Shoebill Island Camp is a basic bushcamp that's ideal for travellers who have been on other safaris and want a completly different safari experience. It is great for serious bird enthusiasts and those who wish to view animals that include the rarer back lechwe and other plains game found in the area.
The camp also provides accommodation in safari tents under thatch roofs and reed cottages. Each has two beds, an ensuite shower and flush toilet. The camp is primarily intended for international visitors, but they also welcomes local and regional clients.
The soggy terrain around Lake Bangweulu, which lies in the far southeastern section of the Congo River basin in northern Zambia, is popular with water-loving birds. The prospect of seeing shoebill storks, the region's lugubrious-looking signature species, draws determined birdwatchers to these lovely reedbeds and waterways, where there are also to flamingos, herons, kingfishers and ibis to admire.
The vast herds of black lechwe are just as compelling an attraction. But while the sight of these graceful antelopes galloping though the wetlands, water flying everywhere, may be one of Zambia's most powerful images, you really need to be in a helicopter to experience it for yourself. Overall, accessibility is a problem in Bangweulu – the swamps may be every bit as rich in biodiversity as the Okavango Delta, but in practice very few visitors get the chance to explore them.
Elephant and buffalo herds have been severely depleted, while lion, cheetah and wild dog have all been eradicated. Under the direction of enterprising African Parks Network the area is definitely on the up, but with a resident community of 90,000 fishermen living within the swamp, Bangweulu still needs to overcome some serious challenges before it's truly worthy of being spoken about in the same breath as the Okavango Delta.
It is, however, an excellent destination for avid birders and Africa aficionados looking for an off-the-beaten-track safari experience. While watching lechwe dance across the mirror-calm shallow water is mesmerising, the only way to really appreciate the scale of the swamp and size of the herds was by taking a scenic flight over the wetland and its surrounding grasslands. The bird's eye perspective is unforgettable.
Bangweulu – 'the place where the earth meets the sky' – is the deep and secret heart of Africa. It is also steeped in the history of David Livingstone, who died here in 1873 after seven years searching for the source of the Nile. Today Bangweulu's wildlife is the magnet that lures visitors to these remote wetlands in northwest Zambia.
Herds of black lechwe, an antelope you won’t see anywhere else in Africa, graze in huge numbers among the termite mounds of the Chimbwi floodplains, together with reedbuck, oribi and tsessebe. Flocks of cranes, storks, pratincoles and pelicans fill the skies in numbers beyond counting.
But to spot Bangweulu's most iconic denizens you must press on into the great fen itself – 2,500 square miles of deltas, papyrus and clear water channels. Only then will you spot the rare, swamp-dwelling sitatunga antelope, and the ghostly grey shoebill stork that sits at the top of every bird-watcher's wish list.