Saadan National Park

Serengeti Located in the centre 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 (over40), green turtle, Humpback whale and dolphins also 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 & Culture Saadani village once was an important harbour-town and slave trading center 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 century 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 honorable enemy, he was told to rebuild Saadani. Saadani`s and Bagamoyo`s caravan trade declined at the end of 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 estate and cattle ranches were established in the Saadani area. Ruins of stone houses still bear testimony to the former flourishing condition. An old Germany boma (Government house) and several graves can still be found in Saadani.

Savannah 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 particular harsh conditions. Moreover different degrees of tree covers 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 weight up to 850kg, several herds of hartebeests can be observed grazing in Saadan National Park. The common waterbucks occur all over the park area. Weighting 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 also 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 wildebeests also 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 which is the largest of the Africa carnivores is also found in Saadan, although it is rarely seen. At night you may also 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 or velvet monkeys.

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Gemma Fergus

We had a brilliant trip thanks to our guide Leonard who has vast knowledge of the parks and animals... →

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