Saadani is where the beach meets the bush. The only wildlife sanctuary in East Africa to boast an Indian Ocean beachfront, it possesses all the attributes that make Tanzania’s tropical coastline and islands so popular with European sun-worshippers. Yet it is also the one place where those idle hours of sunbathing might be interrupted by an elephant strolling past, or a lion coming to drink at the nearby waterhole!
It is located on the north coast, roughly 100km northwest of Dar es Salaam as the crow flies, and a similar distance southwest of the port of Tanga. The park covers an area of 1,062 sq. km.
The park is generally accessible all-year round, but the access roads are sometimes impassable during April and May. The best game-viewing is in January and February and from June to August.
Protected as a game reserve since the 1960s, Saadani was gazetted as a national park in 2002, when it was expanded to cover twice its former area. The reserve suffered greatly from poaching prior to the late 1990s, but recent years have seen a marked turnaround, due to a concerted clampdown on poachers, based on integrating adjacent villages into the conservation drive.
A surprisingly wide range of grazers and primates is seen on game drives and walks, among them giraffe, buffalo, warthog, common waterbuck, reedbuck, hartebeest, wildebeest, red duiker, greater kudu, eland, sable antelope, yellow baboon and vervet monkey. Herds of up to 30 elephants are encountered with increasing frequency, and several lion prides are resident, together with leopard, spotted hyena and black-backed jackal. Boat trips on the mangrove-lined Wami River come with a high chance of sighting hippos, crocodiles and a selection of marine and riverine birds, including the mangrove kingfisher and lesser flamingo, while the beaches form one of the last major green turtle breeding sites on mainland Tanzania.
Activities that can be done in Saadani are game drives, guided walks, boat trips, swimming, visit the Saadani fishing village, which lies within the reserve, where a collection of ruins pays testament to its 19th century heyday as a major trading port.