Located in the center of the historic triangle of Bagamoyo, Pangani and Zanzibar, Saadani National Park covers 1,100 square km and is the only wildlife sanctuary in Tanzania that borders 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 boasting over 40 species of fish, green turtles, humpback whales and dolphins occur just off the shores as well.
Gazetted in 2005, it encompasses a preserved ecosystem including the former Saadani Game Reserve, the former Mkwaja ranch area, the Wami River and 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 (WWF) whose goal was to preserve the extremely high botanical diversity of one of the last coastal rain forests remaining in Tanzania.
Saadani village once was an important harbor-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 coconuts and other food.
A variety of trees, including Acacia Zanzibarica with its long spines, offer shade to several large herds of buffalo, white-bearded wildebeest and hartebeests. The common waterbuck occurs all over the park area and are easily recognized by the white ring around their tails. The density of reedbucks is especially high in Saadani, although this medium-sized antelope 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 also numerous in the area.
The lion, the largest of the African carnivores, is also found in Saadani although 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. 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 as well as the inland running Wami river. The beaches of Saadani are the only place north of Dar es Salaam where sea turtles still come to lay their eggs. Other wildlife found along the river include Nile crocodile, an incredible diversity of bird species including kingfishers and large groups of hippo to name a few.
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