Overview

Saadani National Park is unique in the fact that it is the only one in Tanzania that has an opening to the sea, which extends its range of wildlife with thousands of species of fish, beautiful coral, hundreds of species of birds, as well as the endangered green turtle, whose breeding ground is on the Saadani beaches. Wild animals abound, from elephants to lions to zebras to giraffes to wildebeest to warthogs and dozens of others.

coconut palms on the beach in the indian ocean - saadani national park in tanzania shutterstock_147112376

Highlights

  • +Sightings of green turtles (endangered species)
  • +The chance to view wild animals like yellow baboons, giraffes, zebra, lions, warthogs, elephants, waterbucks, vervet monkeys, wildebeest, and others
  • +Bird watching
  • +Snorkeling
  • +Sight-seeing
Interested in visiting the Saadani National Park?
Take a look to our hand-picked tours that go there!

About Saadani National Park

Saadani is one of the most beautiful national parks in Tanzania and one that is definitely worth visiting by anyone who is an avid wild animal lover and appreciator of gorgeous, natural wilderness and its unique beauty.

The savannah is an ideal environment for many of Saadani National Park’s most popular animals, including reedbucks, warthogs, waterbucks, eland, lions, zebras, antelopes, hyenas, vervet monkeys, yellow baboons and others.

Saadani National Park is known for its large number of giraffes, which are the tallest animals on earth and also the national symbol of the country. The largest carnivore hosted in the park is the lion, which is also the biggest carnivore in all of Africa. However, it is not often seen. Others, such as hyenas, for example, can be heard and sometimes seen in the dead of night.

Other animals can also be spotted in other parts of the park, moving away from the savannah and into the forest, where you can find leopards, colubus monkeys and elephants. In addition, there are hundreds of bird species, as well as butterflies and other insects that can be admired here.

Last, but not least, we have the ocean and rivers, home to breathtaking beauties of their own. From green turtles to hundreds of species of fish ro crocodiles to incredibly beautiful coral, there is plenty to see as far as aquatic life goes.

In addition, these are also the places where it may be easier to spot animals such as hippos, for example, but also monkeys, bats and reptiles. Watering holes are also ideal places for bird watching, as hundreds of different kinds of birds gather here for feeding and bathing.

Warthog on the savanna in Tanzania, Africa. shutterstock_227996155
colorful kingfisher on a branch - national park saadani in tanzania shutterstock_148618607
sea salt - traditional production from ocean water - national park saadani in tanzania shutterstock_153199685
lodge under palm trees on the beach - indian ocean in tanzania national park saadani shutterstock_147649172

Getting There

Saadani National Park can be accessed by water, air or road. A boat can be taken from Zanzibar, Pangani, Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo, or Tanga.

Many visitors choose to arrive by air, with flights being accessible from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Manyara, Arusha, Mwanza to Saadani or Mkwaja airstrip. Zanzibar, for example, is only 14 minutes of flight away.

Still, the majority of people prefer to travel by road. The park is accessible from Dar el Salaam (271 km) via Mandela, from Tanga (130 km) and from Bagamoyo (44 km).

There is a bus available, commuting on a route that includes Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo, Saadani, Tanga and Mkwaja.

When to Go & Weather

  •   Best
  •   Good
  •   Fair
  •   Poor
  • June-September: dry season is the time recommended for visits, if you are looking to go game viewing. This is the period when you are going to see the widest range of animals and will have the greatest probability of spotting them.
  • October-May: wet season is not as popular as the dry season, but it still holds certain attractions for visitors who prefer to come in this period. Especially for bird watchers, this is the ideal time.

Saadani National Park benefits from a tropical climate with two different seasons: one wet, one dry. Temperatures are generally consistent all year round and humidity is felt all the time. However, temperatures are generally higher during wet season, with an average of 33 C, while the dry season enjoys an average of around 30 C.

Close up photo of nocturnal, small carnivoran, South African Large-spotted Genet, Genetta tigrina, sitting on branch at night. Saadani, Tanzania. shutterstock_383501464

Additional Information

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History

The Saadani village used to be a center of slave trading, as well as a harbor town in Eastern Africa. Today, only 800 locals live here and survive off fishing. The Saadani park is surrounded by other villages, as well, some of which sustain themselves on farming, particularly growing coconuts.

After having been dominated by Arabs and Portuguese, Saadani became important in the 18th and 19th century, thanks to a demand for slaves and ivory, at an international level. Thus, Saadani village became a trading center between Tabora and Zanzibar. The German protectorate established borders in 1886, after years of the villagers resisting Zanzibari attacks.

By the end of the 19th century, both Bagamoyo and Saadani’s caravan trade decreased in favor of Dar-es-salaam, which became the major trading center in the area. After the Germans invaded, commercial production of copra, sugar or rice, which had been exported to the Indian Ocean and Zanzibar, disappeared.

Sisal, cotton, and coffee replaced them, as they made good cash crops for European export. After World War I ended and the protectorate was transferred to the British, cattle ranches, cashew, kapok, and sisal estates were set up in Saadani. Saadani still holds remains of a German government house (boma), stone houses in ruins, as well as graves.

Wildlife & Flora

The Saadani National Park is a humid savannah, and it contains three kinds of vegetation: black cotton plains (harsh conditions because of the clay soil), short grass (ideal for grazing, located on previous sisal plantations) and tall grass savanna. Tree cover comes in a few different types, including Acacia Zanzibarica, which can be found in most areas, with its long spines. The tall grass savanna is the perfect habitat for hartebeest and buffalo, both of which graze in the park.

The waterbuck roams all over the Saadani National Park and can be spotted quite easily, while reedbuck, although found in high density in this region, is harder to notice because they find shelter in the tall grass they lie in. Warthogs are also often seen in Saadani, and they know that the villagers will not harm them. Giraffes are also in high numbers, as well as eland, wildebeest, and zebra.

Lions are not seen often, and nor are elephants or leopards, but you can notice vervet monkeys, bush pigs, colobus monkeys, yellow baboons, porcupines, genets or civets, as well as butterflies and some species of birds that eat fruit.

Ecology

The Saadani National Park was originally the Saadani Game Reserve, set up in 1966. Since this became a protected region, the Saadani people had to give up the land they had been cultivating, so they received proper compensation in exchange for agreeing to leave the area for wildlife conservation. At the time, the Saadani Game Reserve was the only coast based one in Tanzania. Aquatic life, in addition to reptiles and 30 species of large animals were under protection in the reserve.

However, even though an agreement was reached with the Saadani village elders, that doesn’t mean that issues were not created over time. Animals sometimes feed on cultivated areas, destroying crops. Thus, someone (usually boys) has to stand guard and protect the cultivated land from the wildlife. This has led to some tensions. Another thing that has created problems is the fact that villagers sometimes burn or cut trees, which is illegal.

In 1969, Saadani Game Reserve was the Game Division’s first project and its aim was to develop the area through the use of natural resources and wildlife. They would also domesticate wildlife and establish game ranching. Later, in 1998, there was an effort to include the villages in the work towards conservation. The region now benefits from the maximum level of protection, thanks to its status of National Park, awarded in 2005.

Interesting Facts

  • The forest is very important in the ecosystem of the Saadani National Park, due to the fact that it regulates the water cycle and protects the soil by preventing erosion. In addition, forests are the natural habitat of a lot of animals, so they depend on it to survive and thrive
  • A zoological garden was also set up, to act as an extra attraction for visitors. In addition, there were also so-called “rest houses” that were built by the sea, meant to host Dar es Salaam dignitaries.
  • Originally, the Saadani Game Reserve was only 200km2, but in 1996, the European Union offered monetary aid in order for the reserve to be able to annex Mkwaja South, measuring 217 km2.
  • The coastal forest is not as well-known as others, but it enjoys biodiversity, given that a lot of the vegetation only grows here.
Interested in visiting the Saadani National Park?
Take a look to our hand-picked tours that go there!

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