and frogs so this is the reason why they prefer to stay around the wetland areas. These birds are endangered, as they feed on fish which is the best dish by the fishermen. Although shoebills are disturbed they never migrate away from a specific swamp. They usually live alone but in most cases, they are seen in pairs during mating time.
At first, these birds were discovered by the Arabs and Egyptians and it has a scientific name Balaeniceps rex which was named by the Europeans in the 19th century. In Uganda is also called Bbulwe (local word) and can be sighted in the Mabamba wetland. Murchison falls national park, the Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Queen Elizabeth national park, and the west Nile swamps. But the most visited destination to see the shoebill stork is Mabamba wetlands. This place is also good for bird-watching safari if you’re within Entebbe and Kampala in Uganda. The number of these birds has been decreasing due to the loss of homes and killings from the local fishermen who believed that seeing a shoebill when going out fishing is a bad omen. Since the destination is promoted as the best place for birding, this is has helped improve the image of the shoebills to the local people. They no longer kill the shoebill because they now know the importance of them, as some of the local people are working as birding guides.
Other tourist activities to do in Mabamba swamp Uganda.
Mabamba swamp in Uganda has a number of bird species for bird watching activities. Birds to be spotted in Mabamba include; African Fish Eagle, Goliath Heron, Great Cormorant, Great White Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-crowned Waxbill, Black-headed Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Blue Swallow, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Cattle Egret, Village Weaver, Water Thicknee, White-browed Cuckoo, White-faced Whistling Duck, White-winged Tern, Winding Cistocola, Wood Sandpiper, Woodland Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Kite, Black-headed Weaver, Yellow-billed Duck, Common Moorhen, Common Sandpiper, Common Sqacco Heron, Double Toothed Barbet, Glossy Ibis, Purple Swamphe, African Green Pigeon, Hadada Ibis, Harmerkop, Little Egret, Little Stilt, African Jacana, African Marsh Harrier, African Pigmy Goose, Black Crake, Black Heron, Pink-backed Pelican, Pin-tailed Whyda, Purple Heron, Red-eyed Dove, Papyrus Gonolek, Pied Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail, Red-headed Love-bird, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Goliath Heron, Great Cormorant, Great White Egret, Great White Pelican, Green Cuckoo, Grey Heron, Grey-crowned Crane, Gull-billed Tern, Long-tailed Cormorant, Long-toed Lapwing, Malachite Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier, Northern Brown-throated Weather, Orange Weaver, Speckled Mousebird, Spur-winged Goose, Spur-winged Lapwing, Swamp Flycatcher, Veilots’ Black Weaver, White-throated Bee-eater. However other activities can be done in the Mabamba swamp such as;
The wetlands are also home to a lot of butterfly species. While looking for birds, you will see a variety of species that will give you a memorable experience. Some of the butterfly species to see are Acrea cansaquine, bicyclus sebetus and abisaraneavie.
Mabamba wetlands are one of the best areas in Uganda for fishing. Fishing is the major economic activity by the community members around the wetlands. For tourists who are interested in fishing, Mabamba swamps are a good option. The most caught fish are mudfish, lungfish, tilapia, and Nile perch.
Spotting of Sitatunga.
Sitatunga is known as Swamp antelope, the Mabamba is also among the areas where to find this shy and elusive creature in Uganda. If you’re lucky enough, you can spot one moving in the papyrus reeds. It is one of the endangered wildlife due to the killings by local peoples for meat and loss of habitat. Though the Ugandan government is trying its level best to curb poaching to conserve the few remaining homes to the sitatunga.
Canoeing is used for fishing and birding but you can hire one and exploring the wetlands. The local fishermen will be around to take you deep into Lake Victoria.
The Mabamba village community walks
On your birding safari at Mabamba wetland, spare some time and visit the nearby villages. Where you will get a chance to interact with fishermen, their families, and other community members. After there, you can go and see different community projects while making things from papyrus /reed like baskets, sandals, hats, bags, stools, and mats. You can even buy one and take it to your homeland.
General tour of Entebbe.
Entebbe is a naturally beautiful town and surrounded by Lake Victoria. It is one of the calm and serene environments, this is the reason why it was chosen as the administrative capital of Uganda. Apart from visiting Mabamba wetland for birding, tourists can go and swim one of the Entebbe beaches, you can also decide to visit the Uganda Reptiles Village or you can go to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre where you will see most of Uganda’s wildlife and many more.
When to visit Mabamba wetlands.
The best time to see the shoebills in the Mabamba wetland is during the morning hours because, in this period, fish and frogs are used to come out to breathe. The shoebills are rare so do not expect to see many at once. In most cases, you can see 1 or 2 standing on papyrus or reed waiting for frogs and mudfish. While on your birding safari in Mabamba wetland is always good to carry your binoculars to look out for other bird species such as yellow warbler, flappet lark, blue swallow, double toothed barbet, lesser jacana, and others. After finishing your birding trip, you will be taken back to your reserved speed boat. This activity usually takes 3-4 hours.
Please note, the best time to do bird watching in Mabamba swamps is March and September because, during these months, there are many seasonal bird species from Europe to Africa looking for food and escaping the cold winters. All bookings for Mabamba wetland is processed by local tour operators which cost about 500USD per day. To enjoy this experience with no disturbance, you need to carry a camera with extra batteries, a binocular, a raincoat, the right clothes, insect repellents, and a life jacket. It is also good to book like 3 months before the traveling dates for better preparations. How to access Mabamba swamps sanctuary in Uganda.
Mabamba swamps can be accessed in two routes one can use a route from Kampala and the other from Entebbe. If you’re from Kampala, you will use the old Entebbe road to Kisubi and branch to the route going to Nakawuka, and after there go to Kasanje where the wetlands are found or from the Entebbe, you will also drive up to Kisubi and branch to Nakawuka. You will then leave Nakawuka and after there you continue up to the Kasanje where the Mabamba swamps are.
Mabamba swamps can also be accessed by water transport, the speed boats are available at the Entebbe sailing club. The whole journey from Entebbe to Mabamba wetland is about 40 minutes. Using a boat is an amazing experience since it allows you to see the beautiful beaches of Entebbe. After reaching the wetlands, you will get a local canoe because the activity is done while on the canoes. The local guides will take you through the papyrus and reeds where to find the birds. In most cases, the canoes carry 3 tourists and 2 or 1 local guide who are experts of the swamps. Birding experience and canoes at Mabamba go at 35USD and 7USD to the local village office. This money paid at the office is used for the development of social services in the community.
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