Saadani is a splendid place to visit. One gets to relish the palm trees as they sway in a cooling oceanic breeze. White sand and blue water sparkle alluringly beneath the tropical sun. Traditional dhows glide slowly past, propelled by billowing white sails, whilst Swahili fishermen cast their nets below a brilliant red sunrise.
Saadani is where the beach meets the bush. The only wildlife sanctuary in East Africa to boast an Indian Ocean beachfront, it also possesses all the attributes that make Tanzania’s tropical coastline and islands ever popular with European sun-worshipers. Yet Saadani is also the one place where those idle hours of sunbathing might be interrupted by an elephant strolling past, or a lion coming to drink at the nearby waterhole!
Protected as a game reserve since the 1960s, in 2002 Saadani was expanded to cover twice its former area. Sadly, the reserve suffered greatly from poaching prior to the late 1990s, but in recent years a marked turnaround has been seen, due to a concerted clampdown on poachers and the integration of adjacent villages into the conservation drive.
Today, a surprisingly wide range of grazers and primates are seen on game drives and walks: giraffe, buffalo, warthog, common waterbuck, reedbuck, hartebeest, wildebeest, red duiker, greater kudu, eland, sable antelope, the yellow baboon and the velvet monkey.
Herds of up to 30 elephants are encountered with increasing frequency, and several prides of lion inhabit the area, together with leopards, spotted hyenas and black-backed jackals. Boat trips on the mangrove-lined Wami River afford an excellent chance of sighting hippos, crocodiles and a selection of marine and riverine birds, including the mangrove kingfisher and lesser flamingo. The beaches provide one of the last major green turtle breeding sites on mainland Tanzania.