Searching for Shoebills

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The Bangweulu Swamps are a unique eco-system in Northern Zambia, most renowned as home to one of the world’s rarest and most distinctive birds. Standing over a metre tall, this huge, striking stork with its prominent, shoe-shaped bill is extremely rare, occurring intermittently in swampland areas of sub-Saharan Africa. There are only roughly 7,000 individuals left in the wild, with the main habitats occurring in Sudan, Congo, Uganda and the Bangweulu Swamps. Depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, their appearance certainly conveys a mystical quality, and they are something of a holy grail for keen birders.

The best time to view these strange storks is from May to August, when you can search for them on foot and by boat with a guide from a simple camp in the heart of the Wetlands. When not searching for shoebill, other Bangweulu highlights include elephant, tsessebe, oribi and sitatunga, as well as a wealth of birdlife. It is possible but expensive to do this independently, so your best option might be the scheduled itineraries operated by Robin Pope Safaris, which also take in the South Luangwa and Kasanka National Parks.

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