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The Sudd - A view from our expert author


Red-billed quelea by Martin Maritz, ShutterstockRed-billed quelea © Martin Maritz, Shutterstock

Please note There has been a serious deterioration in security in South Sudan since these pages were compiled, and some of the practical information here will now be out of date. In particular, many areas are currently not safe to travel. You are advised to contact your embassy and local agents prior to travelling. 

Shrek would be in his element in South Sudan, for among the numerous wetlands surrounding the White Nile and its tributaries is the world’s biggest swamp. It’s a veritable paradise for wildlife, although whether green, cartoon ogres are among them is anyone’s guess.

Also known as the Bahr al Jabal (mysteriously meaning ‘Sea of the Mountain’ in Arabic), the Sudd stretches across an area approximately 30,000km2 which increases dramatically in the wet season to more than 130,000km2. The water level in Lake Victoria, which straddles Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and is Africa’s largest lake, is largely responsible for dictating the water level downstream as rainfall in this region is in fact slightly lower than in neighbouring areas on the same latitude.

Known as ‘Sea of the Mountain’ in Arabic, the world’s largest wetland is home to a bewildering array of birdlife, with over 400 species to be spotted.

Owing to the vast surface area of the Sudd, however, as much as half of the river water fl owing into the swamp evaporates long before entering the northward flowing Nile. The water meanders through innumerable channels and streams, winding its way into stagnant lagoons, fields of papyrus and marshy reed beds. The Sudd supports what is probably the highest level of biodiversity anywhere in South Sudan. The five core ecosystems – lakes and rivers, floating plant matter, river-flooded grassland, rain-fed grassland and peripheral woodland – support more than 400 species of bird, the world’s largest population of kob antelope, and significant numbers of other large game. Patient tourists with a keen eye can hope to see hippopotamuses, crocodiles and the Nile lechwe waterbuck, and there are even reported sightings (though rare) of Lycaon pictus, the painted hunting dog. Birdlife is also diverse here and for bird-spotting possibilities. The Sudd is also rich in indigenous flora and much of the swamp is made up of naturally floating rafts of vegetable matter that can measure as much as 30km.

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