Looking For The Dinosaur Bird In The Swamps Of Uganda

The first full day of our second Birdwatching Trip in Uganda, January 2019, and we had six very excited guests. Leaving our Entebe Hotel after breakfast we headed for Mabamba Wetlands and the most wanted bird of the whole trip.

I had first heard of the Shoebill bird when I was a youngster, keen on birds even in those long ago days. Then it was an exotic bird from somewhere in Africa, never did it enter into my head I might ever see one.

Fast forward to 2008 and our year-long adventure, The Biggest Twitch, and it seemed I might see one, but no.

Then is 2016 an amazing opportunity arose to visit Uganda and we grabbed it. We board a canoe at the Mabamba Wetlands and after a very tense search there it was a Shoebill. Well worth the wait simply an awesome bird, or was it a dinosaur? It sure looked more dinosaur than bird. Elation!

Back to January 2019 and our group boarded the dug-out canoes at the wetland and set off into the swamp. It is a big gamble looking for THE bird of the trip on day one, if we missed it we would have two weeks together to recall missing it, and a Shoebill was pictured on the cover of the check-list! We were feeling the pressure to say the least. Luckily the sun was shining and there were plenty of birds to see in the papyrus marsh. Squacco Herons were within feet of our boat, African Jacana were all over the place, tiny Malachite Kingfishers added a splash of colour. All these were enjoyed but none really taken in, everyone was scanning for that one bird the Shoebill.

Unknown to our guests we knew a great friend of ours, Herbert, who had helped us visit Uganda back in 2016, was ahead of us also searching. We figured more eyes looking the better and given the lovely weather hoped our luck was in.

A canoe was pulled up in a narrow creek off to our right and we recognised our friend Herbert, binoculars raised! Oh yes! There in all its glory was a Shoebill! Joy for our guests, huge relief and joy for us.

We silently crept up the channel to join the others and marvelled at this dinosaur of bird that was now very close indeed. Just a magical never to be forgotten with one of the most sought after birds in the world.

If you would like to look for a Shoebill come and join our Uganda Birdwatching Trip in December 2020. Not only Shoebill, we hope to enjoy over 450 species of birds in two weeks. Mammals too, we will sit down with mountain gorillas and track chimpanzees in the forests and marvel at elephants, hippos, lions and around fifty species of mammal. We know you will be blown away by Uganda and its wildlife, it really is the “Pearl of Africa”.

For more information or to book your place on this or any of our tours please email us here….


We look forward to enjoying amazing birds and wildlife with you soon.

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