Mabamba Papyrus Swamp Boat Trip

Mabamba Papyrus Swamp Boat Trip

Featured image “Speed boat” Courtesy of Wild Frontiers Uganda Safaris | Mabamba Papyrus Swamp Photographs by: Andrew Dunbar

This is one of those boat trips that I wish I had done years ago!

–Shaz, The Eye Magazine

An opportunity arose to do a Lake Victoria excursion; a boat trip to the Mabamba Papyrus Swamp with Wild Frontiers Uganda Safaris, and I grabbed it with both hands. I had only ever seen the Shoebill once before at the Entebbe Zoo, so any chance to be able to see it again, was a real blessing, and I was doing the trip with my family which made it even more special.

The meeting point for the boat excursion is at Banga Beach (a short distance from the Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe). There is a clean toilet at the meeting point and from the minute the car was parked, I was greeted by a warm friendly smile from Josephine. Before you get onto the boat, there is a clean bathroom at the meeting point that you can use, if you’d like to freshen up.

Once on-board the speed boat we were warmly greeted by the Captain and his right-hand man, then given life jackets to put on. Coffee and bottles of drinking water were on offer.

Nakiwogo Landing Site
Nakiwogo Landing Site
Mabamba Papyrus Swamp uganda
Mabamba Papyrus Swamp Uganda

It takes 25 minutes to get from the meeting point at Banga Beach in Nakiwogo to the Swamp. It is a very pleasant boat trip and besides the wonderful sightings of many bird species, there are many islands dotted around the place that make for interesting viewing.

On arrival at the swamp we were met by Eric and his operator in a local dugout boat, which is motorised and off we set for our trip into the Mabamba Swamp. Meandering our way through the narrow channels, it wasn’t too long before we caught sight of the female Shoebill Stork. What a sight! Standing majestically in the wet under-growth, she stood about 5 feet tall and eye-balled us from a safe distance. It was at this point I wished I had a camera with a longer lens. She didn’t move much throughout our visit, and at one point I thought she had fallen asleep!


As we made our way through the thick marshy swamp in search of other Mabamba Swamp birds, we were notified by another boat that the “baby” Shoebill was not far ahead of us.


The three-and-a-half-year-old Shoebill was found with a stick in its mouth, happily “getting on with things”. It (we were not sure if the youngster was male or female) was such a special sighting as we not only got to see one of the adults, but now the youngster too. We sat in the boat and took photographs for close on 15 minutes and then sat in silence and just listened to the noises coming from the swamp all around us. I can understand how easily one can fall asleep out there (in reference to the Adult Shoebill). It is so peaceful.

Adult Female Shoe Bill
Adult Female Shoe Bill
Juvenile Shoebill - three and a half months old
Juvenile Shoebill - Three and a half months old

Not too far away from the Shoebill we came across two Jacana who were merrily chatting away, while the Kingfisher’s were dive-bombing into the lake to get their full. We tried to capture the Malachite Kingfisher on camera but this tiny fella was way too quick for us as he flew from papyrus plant to reeds and back again.


The bird life is amazing and there are an estimated 300 bird species in the swamp. Some of the birds we came across were:

African Jacana, Black Crake, Cattle Egret, Common, Glossy Ibis, Goliath Heron, Great Cormorant, Great White Egret, Hammerkop, Little Egret, Malachite Kingfisher, Marsh Harrier, Pied Kingfisher, Water Thicknee, Woodland Kingfisher and the Yellow-billed Duck


The best time to see the Shoebill in the Mabamba Swamp is in the early morning or the late afternoon. The excursion takes 3-4 hours and it is well run and managed by a dedicated Wild Frontiers Uganda Safaris team.

Mabamba Papyrus Swamp bird wildlife
Mabamba Papyrus Swamp birdlife
Mabamba Papyrus Swamp bird wildlife heron
Mabamba Papyrus Swamp - Goliath Heron
Mabamba Papyrus Swamp flower
Mabamba Papyrus Swamp flower


Bookings and information

Address: 76B Nakiwogo Road, Entebbe.
Tel: +256 414 321479

Lake Victoria excursions:
Tel: +256 772 502155

Nile River excursions:
Tel: +256 773 897275 |

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(Balaeniceps rex)

(Balaeniceps rex) also known as whale head, whale-headed stork, whale bill, or shoebill stork, is a very large stork-like bird. It derives its name from its enormous shoe-shaped bill. It has a some-what stork-like overall form and has previously been classified with the storks in the order Ciconiiformes based on this morphology. However, genetic evidence places it with pelicans and herons in the Pelecaniformes. The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa in large swamps from South Sudan to Zambia – Source: Wikipedia

Did you know?

The Female Shoebill lays 2 eggs every 5 years and rarely raises more than one chick but will hatch more. The younger chicks usually die and are intended as “back ups” in case the eldest chick dies or is weak. Fledging is reached at around 105 days and the young birds can fly well by 112 days. However, they are still fed for probably a month or more after this.

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