Shoebill Stork is a large African wading bird with a shoe shaped bill that is restricted to swampy freshwater wetlands in tropical east Africa, from South Sudan to Zambia.
Uganda is the best East African Country where you can readily see the Shoebill Stork in various parks and wetlands while on Safari. Shoebill is a solitary and rare species of bird around the world and one of the most sought-after types of bird by birders.
The Shoebill Stork seems unreal, weirdly prehistoric, and has this kind of ancient-looking bird that breeds curiosity among birders.
1. Makanaga Swamp Bay – Uganda
A one-and-a-half-hour ride along Kampala-Masaka Road, followed by a 20 minutes’ drive on a dusty road to Namugobo’s landing site where a 10-minute boat ride awaits from the Kamengo landing site to the interior of the swampland.
Makanaga Swamp Bay is situated in Mpigi District and is Considered one of the most rewarding birding excursions that boasts of up to 300 bird species. It is a perfect site for avid birders searching for the elusive Shoebill Stork in a non-tempered environment.
It’s an incredible birding site for the Shoebill Stork and other bird species that thrive on swampy wetlands. The swamp bay is accessible by a canoe/boat ride from Kampala or Entebbe. Or one can travel by road from Entebbe which is approximately a 1.5 hours journey via the Kampala-Masaka Road.
2. South Luangwa National Park – Zambia
Located in the east of Zambia’s Luangwa River Valley is the Luangwa National Park. It’s southernmost Nation Park in the valley of Luangwa River and is renowned for its vast variety of wildlife.
South Luangwa National Park is an exceptional birdwatching site that hosts hundreds of water birds along the Luangwa River during the dry seasons, from Yellow Billed Starks to ponderous Pelicans, Saddle Billed Starks Goliath Heron, and Elegant Crowned Cranes. Tracking of the Shoebill Stork however Is a combination of the three sites, from South Luangwa to Kasanka then, to Bangweulu Swamp.
The river is often crowded with Hippos and Crocodiles and the woodland savannah is home to hundreds of bird species. One can never miss the cry of the Fish Eagle as this is a superb way to end your picturesque birding experience in South Luangwa National Park.
3. Semuliki National Park – Uganda
Semuliki National Park is the best place for bird watching because it offers an opportunity to view various species that come from the Congolese forest as well as the Shoebill stork. There are More than 441 bird species recorded.
The highlight of a birding safari in Semuliki is the Shoebill stork since the environment around this site is not spoiled and so the chances of spotting a Shoebill are high though at times luck is not present.
Professional guides are available to take you through the swampy ride into the Shoebill Stork hideouts in the interior of the swampland where they so much like to spend their time due to the abundance of fish and frogs.
4. Akagera National Park – Rwanda
At the border between Rwanda and Tanzania is the center of a natural habitat brought about by the ever-flowing River Kagera. The northeastern part of Rwanda is a unique landscape that is dominated by swamps, small lakes and a network of water sources that create spectacular scenery.
Akagera National Park is home to about 520 species of birds and the place for Shoebill filming in Rwanda. The large number and great diversity of bird species range from water birds to forest birds, and savannah species as well as migratory birds. Rare endemic species such as the Papyrus Gonoleks, localized red-faced barbets swamp flycatcher as well as the elusive Shoebill Stork.
This park is one of the places that is not to be missed by an avid birdwatcher as it lays out the ground for variety and diversity when it comes to birdwatching adventure.
5. Mabamba Swamp – Uganda
The shores of Lake Victoria are home to hundreds of bird species and lots of wildlife species as well. The swamps along the shore provide a perfect haven for both local and migratory birds.
Mabamba bay is a wetland and a unique extensive marsh stretching along a narrow bay bordered with papyrus on the edge of Lake Victoria and is one of the few sites where the rare Shoebill Stork can be found. Its proximity to the lake provides a conducive environment for birds especially those that like to live near water sources. A canoe ride through the Mabamba bay wetlands is a great way to explore the abundance of bird species which include the Shoebill Stork, Papyrus Gonolek, Swamp Flycatcher, among others.
Mabamba bay is accessible via the Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe where you spend about 10 minutes crossing to Kasanje landing site on a ferry, then a 20-minute drive to Mabamba bay that exposes you to lots of garden bird views along the way.
6. Kasanka National Park – Zambia
Bird watching in Kasanka National Park is an experience of its own kind as the island is endowed with rivers, wetlands, forests, lagoons, lakes, meadows, and Dambos that is home to a wide range of animals and birds in their thousands.
Kasanka National Park is best known for its annual Bat migration which is the biggest mammal migration on earth. The park is located about 7 hour’s drive northwest of Lusaka and is simply superb as it offers some of the best birding habitats which include the moist strips of woodland and mishutus where the Boehm’s Bee-eater and Bocage’s Akalat can be found.
The wet summer months of November to April usher in hundreds of migratory birds from the north such as the Pale-billed Hornbill, Cabaniss’s Greenbul, Gray Apalis, and many others.
7. Lake Albert Delta – Uganda
Lake Albert Delta is located at the center of the African Continent on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Albert Delta is an expanse of water where the calm Victoria Nile pours its water into Lake Albert. A spectacular site for birders due to the beautiful scenery of diverse vegetation and the flow of the Nile as it splits into several tributaries that ends up forming small islands.
Lake Albert Delta is home to hundreds of birds that have nested on the banks of the river and its tributaries. The scenery is just an incredible birdwatching site whereby a tourist on a boat trip through the Victoria Nile towards Lake Albert Delta is guaranteed to see the Shoebill Stork.
Other species that are to be found include Goliath Heron, Great Egrets, African fish Eagles and the rare Shoebill Stork.
8. Lwera Swamp & Kyabakuza Swamp – Uganda
Lwera & Kyabakuza Swamps lie along the Kampala-Masaka highway on your way to Lake mburo, bwindi forest and Mgahinga Gorilla national Parks and is a major water catchment area that connects several rivers and wetlands.
The elusive Shoebill Stork can be spotted occasionally in these swamps along the Kampala Masaka Highway. The guide will always stop to give birders a chance to admire the shoebill stork.