Bangweulu means ‘where the water meets the sky’, and I think it’s a perfect description of this extraordinary, community-owned and protected wetland in northeastern Zambia.

For me there is something timeless about travelling through these swamps. I find it a world away from racing around in a safari jeep. Your guide at the front of the canoe, long pole in hand, propelling you through narrow channels, between the thick reeds and papyrus. Silence, except for slight burbles and gurgles as you glide through the water. It’s one of my all-time highlights.

Black lechwe in the Bangweulu Wetlands credit black lechwe in the Bangweulu Wetlands

Black lechwe in the Bangweulu Wetlands

Credit: Bwana Jimmy Productions

Bangweulu Wetlands wildlife

Bangweulu is unusual in terms of wildlife conservation in that it is made up of Game Management Areas, where around 60,000 local villagers migrate seasonally, with the rise and fall of the water levels, and depend on the marshlands to sustain their traditional way of life.

The flagship species here is the endemic black lechwe, the rare and critically endangered Shoebill and the endangered Crowned Crane – Bangweulu is home to between 300 and 500 shoebills, the most southerly population of Shoebills in the world, and 10% of the world’s population of Wattled Cranes, the rarest of Africa’s cranes.

Another highlight here is the return of the cheetah, reintroduced by the non-profit African Parks, after a century’s absence. African Parks have also established a Shoebill Captive Rearing and Rehabilitation Facility, the first of its kind in the world, designed to rear chicks in captivity before releasing them into the wild.

Where to stay in the Bangweulu Wetlands

For a little more luxury and comfort, Remote Africa Safaris have Shoebill Island Camp which is in the swamps and the best place to stay to experience the wetlands. Situated close to the park headquarters, Nkondo Tented Camp has six ensuite tents, and for campers Nsobe Campsite is located on the edge of the swamps and offers six campsites.

About the author

Safari in the Bangweulu Wetlands

Sarah Kingdom

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, before moving to Africa at the age of 21, Sarah Kingdom is a mountain climber and guide, traveller, yoga teacher, trail runner, and mother of two. When she is not climbing or traveling she lives on a cattle ranch in central Zambia. She guides climbing and trekking trips worldwide, including taking climbers up Mount Kilimanjaro numerous times a year.

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