One Day Birding Tour in Mabamba Wetland for Shoebil

shoebillWe start our birding trip early morning to Mabamba bay wetland on Lake Victoria located 50 km away from Kampala on the western side. Mabamba is one of Uganda’s Important Bird Area (IBA), and a Ramsar wetland of international importance. It is said to have over 260 bird species in the wetland and nearby environs and would easily offer a birder sighting of over 100 bird species on a given day. There are numerous birding opportunities along the way in the open cultivation areas even before reaching the wetland. We may have opportunities for catching the Blue-headed Coucal, Northern Brown-throated Weaver at Mpigi swamp.

Birding in Mabamba wetland is done in a motorized canoe provided by the locals together with a local site guide, this is more stable but sometimes causes some birds to fly before we reach them. Our main bird for the day is the Shoebill, it is usually seen in the marshes standing for hours as it awaits to fish or in the sky flying away. This interesting looking bird is on the list of Bird-life’s international endangered species. It is on most peoples bucket list as number 1 bird they want to see in the Pearl of Africa.

Other bird species in Mabamba swamp and environs include; the rare Papyrus Gonolek, African Jacana, White-winged Terns, African Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Winding Cisticola, Red-billed Fire-finch, White-faced whistling duck, Long-toed Lapwing, African Pied Wagtail, Saddle billed Stork, Cape wagtail, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-billed Duck Long-toed plover, African Fish Eagle and African Marsh Harrier etc.


Mabira forest is the biggest intact forest nearest to Kampala city. For a birding experience in Mabira forest, we leave Kampala early morning with preferably packed lunch where possible or choose to have a hot meal at the Mabira forest lodge. Mabira forest is home to over 300 bird species and on a good weather day one is able to sight over 100 bird species. The forest is surrounded by cultivation both at subsistence level and commercial; Sugarcane and tea plantations. On arrival we shall take one of the community trails in the forest that offers great birding opportunities. There are resident bird guides who you can choose to contact from the Eco tourism center to help in case you are interested in specific bird species. The birding trails in the forest have been well maintained making it easy to walk through and bird along both the foot paths and wider village roads.

The birds we will look out for in Mabira forest include; Black & white Casqued Hornbill, African pied Hornbill, African and Red bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Jameson’s wattle eyes, Great blue Turaco, Tit Hylia, Sooty flycatchers, Toro Olive Greenbul, Purple throated cuckoo shrike, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Nahan’s francolin, Shining blue Kingfisher, blue-breasted Kingfisher, striped Kingfishers and Dwarf Kingfisher, Grey headed and olive bellied sunbirds,  etc.


Entebbe Botanical Gardens were established in 1898 by the then governor of Uganda. They are located in Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria on 40 hectares of land and 1.5 km along Lake Victoria. Their location along Lake Victoria, the many trees and vegetation make it the best birding spot closest to Kampala with several bird species hosting both water, Savannah and forest bird species. This birding tour will take about 6 hours before one can feel they have exhausted the species therein. Birding here is easy and most species are easily seen offering great photographic moments of both water birds and forest birds.

The birds to look out for while here; Grey woodpecker, African Thrush, Diederik, Red Chested and Klaas’s Cuckoo, Fan tailed Window bird, Speckled mouse bird, sand martin, Grey parrot, Ross’s and Great blue Turaco, Woodland, Striped, Malachite, Giant and Pygmy Kingfishers, Collard, Copper, Olive, Olive bellied, Red Chested and Superb Sunbird, Red Faced and Winding Cisticola, Black Bishop, Black Cuckoo-shrike and Eurasian Reed, Great Reed and Sedge warbler, Hamerkop, Great comorant, little egret, cattle egret, Open billed stork, black headed heron etc.


Lutembe Bay is located about 2 Km off the Kampala-Entebbe highway on Lake Victoria. The wetland is a bird sanctuary and listed as a Ramsar Site – a wetland of international importance. Lutembe wetland is an Important Bird Area (IBA) according to BirdLife International. The area has mainly water birds which are watched while on a wooden boat. However there a few Savannah birds in the gardens and open areas en route to Lutembe wetland and others nearby.

Some of the birds one can see while here include; Yellow-throated Long claw, Tree and Plain-backed Pipits, Papyrus Gonolek, Rufous-naped and Flappet Larks, Common Moorhen, Open billed Stork, Blue-headed and white-browed Coucal, Hamerkop, Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egrets, Sooty chats, sand martin, Pied and Malachite kingfishers, Open billed stork, Yellow billed stork, White winged terns, African wattled lapwing, Spur winged lapwing, common sandpiper, Orange tufted sun bird, Scarlet chested sunbird, Little bee-eater, White-throated Bee eater, Double-toothed Barbet, Grey crowned Cranes, African fish eagle, Red-winged Lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Common Bulbul, Black-headed Gonolek, Black & White Casqued Hornbill  etc.


This forest is about 30 km off Kampala-Jinja highway less than an hour’s drive from Kampala. Kasenge forest is privately owned forest with a man-made lake ideal for a birding excursion sitting on 60 acres of land. The area has bandas for accommodation and restaurant for meals while on the birding excursion.

The bird count at Kasenge forest is about 150 bird species, most of which are forest bird species and a few water birds. With an early morning visit, we will look out for Lizard Buzzard, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Red eyed dove, Bronze Manikin, Eastern Grey Plantain Eater, Olive Bellied and Copper Sunbird, Slender billed GreenBul, Pygmy, Woodland and Giant Kingfisher, Toro Olive Greenbul, Yellow White Eye, Yellow mantled weaver, Grey Parrot, Long tailed Cormorant, Great Blue and Ross’s Turaco, Crowned, African Pied and Black & White Casqued Hornbill, Hadada Ibis, Common Bulbul, Red Billed Fire Finch, Slender Billed Greenbul, African Thrush, Black Headed Heron, Cattle Egret, African Harrier Hawk, Blue Spotted wood dove, Grey Crowned Crane, Giant Kingfisher, woodland kingfisher and many more.

There are more areas available for one day or half day birding in and around Kampala. These include Mpanga forest, Bahai temple grounds, Makerere University and Sezibwa Falls.


Ziwa Rhino sanctuary is located 176 km off the Kampala – Gulu highway176 km on 70 square kilometers of land that was formerly a private ranch.  The sanctuary is enroute to Murchison falls national park and many visit it as part of an itinerary to the park.  Our aim on this birding tour is to sight as many birds as possible so we will aim at leaving Kampala latest 6.00am in the morning. Our plan then is to arrive by 9am at the sanctuary and begin birding. The sanctuary is home to over 300 bird species both Savannah , woodland and water species. You have an opportunity of taking a canoe in Lugogo swamp in search of the shoebill and other water birds. Otherwise most of the birding will happen in the Savannah and woodland areas. Lunch will be served at the Amuka lodge located in the sanctuary after which we proceed with birding shortly before starting journey back to Kampala.

Bird species to look at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Shoebill,  Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, African Black Crake, African Crowned Eagle, African Fish Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Augur Buzzard, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Bateleur, Black-and-white Casqued Hornbill, Black-crowned Tchagra, Black-headed Gonolek, Black-winged Bishop, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Brown Parrot, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Crested Francolin, Crowned Hornbill, Double-toothed Barbet, European Bee-eater, Fan-tailed Widow Bird, Giant Kingfisher, Great Blue Turaco, Greater Honey Guide, Green Wood Hoopoe, Grey-crowned Crane, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Grey-headed Sparrow, Helmeted Guineafowl, Klass’s Cuckoo, Marico Sunbird, Martial Eagle, Namaqua Dove, Northern Black Flycatcher, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Nubian Woodpecker, Olive Sunbird, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Pied Kingfisher, Red-headed Malimbe, Ross’s Turaco, Ruff, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Senegal Coucal, Shikra, Tawny Eagle, Thick-billed Honey Guide, Variable Sunbird, Village Indigobird, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Wattled Lapwing, Western Banded Snake Eagle, White-crested Turaco, White-faced Whistling Duck, White-fronted Bee-eater, White-headed Barbet, Woodland Kingfisher, Yellow-backed Weaver, Yellow-billed Stork, Yellow-rumped Tinker Bird, Yellow-throated Longclaw

Travel tips for your Rhino trekking at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

  • Do not forget your water proof hiking shoes or closed shoes,
  • Rain poncho during the rainy season and remember to
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • No flash photography lest you frighten the Rhinos into being defensive while rhino trekking.

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