Along the shores of Lake Victoria, is the Mabamba Bay wetland, a popular bird watching spot in Uganda. Covering about 17,000 hectares of an expanse of miscanthus—a type of grass native to tropical and subtropical region, Mabamba bay is one of the most popular spots and the best place in the world to see the rare shoebill stork. These birds hide within the miscathus plants, more commonly known as papyrus. The open water in form of a canal is used to trail birds and access Busi island that is home to over 40,000 people.

The swamp has a high population of bird species, which include the endangered shoebill. There are also large congregations of migrant birds such as blue swallow and papyrus endemic birds-papyrus gonolek, yellow warbler, jacana, kingfisher, lap wines, herons and eaglets. This is an attraction for the about 200 to 300 visitors who come here every month.

Upon arrival at the site, you are mostly likely to encounter boat operators who will try to attract you to their boats with offers depending on whether you are a passenger crossing to Busi or a tourist coming to watch birds. Crossing to Busi costs Shs 2, 000 per person while bird watching is Shs 50, 000.

The wetland is designated as a Ramsar site and an important birding area. Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention. Mabamba Bay is believed to be a major breeding site for the endangered shoebill that is loved by many bird watchers.

The shoebill

The shoebill is a large stork-like bird that gets its name from its unique shoe-shaped bill. It is known for its interesting character, especially when in captivity or prostrating before tourists. Shoebills are not easy to spot though you can easily see these birds within some of Uganda’s national parks and gazetted Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

The Mabamba Bay is one the few spots to see shoebill storks in Uganda. The Bay has an established ecotourism centre, from where you will get a guide to take you birding along the wetland. The centre now handle visitors, guide and aid them to track birds and protect the wetland against encroachers.

Though the Mabamba Bay is such an amazing destination, like other wetlands the place face several challenges. The major challenge is encroachment on wetlands by the neighboring local communities as well as poaching. However there is an organisation that helps protect the birds’ breeding site and mitigate major threats such as shoebill trafficking. Though the local communities are the drivers of the initiatives, there is need to enhance their livelihood through promotion of eco-tourism.

Nearby attractions

Within the the nearby area is Banga cultural tourism site that is a huge rock with shelter inside which has amazing things to see as well as cultural aspects of the Baganda culture.