A calming coastal breeze blows through the palm trees. Under the tropical heat, white sand and blue ocean glitter seductively. Swahili fishermen cast their nets as traditional dhows slowly float by, their billowing white sails powered by a magnificent red sunrise.
The beach and the jungle converge in Saadani. It has all the qualities that make Tanzania’s tropical coastline and islands so popular with European sun lovers. It is the only wildlife refuge in East Africa to have an Indian Ocean beachfront. But it’s also the only spot where your leisurely sunbathing sessions can be disturbed by an elephant walking by or a lion stopping by the local waterhole to drink.
Saadani, which had been under protection as a game reserve since the 1960s, was doubled in size when it was gazetted as a national park in 2002. Prior to the late 1990s, the reserve experienced severe poaching problems, but recent years have seen a noticeable improvement as a result of a coordinated crackdown on poachers focused on engaging neighboring villages into the conservation effort.
Today, a startling variety of grazers and primates, including giraffes, buffalo, warthogs, common waterbucks, reedbucks, hartebeests, wildebeests, red duikers, greater kudus, elands, sable antelopes, yellow baboons, and vervet monkeys, are observed on game drives and walks. More frequently, herds of up to 30 elephants are seen. There are also multiple lion prides, a leopard, a spotted hyena, and a black-backed jackal that live there. Hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of marine and riverine birds, such as the lesser flamingo and mangrove kingfisher, are frequently seen by boaters traveling down the mangrove-lined Wami River, and the beaches are one of the remaining significant green turtle nesting grounds on Tanzania’s mainland.