Saadani National Park

Saadani National Park                     
Saadani National Park is the perfect union of beach and bush. Located just 70 km north of Bagamoyo and immediately accessible by paved road from Dar es Salaam, Saadani has recently become a fully protected national park and is a populare day-trip from beach resorts scattered along Tanzania's northern coast. The Wami River, which passes through Saadani National Park and empties into the Indian Ocean, hosts a large population of hippos, crocodiles, flamingos and many large bird species. Elephants are sometime viewed bathing and playing on Saadani's beach, especially in the early hours of the morning. A good choice for visitors based in Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar who don't have time for longer safaris to visit more remote parks around the country, Saadani is easily visited on a day trip or short weekend safari. It's elephant population frolics in the sands and sometimes venture into the crashing surf, which alone makes Saadani one of the more special and unique parks to visit in Tanzania. 

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Saadani National Park                               
Saadani National Park is Tanzania’s youngest national park, covering 1150 square km in the east of the country, north of Dar es Salaam. The park has the distinction of being the only coastal wildlife sanctuary of its kind on the eastern coast of Africa. It offers a completely unqiue safari environment, combining the most rare of recipes - river, bush and beach. The extraordinary Wami River forms the Southern boundary of the Park. From the open sea you can boat into the river mouth and within minutes you are passing pods of hippo and basking crocodiles. The entire eastern boundary of the park is set along the Indian Ocean where white beaches stretch to the horizon in both directions, and sand islands off-shore provide snorkelling and swimming.

After periods of Portuguese and Arab domination, the region gained importance in the 18th and 19th century following the rising international demand for ivory and slaves. The actual Saadani village emerged together with towns like Bagamoyo and Pangani, as new trading centers connecting Zanzibar with long-distance trade routes from Tabora. At the end of the 19th century, Bwana Heri bin Juma was ruling Saadani. In oral tradition he is the mythological founder-hero of the village as he resisted all Zanzibari attempts to occupy the town and defeated the Sultan’s troops in 1882. Bwana Heri was initially not opposed to European traders until the arrival of the German colonists. In 1886 the German protectorate’s borders were established. Two years later, the coastal people organised a resistance against the Germans under the joint leadership of Abushiri bin Salim al Harth and Bwana Heri. On the 6th June 1889 Saadani was bombarded and taken by the Germans, Bwana Heri being considered by the Germans as an honourable enemy was told to rebuild Saadani.

Saadani and Bagamoyo’s caravan trade went into decline at the end of the 19th century while Dar es Sallam rose to be the most important trading center of the coastal region. Commercial production along the coast, such as rice, sugar and copra, which were exported to Zanzibar, disappeared after the German invasion, they were replaced by cash crops such as coffee, cotton and sisal from the European market. Following the transfer of the protectorate to the British after the First World War, sisal, kapo, cashew estates and cattle ranches were established the Saadani area, ruins of stone houses still bear testimony to the former nourishing conditions. An old German Boma and several graves can still be found in Saadani.

Saadani National Park was gazetted in 2005, encompassing former preserved ecosystems the Mkwaja ranch area, the Wami river as well as the Zaraninge Forest. In 1969 when the Saadani game reserve was officially created, Saadani village elders were consulted and the loss of cultivated land was compensated for. Before being included in the National park, the Zaraninge forest was managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) whose goal was to preserve the extremely high botanical diversity of one of the last remaining coastal forest in Tanzania.

The Wildlife

Saadani proudly boasts Africa’s big four with Rhino the only illusive element. Thanks to the conservation efforts of the National Park services, animals and birds can now find protective solace from the ravages of hunting and poaching. Game figures as a result have been steadily improving with species once prevalent returning back.

The Tanzanian Mammal Atlas recently compiled the following list of mammals caught in their camera traps, seen by their staff or reported by local villagers: Zanzibar galago, vervet monkey, blue monkey, yellow baboon, Angolan black and white colobus, black backed jackal, wild dog, African clawless otter, honey badger, civet, large spotted genet, bushy tailed mongoose, dwarfmongoose, banded mongoose, spotted hyeana, lion, leopard, savannah elephant, burchellâs zebra, aardvark, warthog, bush pig, hippopotamus, giraffe, lichtenstein's hartebeest, blue wildebeest, African buffalo, cape eland, greater kudu, bushbuck, Harvey's duiker, blue duiker, grey duiker, sunni, common waterbuck, bohor reedbuck, ground pangolin, crested porcupine, cape hare, four toed elephant shrew, black and rufous elephant shrew.

However what makes Saadani a unique destination is being able to study animal tracks in front of your room on the beach. Lion spore is often spotted as they amble past the lodge at night and intertwine with nocturnal regulars like civet cat, genet and sometimes leopard.


Saadani is located in a privileged position; coastline is flanked by endless native vegetation. Towards the south of the park the Wami river provides the boundary line and source to bountiful fresh water. In the hills lies one of the last remaining lowland coastal forest left in Africa, Zaraninge. All of these elements combine to provide Saadani’s native and migratory birds a sumptuous and unique backdrop in which to dwell in.

As such the National Park and surrounding areas is blessed with a huge array of bird life, ranging from the commonly viewed to the exotic and rare: Fish eagle, Black kite, Cuckoo Hawk, Lanner falcon, Lesser kestrel, Purple heron, Brown-necked parrot, Ringed plover, Long-crested eagle, Greater flamingo and many more.

The bird list provided is far from comprehensive but a useful tool to help all you budding ornithologists.