Saadani National Park is an 1100 km2 area in the middle of the ancient triangle formed by Bagamoyo, Pangani, and Zanzibar. It is the only wildlife refuge in Tanzania with a coastline. The weather is hot and muggy along the coast. It offers a distinctive fusion of both marine and land-based flora and fauna in an intriguing cultural environment. Together with a great number of reptiles and birds, there are about 30 species of bigger mammals. Together with numerous fish species (over 40), the neighboring ocean is home to green turtles, humpback whales, and dolphins.
It was formally established in 2005 and now includes a conserved habitat that includes the old Saadani game reserve, the former Mkwaja ranch region, the Wami River, and the Zaraninge Forest. Around the park’s perimeter, there are numerous communities. Prior to becoming a part of the national park, the Zaraninge forest was under the management of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), whose objective was to protect the very high level of plant diversity of one of Tanzania’s last remaining coastal rain forests.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
In the past, Saadani hamlet served as an important harbor and center for the trade of slaves in east Africa. Currently, there are roughly 800 people living in a small Swahili fishing village where fishing is the main source of income. Several nearby villages rely on agriculture, particularly the cultivation of coconuts, for their livelihood.
Following periods of Portuguese and Arab dominance, the area rose to prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries as a result of an increase in the demand for ivory and slaves on the global stage. With the development of cities like Bagamoyo and Pangani as new trading hubs linking Zanzibar with long-distance trade routes from Tabora, the true Saadani village formed. Saadani was ruled by Bwana Heri bin Juma around the turn of the 20th century. He is the mythical founder-hero of the village according to oral tradition since, in 1882, he withstood all Zanzibari attempts to seize the town and defeated the sultan’s army.
The boundaries of the German protectorate were set in 1886. Two years later, under the joint direction of Abushiri bin Salim al-Harth and Bwana Heri, the coastal population organized resistance against the Germans. The Germans bombarded Saadani on June 6, 1889, and then captured it. Bwana Heri was instructed to reconstruct Saadani because the Germans saw him as an honorable foe.
At the end of the 19th century, the caravan trade in Saadani and Bagamoyo decreased, while Dar-es-Salaam grew to become the most significant trading hub in the coastal region. After the German invasion, commercial output along the coast that was sold to Zanzibar and the Indian Ocean, such as copra, sugar, and rice, vanished. For the European market, these were swapped out for cash crops including coffee, cotton, and sisal. Cattle ranches and estates for sisal, kapok, cashews, and other crops were built in the Saadani region after the protectorate was handed over to the British following the First World War. Stone house ruins still exist as evidence of the area’s former thriving state. There are still a few tombs and an old German boma (government building) in Saadani.
Three distinct types of humid savannah in Saadani National Park can be easily identified: the tall grass savanna, which has herbaceous cover that can reach heights of 2 meters and is dotted with palm trees; the short grass grazing land, which is mostly found on former sisal plantations; and the black cotton plains, where the clay soil produces particularly harsh conditions.
There are several levels of tree cover that can be identified. The Acacia Zanzibarica, which is distinctive of Saadani and has long spines, covers a sizable portion of the park. The buffalo, which can weigh up to 850 kg, and several herds of hartebeests that can be seen grazing in Saadani National Park are inhabitants of the tall grass savannas.
The entire park area is home to the common waterbuck. These grazers, which can weigh up to 270 kg, can be identified by the white ring around their tails. The Saadani National Park is home to a very high concentration of reedbucks, despite the fact that this medium-sized antelope (45 kg) may be hard to see in the long grasses where they rest. Warthogs are everywhere and occasionally enter Saadani village. The warthogs have discovered that they won’t be hurt because the majority of the population are Muslims.
Saadani National Park is home to a large population of giraffes, the tallest creatures in the world and the national animal of Tanzania. Because of the unique callus plates on their tongues, they are particularly well suited to browse on thorny acacia plants. On the short grass savannas, huge herds of white-bearded wildebeest are seen grazing. In the 1970s, they were let go in the region. Plains zebra and eland are other imported species.
Though it is rarely seen, Saadani is home to the lion, the greatest African carnivore. You might hear hyenas at night and see civets, genets, and porcupines. Additional animals that can be seen inside the park’s boundaries include vervet monkeys, yellow baboons, bush pigs, and bushbucks.
RIVER AND OCEAN
From east to west, a brackish water habitat with mangrove forests, salt pans, and bare saline areas replaces the open ocean with coral reefs. In addition to various transient rivers and dams, the Wami River is the most significant freshwater source farther inland.
For locals and wild animals, the sea recedes up to 100 meters at low tide to create a convenient path. Just these beaches are still used by sea turtles to deposit their eggs in the region north of Dar es Salaam. The largest and most prevalent species of hard-shelled marine turtle is the green turtle. In addition to nest burglars on the beach, commercial fishing and water pollution pose a serious danger to turtle populations. The Mafui sandbanks are part of the park’s maritime extension, and their vibrant coral reefs serve as crucial breeding grounds for numerous fish species.
In the transactional zone, slightly above mean sea level, evergreen mangrove trees flourish. Many bird species, bats, monkeys, hippos, and reptiles can rest and eat in these salt-tolerant tidal forests. These protected environments are also used by a variety of fish species, including prawns, to lay their eggs.
The protection of these forests is even more crucial because of the overexploitation caused by the strong demand for the durable mangrove wood. Around the Wami River in Saadani National Park, a sizable mangrove forest is growing. Moreover, it is here that vast herds of hippos can be seen. Here you can also find Nile crocodiles. Kingfishers, fish eagles, and many other kinds of wading birds can be seen in large numbers along the Wami River.
FOREST AND SHRUBS
The lesser-known coastal forest is distinguished by a high level of biodiversity and several flora that are unique to this region (endemics).
The forest is crucial in preventing soil erosion and so controlling the water cycle. In addition to the two big woods of Zaraninge and Kwamsisi, other smaller swaths of forest and shrubbery serve as vital animal habitats. These shrubs and woodlands are susceptible to illegal logging, the production of charcoal, and the spread of agriculture.
Elephants in Saadani are generally shy and spend the day hiding in the park’s wooded areas. Leopards can also be seen in tall trees and plants (thickets). These species are mostly nocturnal, rarely seen, and may coexist with people. The bigger kudu and lesser antelopes like the suni and duiker are other eye-catching creatures that live largely in forested environments. Colobus monkeys, which primarily eat leaves, strictly nocturnal bush infants, several fruit-eating bird species, insects, and butterflies all live in the tree crowns.
THE MOST COMMON ANIMALS IN SAADANI NATIONAL PARK
The creatures listed below do exist in Saadani; however, keep in mind that they are not common. When compared to the Tanzania northern safari parks, which have a large animal population, the experience is different.
- Cape buffaloes
- African bush elephants
- Masai giraffes
- Lichtenstein’s hartebeest
- Common waterbucks and bohor reedbucks
- Blue wildebeests
- Common and red duikers
- Yellow baboons
- Vervet and blue monkeys
- Colobus and White-bearded Monkeys
- Greater Kudus and Eland
- Sable antelopes
- Nile monitors the lark.
- Spotted hyenas
- Black-backed jackals
- Mangrove kingfisher and lesser flamingo
- Green turtles
- Hippos, Nile crocodiles, mangrove vegetation, and boat safaris are available in the delta of the Wami River and the ocean.
- Visit the Green Turtle Breeding Site in the Madete Area.
- Mafui Sand Bank Visit: A sand bank where you may snorkel in the caverns with colorful fish and green turtles is an island that is open during the day and closed in the evening. A location where eating lunch and sunbathing can promote the most relaxation.
- A walking safari on the natural trails of Saadani gets you close to nature.
- Day game drive.
- Night game drives for sighting nocturnal animals
- Relax on the cleanest beach on the coasts of Bagamoyo and Tanga, where one gets to see the sunrise.
- Clean beach and the Indian Ocean.
- Abundance of wild mammals like waterbuck, giraffe, warthog, yellow baboon, hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra, elephant, and lion.
- Green Turtle Breeding Site
- Wami River.
- Zaraninge coastal forest
- Over 220 species of birds are known, including migratory birds.
- Historical remains.
- Swahili culture.
- About 44 kilometers north of Bagamoyo town is where you’ll find Saadani National Park. From Bagamoyo, the park is conveniently accessible by the Wami River.
- The park is also reachable through a 271-kilometer trip via Chalinze town from Dar es Salaam‘s Mandela Village. Drive 61 kilometers on a bumpy road from Mandela to the Saadani Park entrance.
- A daily public bus connects Tanga City and Mkwaja Village with Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo, and Saadani Village.
- Also, it is a 561-km drive from Arusha to Saadani via Moshi-Segera-Tanga-Pangani or Moshi-Segera-Kwamsisi-Mandela.
- One can travel by car and take a public ferry across the Pangani River to get to Saadani from Tanga City. The 130 km (approximately 3 hours) of travel to the park entry gate is on a difficult road.
- Flights (light aircraft) to Mkwaja or Saadani airstrip can be scheduled from any location within the nation, including Arusha, Zanzibar, Mwanza, Manyara, Dar es Salaam, etc.
- The flight from Zanzibar Island to Saadani Airstrip takes around 14 minutes, and it is located about 40 kilometers from the park.
- From Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Pangani, Bagamoyo, and Zanzibar, one can travel by boat to Saadani.
NOTE: Traveling in the southern areas of the park can be particularly challenging during the rainy season (March–April) due to the muddy roads. Before leaving, it is wise to find out how the road is doing.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE PARK
Visit the park in the dry seasons if possible. The park, however, offers a variety of attractions year-round. The best time to view flamingos in salt pans is from July through October.
- The park provides both residents and non-residents who are visiting the park with a variety of lodging options and associated amenities.
- With a master bedroom, three single rooms, a fully furnished sitting area, and a kitchen, this vacation rental is close to the beach.
- Each of the Bandas along the beach has two rooms with four beds and single rooms for couples, as well as an outdoor dining area and a kitchen with a deep freezer, gas for cooking, and equipment.
- These amenities give campers the chance to spend the night at camping sites by setting up tents in the open campground along Saadani’s beach.
- Special camp sites: The campgrounds in Kiwandi are situated in the Zaraninge Forest; Kinyonga is along the Wami River; and Tengwe is in a wilderness area. It is encouraged for visitors to bring their own meals to prepare at the park.
- A Tent with a View Lodge, Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge, Saadani River Lodge, KISAMPA, Saadani Park Hotel, and other privately owned lodging options are available both inside and outside the park. For additional details, go visit their websites.
PARK RULES AND REGULATIONS
Due to the conditions on Tanzania’s coast and the numerous competing interests in the development of this area, the survival of Saadani National Park is threatened in numerous ways. The two most critical issues are poaching and the constant need for more land to support the massive and expanding human population that borders the park. Your actions could cause as much harm as a poacher’s snare.
Driving off-road in areas where it is prohibited harms the delicate soils and vegetation of these delicate ecosystems and can spook wildlife during crucial mating seasons. By following the broad guidelines set forth below, you can contribute to the preservation of Saadani National Park and its distinctive features:
- Keep to the 50kph speed limit. This is done to protect both the wildlife and you.
- Driving is prohibited at night (7 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
- Remain on the approved paths. Avoid off-road
- Never bother, feed, or otherwise disturb wildlife.
- Never step out of, stand on, or hang out of the car when an animal is nearby.
- There aren’t many places for green turtles to reproduce, and they are endangered. The adults, hatchlings, or nests on the seashore should not be disturbed.
- Marine life requires delicate ecosystems, such as coral reefs. Do not step on or break off from the delicate corals.
- Keep all plants, animals, rocks, bones, skulls, and other objects in their proper places in the park.
- Bring no living thing, plant, or object into the park.
- Picnic in designated areas.
- Leave no waste behind; either take it with you or properly dispose of it.
- To prevent a bush fire, put your cigarettes out in the ashtray of your car.
- Except at permitted campers, do not start a fire.
- Keep in mind that the park’s gates are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.