Picture this. You standing on a beach of golden sand with the serene invitation of the deep blue ocean on one side and the haunting intrigue of a tropical forest on the other. And, imagine lazing on this beach, while you watch elephants come in from the forest to frolic in the sun and the surf. Fancy canoeing through a dark and dense mangrove forest sighting hippos and massive crocodiles, while flocks of flamingos pass you by. That in a nut shell is Saadani National Park for you, a perfect natural harmony of marine and terrestrial wildlife. Saadani is one of the lesser known national parks in Tanzania, but it is certainly not a lesser one.
Saadani is located just 38 Km from the exotic island of Zanzibar and 140 Km from the busy Dar es Salaam and is East Africa’s only forest reserve that has a stretching coastline with the Indian ocean on one side. Saadani had been a game reserve since the 1960s; recently, in 2003 it was converted to become the newest attraction among the national parks in Tanzania. Under the direction of TANAPA its boundaries were expanded to cover a total area of more than one thousand square kilometers of diverse vegetation and animal population.
It has only been a few years since people have started visiting the Saadani region and a few luxury safari lodges and eco-community lodges have come up within the perimeters of the National Park and a few others outside the boundaries. Communication to the area has not been standardized yet, but it is possible to access the park almost all year round from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar with chartered flights and from Dar es Salam via about a four hour ride by vehicle.
A lot of people plan visits to the other more popular national parks in Tanzania, like Serengeti. But, Saadani offers to them a kind of exotic diversity that is impossible to find elsewhere. This coupled with the fact that Saadani provides extremely economical packages for weekend safari trips makes it one of the most alluring getaways in the East of Africa.
The Saadani region is home to a variety of wildlife including lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, spotted hyenas, black backed jackals, reedbucks, common waterbucks, wildebeests, greater kudu, sable antelopes, red duikers, warthogs, eland, vervet monkeys, and yellow baboons. And, once you take to the Wami river on boat safaris you can treat your eyes to some of the most exotic varieties of fish eagle, kingfishers, hammerkops, flamingos, hippos, huge crocodiles, and green turtles.
Adventure travel, including game drives, boat safaris, and bush walks are arranged by the safari lodges. Travelers also like to camp near the beach– spending their time in tranquility bird watching and canoeing into the brackish backwaters of the Wami river. In keeping with the spirit of eco-tourism fostered among the national parks in Tanzania, the authorities at Saadani National Park have also preserved some of the ruins from the nineteenth century when the region was one of the major trading ports in Eastern Africa, and sustained a fishing village that gives travelers a chance to get acquainted with Swahili culture.