Ramsar Sites In Uganda : Wetland Conservation : Nabajjuzi, Lutembe Bay, Mabamba, Makanaga, Lake Opeta, Lake Bisina, Lake Nakuwa, Lake Nabugabo, Lake Albert, Nile Delta, and Lake Mburo Nakivale are among the twelve Ramsar sites in Uganda, most of which are wetland systems. They fall under the category of Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

Explore Swamps in Uganda

 A wetland location that has been recognized as internationally significant by the Ramsar Convention is known as a Ramsar site. The Ramsar Convention, sometimes referred to as „The Convention on Wetlands“, is an international environmental agreement that was created by UNESCO on February 2, 1971, in Ramsar, Iran, and went into effect on December 21, 1975. In order to preserve wetlands and ensure the prudent, sustainable use of their resources, the treaty calls for national and international collaboration.


Wetlands in Uganda serve many purposes, including providing some of the best birdwatching opportunities in the country. The shoebill stork, a rare African bird species, can be spotted at all 12 locations. The shoebill lives in biodiversity-rich permanent and primary freshwater and shallow papyrus wetland environments.

 Those who come to observe the shoebill will also have the opportunity to witness other species, as Uganda has over 1,061 bird species, accounting for about 11% of Africa’s bird population. Uganda’s national bird is the endangered gray-crowned crane. The Ramsar wetlands are largely found around Victoria, Nyanza, Albert, Edward, Kyoga, and the Nile River.

Small motorboats and wooden canoes are employed to search for birds in the marsh canals. There are expert bird guides who will look after you as you sit back and relax. The experience of birding in the marshes reminds you of how much local people rely on nature, for example, through fishing. Freshwater lakes are home to a variety of fish species, including lungfish, on which the shoebill primarily feeds.

This fish is known as Mamba by the Baganda people of the Buganda Kingdom and is a totem of the Mamba clan. This Clan does not consume it, preferring other species such as tilapia, catfish, and bichir, which are also part of the shoebill diet. That is, humans compete with birds for fish and other natural resources. Wetlands, for example, provide medicinal herbs, water, and reeds for handicrafts.

There is also a need for land to cultivate food, establish livestock farms, and mine sand and clay for construction, which damages the wetlands. Aside from socioeconomic functions, these natural places also provide ecological services such as pollution control, flood control, soil erosion, climate change mitigation, and wildlife habitat.


The Ramsar Treaty, signed in Iran in 1971, established the necessity of safeguarding and sustainably managing wetland resources. A Ramsar site is designated because of its high biodiversity and the social and economic worth it has, both nationally and internationally. Uganda joined in 1988, with wetlands covering 11% of the entire land area. Since the adoption of the national wetlands strategy in 1995, approximately 40 IBAs have been recognized, 12 of which are Ramsar sites.

However, due to rising population, settlements, and agriculture, wetlands continued to diminish by 30% between 1994 and 2008. As a result, the policy’s goal was to put measures in place to prevent degradation and generate economic opportunities for populations that rely on wetlands for survival. Uganda is dedicated to wetlands conservation, particularly through tourism activities such as bird watching, water sports, arts, and culture. You may assist with wetlands protection by visiting these Ramsar sites or donating to private and governmental organizations interested in environmental conservation. Birding tours can be booked through a tour company or guide.


Shoebill storks have been recorded in Uganda at 12 Ramsar sites, including Mabamba Bay and Makanaga in Lake Victoria’s west shores, Lutembe Bay, the Nabujuzi wetland, and Lake Nabugabo in Lake Mburo, Nakivale in Lake Mburo, Lake Bisina, Opeta, and Nakuwa in the east of Lake Kyoga basin, and Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The Uganda Bird Guides Association reports that sightings are most successful at five of the twelve sites, including Murchison Falls, Lake Mburo, and Queen Elizabeth national parks, as well as Mabamba and Makanaga wetlands. Here is the list of Ramsar sites in Uganda:

Mabamba and Makanaga swamps

Mabamba Bay Wetland is located 47 kilometers west of Entebbe via the Kawuku-Nakawuka road and 12 kilometers along the Kasange road. A birding-day excursion to Mabamba from Kampala is also possible. The marsh, which includes the nearby Makanaga wetland, covers 16,500 hectares. Both are home to the shoebill, although one has a better chance of seeing the bird. Makanaga is 60 kilometers west of Entebbe and may be reached via Kamengo off the Masaka-Kampala highway.

Mabamba wetland, in particular, is home to approximately 260 bird species, including Lake Victoria basin endemics such as the papyrus gonolek and white-winged swamp warbler. Migratory species that visit Mabamba include blue swallows, white winged black, gull-billed, and whiskered terns. Those looking for a place to stay near Mabamba can book a hotel at Nkima Forest Lodge, which has a view of the marsh. Birding is done in both wetlands via wooden boat, with passengers sitting beside a guide and pilot. Because the canoe does not make as much noise as motorized canoes, it is easier to traverse the marsh canals with lookout stations to view birds.

The Kyoga basin satellite lakes

Kyoga Lake, located north of Murchison Falls and south of Lake Albert, is Uganda’s most shallow lake. The eastern section of the lake is made up of three lakes: Bisina, Opeta, and Nakuwa. Both are Ramsar sites and IBAs, and they are home to the shoebill stork. The locations have been gazetted; however, tourism is not yet completely developed.

 More projects that not only provide accessibility but also benefit the surrounding communities are still needed. Opeta is mostly a papyrus swamp, although it also has thatching (hyparrhenia) and hippo (vossia cuspidata) grasses to the north, where it borders the Pian Upe nature reserve.

Aside from the shoebill, the habitat is well-known for being home to Uganda’s sole endemic bird, the fox’s weaver (ploceus spekeoides). The bird is listed as near-threatened; however, there is inadequate information regarding its status and range. Nature Uganda’s 2010 „Survey of the Fox’s Weaver, the only Ugandan Endemic Bird Species, confirmed that Opeta and the surrounding Lake Bisina wetland system are key nesting habitats for the fox’s weaver.

The Lake Bisina wetland, which covers 54,229 hectares, is also a Ramsar site essential for shoebill conservation. Unlike Bisina and Opeta, the Lake Nakuwa wetland system is unique in that it is made up of suds (floating vegetation that creates obstructive masses, as seen in most of the White Nile). The Kyoga satellite lakes are not only essential for shoebill conservation, but they are also rich in biodiversity, including haplochromines, cichlid fish species that are endemic to the East African Great Lakes.

Because of the introduction of the Nile perch, which preys on them, many species have become extinct in Lake Victoria. Because the suds hinder Nile perch from entering these wetlands, the Kyoga satellite lakes are the last habitat for haplochromine cichlid fish species. Weaver species found in the Bisina and Opeta wetlands include the Compact, northern Brown-throated, Yellow-backed, Lesser Masked, Grosbeak, Slender-billed, Jackson’s Golden-backed, Black-necked, Heuglin’s Masked, and Spectacled.

Nile Albert Delta wetland

The Nile Albert delta, located within Murchison Falls National Park, provides the best opportunities to see the shoebill stork. There are a lot of shoebills in the protected region, so sightings are nearly certain. Within the protected area, the marsh encompasses 17,293 acres near the confluence of the Victoria Nile and Lake Albert.

 Murchison Falls is home to approximately 460 bird species, the majority of which may be observed in the delta, including the critically endangered great snipe. Motorized canoes access the delta while in the park’s northern portion. Because of the prevalence of crocodiles, wooden canoes are not permitted.

Murchison offers an exceptional opportunity to witness wildlife such as lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes, Uganda kob, Jackson’s hartebeest, Oribi, waterbucks, and warthogs, in addition to bird watching. Game drives, a boat tour up the Victoria Nile, and a visit to the top of the Falls are the most significant things to do there. Budongo Central Forest Reserve, located in the park’s southern region, provides prospects for chimp monitoring.

Nakivale wetland system

This Ramsar site is part of the Lake Mburo national park and consists of 13 lakes, 5 of which are protected. The remainder of the park consists of savanna forests, acacia and euphoria trees, and metamorphic rocks projecting above the relief. The various ecosystems support a high level of biodiversity, which includes 370 bird species and 69 animal species. The shoebill is being tracked on foot along the Kyempitsi route, which runs along the shores of Lake Mburo. African finfoot, Papyrus gonolek, African water rail, water thick-knee, and hammerkops are among the other waterbird species.

Ramsar Sites In Uganda
Nakivale wetland system

Lutembe Bay wetland

The Lutembe Ramsar Site is located 13 kilometers from Kajjansi town on the Kampala-Entebbe Road and is also accessible by boat from the Entebbe Zoo. Lutembe Bay is an easy-day excursion from Kampala or Entebbe. Nature Uganda discovered over 70 species, including palearctic migrants like Malagasy pond herons and white-winged terns, in large flocks. However, the shoebill is rarely observed. Over 50 indigenous species can be identified by keen birders, including the green-backed heron, knob-billed duck, green shank, lesser black-backed gull, and Klaas’ cuckoo.

Lake Nabugabo wetland system

The Lake Nabugabo wetland system covers 22,000 hectares and is located 18 kilometers from Masaka municipality. Sand Beach Resort provides lodging, meeting facilities, restaurants, and a variety of water sports and adventure activities, such as zip lines. The Nabugabo wetland system is unlike any other Ramsar site.

 Three smaller lakes are separated from Lake Victoria by a 2 km-wide sand barrier, through which water seeps. The area has papyrus vegetation as well as tropical forests with over 100 plant species, including insectivorous and carnivorous species such as Droseraceae.

In 2004, the Nabugabo wetland system was designated a Ramsar site to conserve endangered bird species such as the shoebill stork and the papyrus gonolek, a Lake Victoria basin endemic. The area also attracts migratory species and is well-known for housing 15% of the world’s blue swallow population. At Nabugabo, over five globally vulnerable bird species have been reported, including the pallid harrier and the great snipe.

Nabujjuzi wetland system

This Ramsar site was designated in 2006 and extends from Masaka, Mpigi, to Sembabule districts in Budu County, Buganda Kingdom. Some Nabajjuzi wetland systems are located in the Katonga River Watershed, which runs from Lake Victoria to Wamala and drains into Lake Edward in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

 The dominant vegetation in the marsh is Papyrus sedge, silver grass (Miscanthus violaceus), and water lilies such as blue lotus (Nymphaea nouchali yana). Some of the bird species observed at Nabajjuzi are considered endemic, including the papyrus yellow warbler (Chloropeta gracilirostris), papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri), shoebill stork, and gray-crowned crane.

Furthermore, frequent sightings of the Sitatunga, an antelope that lives in swamps, occur. The livelihoods of numerous people who reside around the marsh are also dependent on a range of fish species, such as lung and mud fish. The Novelty Tannery factory’s chemical pollution of the water, car washing, pesticide use in the wetland’s agricultural sections, and brick production are some of the primary dangers to the Nabajjuzi wetland.

Communities rely on it, and initiatives promoting livelihood and conservation are in place to improve the sustainable use of resources. The location is part of the African Wildlife Foundation, Nature Uganda, and the Wetlands Department’s Lake Victoria Conservation Environmental Education Program.

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