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Uganda is an equatorial country of astonishing contrasts. No other area in Africa can match its amazing diversity of habitats ranging from arid semi-deserts, rich savannahs, lowlands and montane rainforests to vast wetlands, volcanoes and an afro-alpine zone, and covering an altitude from 650 to 5000 meters.
This richness is reflected in the number of birds per square kilometer the highest than any other country in Africa! Given the small size of the country, which is approximately 235,000 square kilometers, Uganda boasts a national bird list of over 1008 species. This represents more than half the bird species that can be found in the whole of Africa.


Uganda has an area contiguous with the Great Guinea / Congo Basin rain forest on its western boarder. Subsequently there are a number of west and central African bird species occurring in Uganda that are not found elsewhere in East Africa.
There are more than 700 forest reserves in Uganda.
One particular region is the Albertine Rift Endemic area (ARE), which has 38 species of birds confined to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo. Of these ARE’s Uganda has 25, mostly confined to the forests of Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks in the southwest.


Uganda has 30,000 square kilometers of wetlands. Not less than 210 species, ranging from the Shoebill and African Skimmer to the endemic Fox’s Weaver, are found in these wetlands. More to the above are four Papyrus endemics; the Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Yellow warbler. And a White winged Black Tern roost of 2-3 million birds in the Entebbe area (Lutembe bay).

Mabamba swamp

Mabamba Bay wetland has an area 16,500 ha on the shores of Lake Victoria. It is a large extensive marsh of Miscunthus stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with Cyperus papyrus towards the main body of Lake Victoria. There is a narrow open water channel and a small area of Nymphea caerulea as well as areas of Ladium mariscus and sometimes drifting papyrus swamp islands. Mabamba Bay forms part of Waiga bay south-west of Nakiwogo bay, west of Entebbe International Airport. It lies at 32°20’E, 00°05’N at 1,130m asl and receives 1,200 – 1,500 mm of rainfall. It is situated in Wakiso District in the sub-counties of Kasanje, Kamengo and Mpigi.


The marshy nature makes this swamp a high species rich site. Mabamba Bay is home to a species list of over 300 birds, including the globally threatened Shoebill, large congregations of migrants such as Blue Swallow, White-winged Tern, Gull-billed Tern and papyrus endemic bird species such as Papyrus Gonolek (NT) and Papyrus Yellow Warbler. Other species of interest include good numbers of Goliath Heron, Squacco heronHeron, Lesser Jacana, Spur-winged Goose and number of waders. The wetland is designated as a Ramsar site and an Important Bird Area . The Bay also supports a lucrative fisheries industry, and thus provides a source of fish for home consumption and commercial use. It is also a source of raw material for local crafts, building materials, water for domestic and livestock use, as well as non-wood products such as medicinal plants, mushrooms etc. Other fauna include the Sitatunga, which is heavily hunted by the local people, shrews Crociduraselina and Mylomys dybowskii have also been recorded as being uncommon. The collection of butterflies from Mabamba bay is enormous with over 200 species recorded. Abisaraneavei, Acraea aganice, Acraea aurivilli, Acraea consanquinea, and Bicyclus sebetus are some of the very rare butterfly species that have been recorded in Mabamba Bay. Three Tilapiine species, Orechcromis niloticus (Nile Tilapia), Oreochromis leucostictus and Tilapia zillii (Zilli’s Tilapia) were introduced in Lake Victoria in 1950s, and Nile perch, Lates niloticus during the 1960s and these can be found in the bay. It is near to the business district of Kampala, which presents it with bigger opportunities and high potential for eco-tourism development.

The Community

The Mabamba community residing at the site spear heads the conservation of Mabamba bay. They are organized into a site Support Group, which is mandated to conserve and sustainably utilize the Natural resources at the site. Site Support Groups are community groups that are tasked with the responsibility of protecting IBAs while sustainably utilizing the resources there in for their livelihoods. They are supported by NatureUganda, the BirdLife partner in Uganda that promotes the conservation of IBAs in the country. The Site support group in Mabamba is called the Mabamba Wetland Eco-Tourism Association . This is an umbrella group composed of three Community based Organisations operating at Mabamba bay. These are; the Mabamba Bird Guides and Conservation Association; Mabamba Wetland Crafts Association (MAWECA) and Zziba Wetland Management Association (ZIWEMA). MWETA’s target is to craft a responsible community benefiting from the available natural resources and mindful of its ability to provide for future generations. Its aim is to conserve the biodiversity of Mabamba Bay through enhanced sustainable income generation, raised community awareness and improved biodiversity monitoring. The group is involved in a wide range of conservation activities including tourism, crafts, transport facilities, education and awareness plus habitat 

Unique experiences
• Bird watching is not only on the Lake but also on a well established path moving you through the raised end of the wetland boundary. This allows you to enjoy the panorama of the wetland outlay and the vast birds species list of 215 in one full day birding.
• You can enjoy a slow boat ride and be involved in interesting activities such as traditional rod and hook fishing and Shoebill trekking. The site boasts of the highest records of the Shoebills in one day within a small land size. The amazing and almost unbelievable number was of ten individuals.
• The Crocodile farm at Buwama could be one good experience for Herpes lovers. En-route to site gives the insight to a typical rural set up in Buganda. Enjoy the cultures and hospitality of the people. The Buganda history of 300 years told in one trip through interesting village walks

Makanaga Bay on Lake Victoria

 One of the swamps on the shores of Lake Victoria is an incredible birding site for lots of swamp & water birds. It is one of the few known birding sites in Uganda offering a good viewing opportunity of one of Uganda’s most sought-after birds, the Shoebill. However, it isn’t as popular and thus less traveled by birders most of whom go to Mabamba, another of the swamps on Lake Victoria. This however plays a big advantage to Makanaga by keeping it less disturbed and more favorable for birds, especially the Shoebill which is such a shy bird! There is less fishing at the site too, meaning more food for Mr. Shoebill and other fish-eating birds.

Going by our previous birding tours, Makanaga Swamp has proved to return the best results for the Shoebill. On many occasions we have sighted more than 2 – 4 Shoebills in a single session.

The swamp is accessed by a motor boat from Namugobo Landing Site, Kamengo. The 10 – 15 minutes boat ride goes through a thick maze of Papyrus, Miscanthus and floating water lilies.

Birding on makanaga swamp

The boat ride through the marshes can be challenging sometimes.
At Makanaga, lots of birds can be seen on the ‘islands’ of mudflats, and water lilies, some resting others foraging. The mudflats are especially such great vantage points for clear sightings of the Shoebill & so many other waders including: Spur-winged Goose, Wood and Common Sandpiper, Yello-billed Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, Little and Black-winged Stilt, Long-tailed & Great Cormorants, Spur-winged Lapwing, Little & Great Egret, Common Squacco Heron, thousands of Black-winged Terns, and Gull-billed Terns. The African Jacana is commonly sighted moving on floating water lilies while foraging. Malachite & Pied Kingfishers are commonly sighted fishing and perching on papyrus and trees, meanwhile birds of prey, the African Fish Eagles and Black Kites are a constant sight in flight.

Shoebill at Makanaga Swamp

This clear view of the Shoebill at Makanaga Swamp is not easy to come by elsewhere.
birds on mudflats in Makanaga Swamp
The mudflats are filled with a variety of birds and offer such incredible bird sightings.
For a more rewarding Shoebill birding experience, it is advisable to get to Makanaga swamp as early as possible, preferably between 7.00am to 8.00am when there is almost no human activity (fishing) and birds are actively foraging.

How to get to Makanaga Bay Swamp

Drive from Kampala on the Kampala – Masaka Highway for approximately one hour, get to Kamengo trading center, and branch off on your left for another 15 to 20 minutes before getting to Namugobo Landing Site. At the moment there is no proper establishment to cater for an impromptu birder at the landing site. You need to make advance arrangement for a birding boat.

We organize a one day birding tour to Makanaga Swamp, in the company of a bird guide that is very knowledgeable about waders and is a regular to the site


In Uganda savannahs vary from the remote, semi-dessert, dry thorn-scrub region of Karamoja in the northeast, to the richer fertile savannahs of the western rift valley. Queen Elizabeth National Park has a bird list of 604 species, the highest for any protected area in Africa.