WPCS 2.1.3
WPCS 2.1.3

Shoebill Island Camp

“The only safari camp in Bangweulu enabling access to this incredible wetland”

Budget level: Mid-Range
When to Go
May to Oct
Property Type
Camp Permanent
Bangweulu Wetlands
Kids Min Age

Shoebill Island Camp is tucked away in indigenous thicket and faces out onto the Bangweulu wetlands. Bangweulu means where water meets the sky, a perfect description for one of the most extraordinary and important wetlands in all of Africa.

Bangeulu is unique in that it is a community-owned protected area and is home to 50,000 people who retain the right to sustainably harvest its natural resources for their survival and livelihoods. The fish and wildlife populations were rapidly diminishing as a result of unsustainable harvesting. This all changed in 2008 when African Parks signed an agreement with the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) to work with the communities to sustainably manage the wetland for the benefit of both people and wildlife.

Today, Bangweulu is thriving, delicately balancing the needs of the communities with the preservation of wildlife. It is the largest employer in the region; it is providing healthcare and education to all six Chiefdoms and is positioned to become a leading example of community-driven conservation on the continent.

The prehistoric and vulnerable shoebill population is growing; fish stocks have significantly increased due to an annual three-month fishing ban; the implementation of sustainable harvesting has allowed the endemic Black lechwe population to significantly increase to 50 000 animals in the last decade; and cheetah were reintroduced at the end of 2020 after a one hundred year absence.

Shoebill Island camp was refurbished and reopened in 2018 and has 4 comfortable tents (2 double and 2 twin) with en-suite facilities and electricity. Activities include walking safaris, game drives and deep hull (photographic) canoeing and mokoro rides, community visits with the seasonal fishermen of the region. For the more enthusiastic and adventurous visitors, walking in the swamps is also an option for visits to (and better views of) a shoebill nest with the Shoebill Guardian programme (seasonal activity), and comes strongly recommended. Apart from a community campsite further afield, this is the only camp in Bangweulu enabling access to this incredible wetland.

The main visiting season is from late May to August when Shoebills can usually be seen on canoe trips.

The Shoebill’s rough breeding timeline:

  • May, Shoebills start nesting,
  • June, the first eggs appear in some nests. Most nests contain one egg and some with 2 eggs already,
  • July, most nests have chicks but some nests still have one unhatched egg,
  • August, all nests have chicks but with some nests only containing one chick as the youngest might not survive,
  • September, the bigger chicks already start fledging through to October and November when some start flying.
  • By December 1st, all nests are empty and the nest guards have withdrawn from all nesting sites.

September to November offer great birding (though reduced chance of Shoebill sightings). It is an “Important Bird Area” (BirdLife International) and a “Wetlands of International Importance” under the RAMSAR Convention. Opportunities abound to see other common animal and bird species including Wattled crane, White cheeked bee-eater, Rufous bellied heron, Lesser and Greater swamp warbler, gallinule and a profusion of waterfowl. Over 430 globally significant migratory & resident bird species rely on the wetlands as a life-source.

The mammal highlights include Zambia’s endemic Black lechwe (in their thousands!), sitatunga, buffalo, tsessebe, hyena, buffalo, side striped jackal, and the recently reintroduced cheetah.

Why we like it

  • The only safari camp in the incredible Bangweulu Wetlands
  • Incredible birding and viewing of the iconic Shoebill.
  • Perfect addon to safaris elsewhere in Zambia.

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