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Saadani National Park – A Hidden Gem in a Tanzanian Safari

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Tanzania’s wilderness jewels are often construed as merely the various elements that constitute the country’s “Northern Circuit”; for example the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire, but Tanzania has wilderness wealth that extends a great deal further than these obvious gems.

The south of the country, which is anyway a different biosphere, includes the Selous, Ruaha and Katavi and all of these will be to a greater or lesser extent on the radar of any keen Africa aficionado. Yet there is more – much much more! Other, almost unknown locations add value and interest to a safari without leaving the borders of the ultimate safari destination - Tanzania. One such location is Saadani National Park.

Uniquely located on the mid-northern mainland coastline of what is now Tanzania, Saadani is not large at only approximately 1,100 sq km although it is central to a managed ecosystem that spans over 2,000 sq km. The history of the area is crucial to what is now the National Park as Saadani village was once, with Bagamoyo, Pangani and the fledgling Dar es Salaam, one of the principal trading towns on this part of the East African coastline through which silver, ivory, slaves and other “natural” resource freely flowed.

The coastline has always also been economically important as an area where cattle grazing, pineapple and staple commodity growing and latterly, sisal production were prevalent. This meant that the area around Saadani, which is important to wildlife as a coastal haven that uniquely, includes some pristine coastline and beach, has always been under some pressure from surrounding villages as an area for grazing, crop production and charcoal burning.


Having been managed as a Game Reserve since 1966, Saadani was gazetted as a National Park in 2005 when its area was considerably increased. The Park plays host to over 30 species of larger mammal, many of which might often be seen on any Tanzanian safari (but where else might you see a buffalo or giraffe on the beach?!), as well as many localised species of bird, smaller animals and reptiles.


But it is also an important interactive ocean/landmass biome where humpback whales and dolphin might be seen on the same day as more traditional safari species. On land the ecosystem includes what was Saadani Game Reserve, a large part of a former ranch, a major riverine habitat (the Wami River) and the fascinating Zaraninge Forest.

This means that a safari to Saadani is not in the slightest “just another safari” but is actually a complete experience where some of the best of Tanzania can be brought together in one location - the Park itself, the coastline, the villages that surround the Park and a variety of differing grassland, forest and coastal habitats that are very much out of the ordinary in this hot, humid environment.

A visit to Saadani will therefore include game viewing by vehicle and on foot, cultural interaction with the villages, trips on the Wami River, exploring the beaches and obtaining an understanding of the history of Tanzania - which includes Arabic, Portuguese, German, British and most importantly indigenous influences – these are all fundamental building blocks to obtaining maximum benefit from a stay in or a safari at Saadani National Park.


The south of the country, which is anyway a different biosphere, includes the Selous, Ruaha and Katavi and all of these will be to a greater or lesser extent on the radar of any keen Africa aficionado. Yet there is more – much much more! Other, almost unknown locations add value and interest to a safari without leaving the borders of the ultimate safari destination - Tanzania. One such location is Saadani National Park.


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