Visit Lake Bangweulu swamps – 100 kilometres north of kasanka national park are the vast Bangweulu Wetlands – Africa’s greatest swamp, which is basically divided into 3 main habitats.
There is open water to the North West, huge swamps in the middle and seasonally flooded grass plains on the southern and eastern fringes. The grass plains support a huge variety of aquatic birdlife, including a good population of shoebill storks; regarded as a “mega” tick by many birding enthusiasts. The local name for the swamps means “where the water meets the sky” and during the rainy season the swamps swell to three times their size in dry season.
The Bangwelu Swamps feed the Congo River that starts in DR.Congo and it well known for volcanoes hiking in Africa and were a great disillusion to the sick Dr David Livingstone who travelled to the area in search of the source of the Nile only to find the swamps led to the great Congo River instead! His grave is in this area although our own guide disagrees with the precise spot – see Livingstone’s Grave.
In response to drought, the unusual and unique lungfish found in this area and thought to have survived for 300 million years, developed the ability to live for months and sometimes years, without water. At the first sign of water, the fish revives and continues with its life as a fish. Of great interest as one of the evolutionary missing links between land and water, this species is the subject of a number of scientific research projects.
Visit lake bangweulu swamps – Massive herds of black lechwe are found only in the Bangweulu Swamps. In fact if one sight is typical to this area it is the vision of black lechwe taking flight from real or imagined foe and leaping from tussock to tussock across the watery plains. In dry season the male lechwe compete heavily for the females attention and this seems to be their main purpose in life as they take no part in raising and defending their ofspring. This makes them easy prey for the big cats. Elephant, buffalo, tsessebe, reedbuck, Burchell’s zebra, oribi and sitatunga are amongst other species found here, so no need to be an avid bird lover to visit the area!
If you are a bird lover, there is simply a profusion of waterfowl: Wattled crane, Saddle-billed stork, Spurwing goose, Sacred Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Swamp Flycatcher, Pink- throated and Fulleborn’s Long claw, Denham’s Bustard and numerous ducks live here amongst many, many other birds. A comprehensive bird list is also now available. Other bird species include African Openbill, Rufous-bellied heron, Lesser jacana, lesser moorhen, saddle-billed stork and Fulleborns Lonclaw (Rosy breasted is common, but Fulleborns more tricky to spot).
The Bangweulu Wetlands and is the best place in the world to see the mighty shoebill, especially in season. There is a staggering variety of other bird species and the major species to be sought out here from a wildlife point of view are the black lechwe which are found in their hundreds of thousands.
Due to effective park-management black lechwe, which are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and are only found in Bangweulu, have increased from 35,000 in 2010 to over 50,000 today.
Translocations are bolstering Bangweulu’s wildlife. A 2017 translocation saw 250 animals including impala and zebra released into the park; in 2019, another introduced 95 buffalo with the aim of increasing genetic diversity.
Bangweulu is home to over 400 bird species, including 10% of the world’s wattled crane population and the globally important population of the endangered shoebill stork, both also listed as vulnerable.
Bangweulu’s community programmes and enterprise development projects range from bee-keeping to fisheries management and impact more than 50,000 people living within the protected area. In 2018, our beekeeping programme distributed more than 300 beehives to communities, with two tonnes of honey harvested. The project garnered strong local support and is currently being rolled out across other chiefdoms.
The reproductive health education programme, implemented in 2016, has garnered enormous support from local communities. During 2018, the programme conducted 26 family planning sessions in local chiefdoms that reached 1,007 women and more than 1,800 adolescent school children.
In 2019, Bangweulu supported four schools, impacting more than 800 students. Forty ZeduPads (a solar-powered pre-loaded tablet with multiple curriculums with over 13 languages) have been distributed amongst the schools and are delivering educational material to students.
Visit lake bangweulu swamps -In 2012, a Shoebill Nest Protection Plan was developed with support from local communities. Approximately eight local fishermen are employed as guards to protect shoebill nesting sites, preventing poachers from stealing eggs and chicks to feed the illegal wildlife trade. To date, these guards have helped protect over 30 fledglings.
The main season is from May to August when Shoebills can usually be seen on canoe trips. September to November offer great birding (though maybe no Shoebill sightings) and the some amazing mammal spectacles.
Shoebill island camp.
Shoebill Island Camp is perfectly positioned on the edge of the expansive Bangweulu wetlands. The camp has a front row seat to the constant activity of the swamps and surrounding flood plain. It is always alive with bird movement and the sound of thousands of lechwe sloshing through the shallow waters. The peaceful harmony of the local fisherman brings a special experience to this camp, where community conservation is crucial to the welfare of the wetlands and its wildlife, especially the iconic shoebill. Each day ends looking out at the sunset before you, and closes out what is certainly a place never to be forgotten.
Bangweulu Wetlands is located 700km/343mi north of Lusaka.
Bangweulu isn’t included on many tourist itineraries and getting here isn’t very straightforward – the easiest way is by chartered plane. There are two airstrips in the area.
It is possible to drive to the park, and some specialized operators can set up a mobile trip for you as well. If you are driving yourself, you need to be fully self-sufficient with a high-clearance 4×4. In the Wet season, you’ll have to hire a boat for the last stretch to the Shoebill Island Camp.
Zambia’s main airport is Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (LUN), located 14km/9mi from the capital, Lusaka – it is through this airport that most international visitors will arrive in the country.