Lutembe is a popular destination among birders around the world as it is home to over 70% of the world’s population of white-winged terns.
But that is not all; this beach front also attracts a plethora of bird species you won’t
be able to see somewhere else in Africa.
If you are in Uganda between September and January, try visiting Lutembe on the northern shores of Lake Victoria, in Wakiso District.
Quiet, peaceful and well conserved, more than two million birds find Lutembe the perfect to dine, live and even raise their young ones. Some of these species especially the Palearctic migrants, fly from as far away as Siberia without stopping. It is as if when they start the daunting journey, they simply can’t wait to arrive at Lutembe beach.
White-winged terns turn up in droves. They dominate the population and you
simply can’t ignore their imposing presence and calls. As they fly over the lake, they block the sun rays creating a vast shadow over the lake.
A spectacle to watch!
It’s even more fascinating watching them fly so fast and yet don’t knock each other in flight. It is like watching a horde of fighter jets going wing to wing. This excitement will last for just over five months before these flamboyant fliers head back to Europe for breeding.
During this time, their hatchlings experience a breeding plumage, their colour changes from white to black. When they are ready, they will also make the trip to Lutembe and add to the vast numbers of bird collection at the wetland. Many birds come and go. There are majestic birds, colourful birds etc.
But the bird that strikes the greatest imagination in Uganda is the shoebill, and it lives here. Deep in the papyrus jungle of this wetland, you will run into Uganda’s most sought-after bird. It is as calm as they come. Usually minding its own business but should you decide to engage it, then the shoebill is not the least bit shy about responding to humans. Most birders come to Uganda to see this bird. Shoebills enjoy Lutembe for its fish abundance.
The sanctuary is also home to gull-billed terns, grey-headed gulls and black- headed gulls. Along its shores, you will find several species of birds with colours of the Uganda flag, like the Saddle-billed stock and the grey-crown crested crane.
If you love fashion and music, you might as well fall in love with Lutembe. Birds sing. Others simply whistle. It is like walking through a music school. The bright fashionable colours on display are on purpose; most birds flash their best swanky feathers to attract a mate. There is no shortage of competition for spouses here and birds will go to any length in a fashion match-up.
You need a good camera too to be able to capture these amazing moments. You know, not every camera can capture a bird in flight. The binoculars will help you see the birders clearer from a distance because some bird species prefer keeping a distance from humans.
It is good to maintain the peace you find these birds in.
Lutembe wetland is a Ramsar listed wetland. The Ramsar Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity.
Start your expedition in the morning to be able to capture Lutembe’s variety as the sunrises. Sunset isn’t bad either. An hour’s ride, from Entebbe, in a boat with a siting capacity of 10 people costs about 150,000UGX.