Overview – Bangweulu Wetlands

Alan Murphy
Expert
By Alan Murphy

Alan is a renowned Africa expert and has authored many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Zambia.

Alan is a renowned Africa expert and has authored many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Zambia.

Alan is a renowned Africa expert and authored the Lonely Planet guidebook to Zambia.

Alan has authored the Lonely Planet guide to Zambia.

Bangweulu Wetlands is a unique wilderness destination. This massive wetland area is difficult to explore and very seasonal, but it is home to the very localized black lechwe. Thousands of these semi-aquatic antelope can be seen wading through the water. Aside from the lechwe, the park is mainly a birding destination with the rare, sought-after shoebill stork being the main attraction. The wetlands are also home to many small communities, who are benefitting from being involved in local conservation programs.

Best Time to Go May to July (Shoebill stork and black lechwe)
High Season Never (The park is never busy)
Size 6,000km² / 2,317mi²
Altitude 1,160-1,186m / 3,806-3,891ft

Pros & Cons

  • Home to the endemic black lechwe
  • Community owned protected wetland
  • One of Africa's best sites to see the shoebill stork
  • Offers a mix of game drives, walking safaris and canoe trips
  • Cycling tours available
  • Little-visited off-the-beaten track destination
  • Limited accommodation options; Shoebill Island Camp has closed for renovations
  • Home to many fishing villages, taking away some of the wilderness appeal
  • Getting to the park is expensive and difficult

Bangweulu Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Wildlife

Bangweulu is not a classic wildlife destination. The main attraction is its birdlife. There are, however, huge herds of the endemic black lechwe, and this is the only place to see these graceful, semi-aquatic antelope. Much harder to spot, but present as well, is the elusive sitatunga, another water-loving antelope. Two other unusual antelope – tsessebe and oribi – can usually be seen grazing on the floodplains.

Scenery

The wetlands are located in an area known as the Great Bangweulu Basin, a shallow depression fed by 17 rivers. The water level in the center varies between one and two meters, causing the floodline to move over 40km/25mi between the seasons. The area, subject to rising and retreating waters, is the wetland on which the black lechwe and other creatures depend.

Weather & Climate

Bangweulu has a tropical climate that sees average daytime temperatures staying uniform throughout most of the year. The exception is the transition from Dry season (May to October) to Wet season (November to April), when temperatures go up by a couple of degrees. Rain and heat both diminish in the drier months.

Best Time to Visit

Early in the Dry season (May to October), when the water level goes down and there’s plenty of grass for herbivores, is the best time to explore Bangweulu. Animals such as storks and black lechwe are abundant, as are game drives and canoe trips. In the Wet season (November to April), you can forget about doing any driving, and the risk of malaria from mosquitoes is much greater.

Want to Visit Bangweulu Wetlands?

Bangweulu Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
In the last footsteps of Livingstone
3/5

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....