Lake Opeta Uganda
Lake Opeta is home to interesting wildlife especially birds because of the extensive wetland system which has favorable conditions for the wildlife. It is located in eastern Uganda in Soroti district. Lake Opeta Uganda is a gazetted site, with its swamps and wetlands where bird enthusiasts get thrilled to watch the rare shoebill stork and Uganda’s endemic, the Fox’s weaver.
Lake Opeta is situated in the south of Pian Upe Wildlife reserve and it serves as a refuge for the wildlife from the reserve and the domestic cattle of the Karamajong and Pokot who are nomadic pastoralists from Northeastern Uganda. The lake gets its water from the rains of Mount Elgon and the lake connects to Lake Bisina still through the wetland and both of them drain into Lake Kyoga. During the rainy season, the area floods with lots of water that access becomes quite difficult.
This site has an amazing population of shoebill stork which may not be encountered elsewhere in Africa. Swamps and wetlands around Lake Opeta are comprise of different types of plants including papyrus which hence offering a conducive place for breeding of the Fox’s weaver. The region also has wooded grasslands which also form good habitat for the bird species. This place is being protected so as to rescue the fox’s weaver from getting extinct since it is already threatened due to habitat loss.
Uganda has thirty three (33) Important Bird Areas and Lake Opeta is one of them. Since 2006, this it has been a Ramsar-listed wetland of International importance.
Apart from the fox’s weaver and shoebill stork, Lake Opeta is also a habitat for the papyrus gonolek which is also near-threatened, rufous-bellied heron and over 150 other bird species. This is one of the sites every birder ought to visit. The best time to visit Lake Opeta Uganda for birding and exploration is at the end of the year which is also the dry season and water levels have reduced. However, as its nature of drainage had earlier been described, remember to carry your strong waterproof shoes to ease movement around the area because some parts are muddy.
The lake has narrow waterways which lead you to through marshes that finally take you to wondrous hideouts of several birds. After finding your way through the marshes, it will all be worth it reaching the point where you can spot the Fox’s weaver. You will also learn about other activities done around this lake, for example fishing.
Road distance form Kampala to Lake Opeta takes about 5 hours and a half. It is situated far away for Uganda’s capital Kampala yet in a remote area. Regardless, the site is a beautiful place that has been appreciated by all people who visit it. The tranquility, cool breeze and the green swamps make the site magnificent.
Lake Opeta has been classified as a bird watching site by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. However, it is said that the numbers of the Fox’s weaver are continuously dropping since sighting are low these days. Good news is that Nature Uganda is putting effort in raising its number. It secured a grant from African birding Club to help in inspecting areas around Lake Opeta and learn more about the weaver’s population, density, distribution and threats to save the species.
One of the characteristics of the Fox’s weaver is that it is solitary, and the solitude is seen even in the breeding habits. Its nests exist at less than three nests per square kilometer. The Fox’s weaver commonly breeds from April to September while a few of them breed in November. You can identify it by its size, color and length.
Uganda has a range of sites for bird watching but no other place currently records the Fox’s weaver apart from this region.