Tanzania’s Saadani National Park is an unusual destination offering the best of beach and bush. Warm Indian ocean waters gently lap the shores of sandy beaches, while the long snaking Wami River cuts through the flat terrestrial landscape dominated by palm-trees and riparian flora.
This is the place where freshwater meets seawater and animals bask on the beach. It is one of the very few places left in Africa where predators and big game roam the beach. The inland terrain is complemented by the coastal forests, sandbanks, and beaches.
Located on 1,060 square kilometres of wildlife-rich terrain bordering the sea, this East African destination spills out over inland and coastal landscapes. Situated just 100 kilometres north of Dar-es-Salaam, and across the sea from Zanzibar Island, Saadani is one of the “must-see” destinations in Tanzania.
Mangrove forests, grassy savannah, endless plains of black clay, clumps of palm trees, and oceans filled with coral reef make for one of the most diverse ecosystems in Africa.
Saadani National Park has a national airport that is serviced by Dar es Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR).
This is the ideal park to combine a unique bush and sea excursion. With the Indian Ocean on the one end and wilderness area where various wild beasts roam, safari-goers get the best of both worlds.
Outings to the old Saadani fishing village can be arranged as well as trips to the other main ethnic tribes in the area.
Game viewing in this national park is varied because of its rich ecosystem. Throughout the park, the most commonly spotted predators include lions and leopards. The park is considered a protected area for lions and forms part of the Lion Conservation Unit. Elephants, buffalo, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, sable, giraffe and red duiker are just a few of the grazers and browsers to spot while on safari.
In the more waterlogged regions, visitors can spot hippos, crocodiles, Nile monitors, colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and genets.
There are 250 species of birdlife in the national park, which include the lesser-flamingo, sandpipers, palm nut vultures, rollers, malachite and giant kingfishers.
The sector of coastline is one of the last remaining breeding areas on the mainland for green turtles. Dolphins, humpback whales and colourful coral fish provide endless rewarding marine sightings.
Saadani is a year-round destination, but the best time of year to visit is between June and February, with peak birding season from November to April. For a brief period between October and November, visitors will experience short bursts of rain. The heavy tropical rains are usually from March to May.
Throughout the year, Saadani experiences tropical weather patterns, marked by a hot and humid climate. The mean annual temperatures are normally 29 degrees Celsius.
Saadani National Park is a hub of activity. The variety of excursions are centred around game viewing and highlight the spectacular scenery. There are several birdwatching trails within the park, which have been marked and mapped out. Routes loop their way through forests, coastal woodlands and flat plains. Both birding and walking trails are guided by a professional.
Guided game drives are given in this area and provide the perfect opportunity to cover vast ground while looking out for predators. Traditional Dhow trips, boat cruises on the river that lead to ample hippo and crocodile sightings, and fishing excursions are a few other activities to enjoy while visiting the park.
Snorkelling is one of the highlights of visiting Saadani—an activity that provides a different dimension to the standard safari experience.
Most of the accommodation in Saadani National Park comprises privately-owned beachfront tented camps and some fully-equipped bandas (budget accommodation along the beach). There are campsites in the wilderness zones, forested areas and along the Wami river.
Luxury bush lodges, retreats and safari-themed accommodations are in abundance throughout the inland areas of the reserve.