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Saadani National Park – Where the Bush Meets the Beach in Tanzania

Saadani National Park is situated on the coastal area of Tanzania. It’s unique compared to other parks in Tanzania because it’s the only park that harbors both marine and terrestrial animals.

Saadani National Park covers an area of 1,062 square kilometers in the Pangani district in the Tanga region. In the 1960s, Saadani village residents invited the Tanzania Wildlife Division to help them prevent increased poaching in the present park areas. The local communities joined together with the Tanzania Wildlife Division and formed Saadani Game Reserve with an aim for coexistence between wildlife and the local communities.

Saadani National Park experiences a tropical climate and receives rainfall of 800 – 1200 mm annually. Saadani is the only national park in Tanzania with a beachfront, making it an ideal destination for those who want to explore the bush and the beach.

Mr. Domenican Njao suggested that the park be expanded to form a national park in the 1990s, and the park boundaries were extended to include Porokanya sub-villages and Uvinje villages as well. But the villagers of Saadani had been part of the conservation efforts, and when the park was established in 2005, TANAPA claimed that the current boundaries belonged to the reserve before. This was a challenge to the villages surrounding Saadani because the reserve map was 209 square kilometers, while TANAPA claimed it to be 300 square kilometers.

Saadani was once a slave trading center, but it’s now a fishing village. During the slave trade era, Saadani acted as a center connecting Zanzibar with long-distance trade routes from Tabora. Bwana Heri Jin Juma ruled Saadani at the end of the 19th century. He resisted all Zanzibari attempts to rule Saadani town and also defeated the sultan’s troops in 1982.

German protectorate borders were built in 1886. Bwana Heri, together with Abushiri bin Salim, organized the coastal people to resist Germans in 1889, but the town was bombarded and taken by Germans.

Dar es Salaam became more prominent at the end of the 19th century and became the main center of the slave trade in the coastal region.

Wildlife Watching

Saadani National Park has thrived with wildlife since its upgrade as a national park. While on game drives, visitors can spot animals such as sable antelopes, mongoose, cape buffalos, African bush elephants, lions, leopards, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, hartebeests, yellow baboons, red duikers, dik-diks, Masai giraffes, colobus monkeys, waterbucks, bohor reedbucks, hippos, crocodiles, porcupines, genets, Nile monitors, and so many others.

Birding

Saadani National Park is a birder’s paradise with several species of birds recorded. Some examples of birds you can find at the park include greater flamingo, lesser flamingo, crested francolin, red-necked spur fowl, white-faced whistling duck, Egyptian goose, palm nut vulture, African harrier hawk, black-chested snake eagle, white-headed vulture, crowned eagle, dark chanting goshawk, little sparrowhawk, common barn owl, speckled mousebird, Narina’s trogon, bar-tailed trogon, silvery-cheeked hornbill, green-backed woodpecker, crested barbet, white-fronted bee-eater, orange thrush, common rock thrush, pale flycatcher, white-browed robin chat, superb starling, arrow-marked barbler, northern brownbul, winding cisticola, red-faced crombec, golden-breasted bunting, yellow-throated longclaw, eastern paradise whydah, bronze manikin, Jameson’s firefinch, dark-backed weaver, yellow weaver, spectacled weaver, African golden weaver, collared sunbird, olive sunbird, plain-backed sunbird, blue-mantled paradise flycatcher, plain-backed sunbird, red-collared widowbird, black-winged bishop, lesser-masked weaver, red-cheeked cordon-bleu, house sparrow, African wagtail, yellow-fronted canary, eastern nicator, flappet lark, black-headed apalis, short-winged cisticola, mosque swallow, plain martin, spotted palm thrush, and red-billed oxpecker, among the rest.

Guided Nature Walks

One of the ways to explore Saadani National Park is on foot with an experienced ranger guide who’s knowledgeable about the park’s flora and fauna. While taking nature walks, you will be able to see several wildlife and birds on several trails in the park. Tourists interested in nature walks should come with good walking shoes, sunglasses, a hat, long-sleeved clothes, and insect repellent.

Mafui Sand Bank Island Tour

Tourists can also visit Mafui Sand Bank Island, where you can snorkel at the corals with several species of fish and turtles. The Mafui Sand Bank Island is usually open throughout the day.

Madete Green Turtle Area

Tourists can also visit the green turtle area to look out for green turtles.

Zaraninge Coastal Forest

Zaraninge forest is located at the border of Saadani National Park. The avifauna of the forest was unknown until 1985. It’s home to 2 endemic plants, 17 forest-dependent reptiles, and 10 amphibians.

Cultural Encounters

One of the activities tourists can engage in while visiting Saadani National Park is visiting the local communities. You can visit the local people and learn about their way of life, traditions, and beliefs. Tourists can also engage in the locals’ day-to-day activities or support them by buying souvenirs to take back home for remembrance or as gifts to loved ones.

Canoeing and Boat Cruises

Tourists visiting Saadani National Park can explore the Wami River on a traditional canoe boat or alternatively explore the Indian Ocean by a boat.

Swimming

The best way to relax after a long day of game drives or nature guided walks at the park is to immerse yourself in the turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Tourists interested in swimming should come with their swimming gear.

Getting there

Saadani National Park is situated 40 kilometers from Bagamoyo town. Therefore, you can access it by a boat cruise from Bagamoyo town. Access from Dar es Salaam is a 217-kilometer drive. Tourists can also fly to Saadani or Mkwaja airstrip from Arusha, Kilimanjaro, or Nyerere Airport. Zanzibar is located 40 kilometers from Saadani. Tourists can also reach Saadani by water from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Bagamoyo, Pangani, and Tanga regions.

Where to stay

Saadani National Park offers tourists several accommodation options to choose from. Some of the hotels you can stay in while at Saadani include Rest House, Saadani Safari Lodge, Saadani Park Hotel, Kuro Maringo, Tanganyika Coastal Campsite, Bab’s Camp, Simply Saadani Camp, Saadani River Lodge, Kananga Special Tented Camp, Saadani Tourist Center, Changuu Private Island Paradise, The Roof of Saadani, Wami River Bush Retreat, Safari Mashariki Lodge, Kisampa Bush Retreat, and Michokeni Condo Hotel, among others.

Best time to visit Saadani National Park

Saadani National Park can be visited all year round, but the best time is during the dry seasons of June to September and December to February when viewing wildlife is easier because the vegetation in the park is not thick, and the trails are also not muddy and slippery.

Zanzibar

Tourists visiting Saadani National Park can combine their safari with a trip to Zanzibar. Zanzibar is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean that united with Tanganyika to form the Republic of Tanzania in 1964. It is located 25-50 kilometers off the mainland of Tanzania.

There are many activities that tourists can enjoy in Zanzibar after their safari in Saadani National Park, including the following:

Prison Island Tour

Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, is situated a few kilometers from Stone Town. A prison complex was built on the island by Lloyd Mathews, the first British minister of Zanzibar. However, the plan to imprison rebellious slaves there didn’t work, and the island was later made a quarantine station for yellow fever patients. Tourists can now visit Prison Island by boat from Stone Town.

Snorkeling

Zanzibar’s crystal-clear waters, coral reefs, and white sand beaches make the island one of the best snorkeling destinations in Africa. There are many snorkeling spots on the island where you can enjoy snorkeling and explore marine life.

Jozani Forest National Park

Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park is the only national park found in Zanzibar, covering an area of 50 square kilometers. It is home to the endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkey, also known as Kirk’s colobus monkey, a rare species of monkey endemic to Jozani forest. Other animals found in Jozani forest include the Zanzibar leopard, Sykes monkey, Zanzibar tree hyrax, bush babies, 40 species of birds, and 50 species of butterflies.

Spice Tour

Zanzibar is often referred to as the “Spice Islands” because one of its main industries is spices. While in the city, you can explore spice plantations and learn how different spices are grown. Some of the spices grown in Zanzibar include black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, red pepper, garlic, cloves, turmeric, and more.

Dolphin Tours

Travelers to Zanzibar can enjoy Dolphin tours. The two main spots where you can easily see and swim with dolphins are Mnemba Island and Kizimkazi Beach. It’s advisable to choose Mnemba Island if you want to combine swimming with dolphins with snorkeling. The best time to book a trip for swimming with dolphins is during the dry season.

Dhow Sunset Cruise

The sunsets over the Indian Ocean are always magical. Tourists can enjoy a sunset dhow cruise on the ocean with a sundowner after a long day.


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