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. It 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.
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By December 1st, all nests are empty and the nest guards have withdrawn from all nesting sites.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.
Remote Africa Safaris signed a management agreement with African Parks for Shoebill Island Camp from the 2021 season, and is excited to manage the camp from 1st of May – 31st of October for the next few years.
Shoebill Island camp was refurbished and reopened in 2018 and has 4 comfortable tents (2 double and 2 twin) with ensuite 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.
Community owned conservation area
Shoebill Guardian Programme for shoebill nest visits (June – Oct)
Endemic black lechwe (50 000+)
Reintroduction of cheetah in 2020
Reintroduction of buffalo in 2019
African Parks project since 2008
Contains 10% of the world’s wattled crane population
Side striped jackal
“Important Bird Area” (BirdLife International) and a “Wetlands of International Importance” under the RAMSAR Convention
Over 430 globally significant migratory & resident bird species
Communal charging area (220V) & plug point in the room
Sunrise: Early morning splashes as lechwe lope through the wetlands and a friendly morning knock on the door welcome the new day.
Breakfast: Light continental breakfast.
Morning activity: 4-hour walking safaris / game drive / canoe / shoebill nest visit (seasonal) with the Shoebill Guardian programme.
Midday lunch: Buffet lunch of bush cuisine
Early afternoon: Siesta time. Relax in camp - review your flora and fauna lists or study some water fowl from the comfort of the lounging area.
Afternoon tea: Tea/coffee and delicious freshly baked cakes.
Afternoon activity: 2,5 / 3hr evening walking safaris, returning before sunset / An evening game drive with a sundowner stop for drinks and snacks and then continuing with a spotlight after dark.
Sundowners: Enjoy pre-dinner drinks and delicious snacks around the bar.
Dinner: Three course meal beneath the stars.
Bedtime: Cotton sheets and expansive mosquito nets keep you comfortable while wild lullabies of hyena whoop you to
Chimbwe airstrip – Bangweulu wetlands 15min drive from Shoebill Island Camp
Mfuwe airport to Shoebill Island camp
1hr charter flight with Remote Africa Safaris plane + 15min drive in 4×4 vehicle
1hr charter flight with Remote Africa Safaris plane + 1hr canoe / makoro
Mwanya (Lukuzi) airstrip (Tafika / Chikoko Tree / Crocodile River Camps) to Shoebill Island camp
50min charter flight with Remote Africa Safaris plane + 15min drive in 4×4 vehicle OR 1hr canoe / makoro (May – July only)
Mwaleshi airstrip to (Mwaleshi / Takwela Camps) Shoebill Island camp
55min charter flight with Remote Africa Safaris plane + 15min drive in 4×4 vehicle OR 1hr canoe / makoro (May – July only)
Adventurous guests may drive into camp but a good 4×4 vehicle and extensive off-road driving experience is essential.
Flights from Mfuwe / Mwaleshi and Lusaka to Bangweulu are available with Remote Africa’s Cessna 210, RASair, for more information please Enquire with us.
Scheduled daily flight services connect Lusaka, Livingstone and Mfuwe. Remote Africa Safaris are able to book seats on most domestic scheduled services for our guests as well as arrange private charter flights with RASair.