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Bangweulu swamp is one of the largest and most important wetlands in Africa. Home to the extraordinary Shoebill as well as ecologically significant numbers of waterbirds, this is a special and unique place.

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Birding

The Bangweulu Swamps are a vast area of swamp, floodplain and termitaria, covering about a million hectares. On the south-eastern side is Chikuni Game Management Area, a designated Ramsar Site and part of a proposed IBA (Important Bird Area). During flood periods, thick mats of aquatic vegetation may form ‘floating meadows’. The extent and timing of the annual flood depends on rainfall, but water levels usually begin to rise in January and reach their peak in March. From April onwards the water recedes and the floodplain tends to be dry by late May, although in wetter years pools may persist until August.

The area is famous for its population of Shoebill, which for much of the year is loosely concentrated near the main river channels, although during flood periods there is much dispersal. Wattled Cranes are often present in large numbers and the basin as a whole may represent one of the last strongholds of Common Bittern of the afrotropical race capensis. Denham's Bustard is common on the floodplain and during passage periods is found alongside large numbers of Abdim's and White Storks. Some of the largest concentrations of herons, storks and ducks occur as floodwaters recede and at this time large numbers of waterbirds are also breeding within the swamp. Great Snipe are common in summer, and European Marsh, Pallid and Montagu's Harriers are all regular. The permanent swamps must hold enormous numbers of Rallidae but no census has ever tackled such species seriously. Common swamp passerines include Greater Swamp Warbler, Chirping Cisticola, Swamp Flycatcher and Katanga Weaver. White-cheeked Bee-eater is distributed throughout the area and the plains hold an isolated population of Desert Cisticola alongside the rather localised Long-tailed Whydah.

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General

Access to Bangweulu is easiest by air. A small airstrip is located at Chimbwi near Shoebill Island camp. Access by road is only possible during the dry season, and is an arduous journey suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles only. Shoebill island camp has tented accommodation, on either full catering or self-catering basis.

Kasanka Trust Website - Bangweulu Floodplains

Paul Bourdin & Peter Leonard


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