Zambia Birding Safari | In Search of Shoebills

Carmine Bee-eaters fighting in mid-flightCarmine Bee-eaters fighting in mid-flight

That exclusive sighting of a Shoebill Stork is closer than you think - on a birding safari in Zambia you can spot this bird and many others at a RAMSAR site in the northern swamps. This beautiful wetland is a must for nature lovers and birding enthusiasts.

The Bangwelu Swamps and Kasanku National Park are located in the northern region of Zambia. Together these unique sites offer a special kind of wilderness, something a little different and off the beaten track. Wetlands, grasslands and woodlands in such close proximity offer a range of wildlife habitats for birds and some unusual creatures. A great diversity of bird life can be seen in quiet a small area - around 400 bird species have been recorded here.

Extremely Rare and Strange

shoebill sighting with robin pope safarisThis extremely rare and strange looking bird can be seen around the Bangwelu Swamps and adjacent wetlands, one of just a few remaining natural habitats where you can spot them. Shoebills favour the areas between the floodplains and the permanent swamps. The best time to see them is quite early in the dry winter season from March to August. May is a popular time to visit as June and July are the coolest months with very cold night-time temperatures.

The Bangwelu Swamps

Activities: Birding, boating, hiking.

The Bangwelu basin lies in the North Zambian Plateau and is fed by many rivers with an enormous catchment area. Only one river drains the basin and that is the Luapala River. Around the permanent waters of the swamp there are extensive floodplains and then forested areas. Expansive views can be enjoyed across the shallow lagoons, small islands and reed beds all the way to the horizon.extremely rare and strange.

The rainy season floods the rivers which lead to the basin from November to March and the floodplains are literally under water for up to 6 months of the year. This wetland system is all but inaccessible during the rainy summer season, but once the water starts to recede incredibly fertile feeding grounds are revealed alive with small fish, shrimps and snails.

The shallow wetlands here are ideal feeding grounds for indigenous birds and migrants which have flown great distances to spend the summer in Bangwelu. The top attraction is the Shoebill Stork, but really the birdlife is spectacular anyway you look at it. Other great sights on the plains include massive herds of endemic Black Lechwe antelope (in the tens of thousands), Tsessebe and Buffalo.

Kasanka National Park

Activities: Walking, birding, fishing, canoeing and game drives

South west of the Bangwelu Swamps you'll find the very picturesque Kasanka National Park. It is one of Zambia's smallest parks but it hosts a wide variety of natural habitats and an associated range of wildlife including a number of rarities.

The park is characterised by beautiful miombo woodlands, riverine vegetation, swamp forest, open grasslands and floodplains. Plenty of rivers ensure a rich and varied birdlife as well as life giving water resources to local communities and wildlife.

You could spot the rare Sitatunga antelope, Pel's fishing Owl and Wattled Crane as well as the Shoebill Stork, which has been seen on the shores of Lake Ndolwa in the early mornings during the dry season. The Fibwe tree-hide is a superb spot for watching Sitatunga at a swamp below.

This is not a park for intensive game viewing but you could see lots of Puku antelope as well as Elephant, Buffalo, Sable and Roan antelope, Sharp's Grysbok and also Lichtenstein's Hartebeest. The water is the domain of the Slender-snouted Crocodile which is a rare species.
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