SAADANI NATIONAL PARK
Located in the center of the historic triangle of Bagamoyo, Pangani and Zanzibar, Saadani National Park covers 1100km square. It is the only wildlife sanctuary in Tanzania bordering the sea. The climate is coastal, hot and humid. It offers a unique combination of both marine and mainland flora and fauna in a culturally fascinating setting. About 30 species of larger mammals are present as well as numerous reptiles and birds. Besides many species of fish (over 40), green turtles, humpback whales and dolphins occur in the ocean nearby
Gazetted in 2005, it encompasses a preserved ecosystem including the former Saadani game reserve, the former Mkwaja ranch area, the Wami River as well as the Zaraninge Forest. Many villages exist around the boundaries of the park. 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 coastal rain forests remaining in Tanzania.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
Saadani village once was an important harbour-town and slave trading centre in east Africa. Now it is a small Swahili fishing village with about 800 inhabitants whose livelihood is mostly fishing. Other villages adjacent to the park make their living through farming, especially coconut growing.
After periods of Portuguese and Arab domination, the region gained importance in 18th and 19th centuries following a rising international demand for ivory and slaves. The actual Saadani village emerged 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.
In 1886 the German protectorate`s borders were established. Two years later, the coastal people organized resistance against the Germans under the joint leadership of Abushiri bin Salim al Harth and Bwana Heri. On 6th June 1889 Saadani was bombarded and taken by Germans. Bwana Heri being considered by the Germans as an honourable enemy, he was told to rebuild Saadani.
Saadani`s and Bagamoyo`s caravan trade declined at the end of the 19th century while Dar-es-salaam rose to be the most important trading centre of the coastal region. Commercial production along the coast, such as rice, sugar and copra, which were exported to Zanzibar and the Indian Ocean, disappeared after the German invasion. These were replaced by cash crops such as coffee, cotton and sisal for the European market. Following the transfer of the protectorate to the British after the First World War sisal, kapok, cashew estates and cattle ranches were established in the Saadani area. Ruins of stone houses still bear testimony to the former flourishing condition. An old German boma (government house) and several graves can still be found in Saadani.
The humid savannah of Saadani National Park can be divided into three easily distinguishable types: tall grass savanna with herbaceous cover growing up to 2m and scattered palms, short grass grazing land mostly situated on former sisal plantation and black cotton plains where the clay soil creates particularly harsh conditions.
Different degrees of tree cover can be distinguished: typical for Saadani is Acacia Zanzibarica with its long spines, which cover large areas of the park. Inhabitants of the tall grass savannas are the buffalo which weigh up to 850kg and several herds of hartebeests can be observed grazing in Saadan National Park.
The common waterbuck occurs all over the park area. Weighing up to 270kg these grazers can be easily recognized by the white ring around their tails. The density of reedbucks is especially high in Saadani National Park, although this medium-sized antelope (45kg) might be difficult to spot in tall grasses where they lie down for shelter. Warthogs are omnipresent and even come into Saadani village. As most of the villagers are Muslims, warthogs have learned that they will not be harmed.
The tallest animals in the world and the national symbol of Tanzania, giraffes, are numerous in Saadani National Park .Their tongues have special callus plates which make them particularly well adapted to browse on spiny acacia trees. Large herds of white-bearded wildebeest graze in the short grass savannas. They were released in the area in the 1970’s. Other introduced species are plains zebra and eland.
The lion, the largest of the African carnivores, is also found in Saadani although it is rarely seen. At night you may hear the hyenas and encounter genets, porcupines and civets. Other species which can be observed within the perimeter of the park are bushbucks, bush pigs, yellow baboons and vervet monkeys.
RIVER AND OCEAN
From East to West, the open ocean with coral reefs changes to brackish water ecosystem characterized by mangrove forest, salt pans and bare saline areas. Further inland, the Wami River is the most important fresh water source beside numerous temporary rivers and dams.
At low tide the sea retreats up to 100 metre to form a convenient passage for local people and wild animals. These beaches are the only place north of Dar-es-salaam where sea turtles still come to lay their eggs. The most common species is the green turtle, the largest of the hard-shelled sea turtles. Beside nest thieves on the beach, turtles are particularly threatened by commercial fisheries and water pollution. The marine extension of the park includes the Mafui sandbanks, whose colorful coral reefs are important breeding sites for many fish species.
Evergreen mangrove trees grow in the transactional zone, just above the mean sea water level. These salt tolerant tidal forests provide a resting and feeding place for many bird species, bats, monkeys, hippos and reptiles. Numerous species of fish such as prawns also lay their eggs in these protected habitats.
The high demand for the resistance mangrove wood leads to over exploitation, making the protection of these forests even more important. In Saadani National Park, large mangrove forest grows along the Wami River. This is also the place where large groups of hippos can be observed. Nile crocodile also live here. The Wami River is a very good place for watching birds such as kingfishers, fish eagles and many species of wading birds
FOREST AND SHRUBS
The less known coastal forest is characterized by a high biodiversity with many plants occurring only in this area (endemics). Forest plays an important role in protecting the soil against erosion and thus regulates the water cycle. Besides the two large forests of Zaraninge and Kwamsisi, many of the smaller patches of forest and shrubs represent an important habitat for animals. These forests and shrubs are vulnerable to illegal logging, charcoal production and farming expansion.
In Saadani, elephants are relatively shy and usually hide during the day in woody parts of the park. Leopards are also found in dense bushes and trees (thickets). Seldom seen, these animals are mainly nocturnal and can live in close proximity to humans. Other showy animals living mostly in woody areas are the greater kudu and smaller antelopes such as suni and duiker. The tree crowns are inhabited by colubus monkeys which subsist mainly on leaves, strictly nocturnal bush babies as well as many fruit eating bird species, insects and butterflies.
- Boat safari at the delta of Wami River and the ocean, mangrove vegetation, water loving birds, Hippos and Nile crocodile.
- Visit Green turtle Breeding site at Madete area.
- Visit to Mafui sand bank Island that opens during the day and closes in the evening, a sand bank where you snorkel in the caves with colorful fish and green turtles. A place where lunch and sun bathing can give maximum relaxation.
- Walking safari on natural trails of Saadani gets you close to nature.
- Day game drive.
- Night game drive for sighting nocturnal animals
- Relax on the cleanest beach on the coasts of Bagamoyo and Tanga, where one gets to see the sunrise.
- Clean beach and the Indian Ocean.
- Abundance of wild mammals like waterbuck, giraffe, warthog, yellow baboon, hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra, elephant and lion.
- Green turtles breeding site.
- Wami River.
- Zaraninge coastal forest.
- Over 220 species of birds including migratory birds.
- Historical remains.
- Swahili culture.
Saadani National Park is located about 44km North of Bagamoyo town. The park can be easily accessed through Wami River from Bagamoyo.
The Park can also be accessed through 271km drive from Dar-es-salaam – Mandela village via Chalinze town. From Mandela drive on a rough road for 61km to Saadani park entry gate. A daily public bus commutes from Dar-es-salaam / Bagamoyo and Saadani village to Tanga City and Mkwaja village. Furthermore one can get to Saadani from Arusha – Moshi-Segera-Tanga-Pangani OR Arusha – Moshi-Segera- Kwamsisi-Mandela which is about 561 Km. From Tanga city one can reach Saadani by driving and crossing Pangani River on a public ferry. It is about 3hours drive (130Km) on a rough road to the Park Entry gate.
Flight (light aircrafts) can be arranged to Mkwaja or Saadani airstrip from any part of the country such as Arusha, Zanzibar, Mwanza, Manyara, Dar-es-salaam etc. Zanzibar Island is about 40km away from the park it takes about 14 minutes flying from Zanizbar to Saadani Airstrip.
One can reach Saadani by boat from Dar-es-salaam, Tanga, Pangani, Bagamoyo and Zanzibar
NOTE; In rainy season (March-April), the muddy roads can make travelling in the southern parts of the park very difficult. It is advisable to inquire about the condition of the road before traveling.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE PARK:
It is advisable to visit the park during the dry seasons. However the park has lots of attractions all year round. From July to October is the best time for flamingo watching in the salt pans.