Bangweulu Wetlands is to the south-east of Lake Bangweulu. It is a watery world. Part of the environment is swampland, part is floodplain edged by miombo woodland. Miombo is a two-storeyed open woodland. The name Bangweulu means ‘where the water meets the sky’.
Seventeen rivers drain into Lakes Bangweulu and Lililupe, the largest being the Chambeshi, the source of the Congo River. Lake Bangweulu is drained by the Luapula River which forms the border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo for part of its length. The lakes are part of a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.
A legendary creature, known as the emela-ntouka, is said to inhabit the lakes; the name means ‘killer of elephants’. It is said to be large like a forest elephant, to have strong legs, one horn and a long tail.
After many years of neglect the wildlife populations are increasing following their protection. The big draws are the black lechwe and sitatunga, both animals loving the water. Other herbivores include buffalo, elephant, roan, hartebeest, puku, zebra and impala.
Predators include hyena and side-striped jackal.
There are over 400 bird species which live in or visit Bangweulu Wetlands. Their most-loved resident is the Shoebill stork. The shoebill is considered ‘vulnerable’ by IUCN. It is a large, fish-eating bird which inhabits the swamps. A programme has been set up to protect each nest, with community members undertaking this role.
Other species include many waterbirds – flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, ducks, geese, cranes and storks.
For a list of the birds compiled by Pete Leonard for BirdWatch Zambia Click Here
Activities in Bangweulu Wetlands depend on the rains. During the flooded times (February to April), when it is a birdwatchers’ paradise, boats can be taken into the swamps. After the rains, in the early dry season between May and July, boats can still ply some of the channels, otherwise it is walking or driving. From July onwards to the start of the rains in November, driving or walking is available.
No fees are payable as Bangweulu Wetlands is not a park.