The Saadani National Park
Saadani National Park is Tanzania’s youngest national park, covering 1150 square km in the east of the country, north of Dar es Salaam. The park has the distinction of being the only coastal wildlife sanctuary of its kind on the eastern coast of Africa. It offers a completely unqiue safari environment, combining the most rare of recipes - river, bush and beach. The extraordinary Wami River forms the Southern boundary of the Park. From the open sea you can boat into the river mouth and within minutes you are passing pods of hippo and basking crocodiles. The entire eastern boundary of the park is set along the Indian Ocean where white beaches stretch to the horizon in both directions, and sand islands off-shore provide snorkelling and swimming.
After periods of Portuguese and Arab domination, the region gained importance in the 18th and 19th century following the rising international demand for ivory and slaves. The actual Saadani village emerged together 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. Bwana Heri was initially not opposed to European traders until the arrival of the German colonists. In 1886 the German protectorate’s borders were established. Two years later, the coastal people organised a resistance against the Germans under the joint leadership of Abushiri bin Salim al Harth and Bwana Heri. On the 6th June 1889 Saadani was bombarded and taken by the Germans, Bwana Heri being considered by the Germans as an honourable enemy was told to rebuild Saadani.
Saadani and Bagamoyo’s caravan trade went into decline at the end of the 19th century while Dar es Sallam rose to be the most important trading center of the coastal region. Commercial production along the coast, such as rice, sugar and copra, which were exported to Zanzibar, disappeared after the German invasion, they were replaced by cash crops such as coffee, cotton and sisal from the European market. Following the transfer of the protectorate to the British after the First World War, sisal, kapo, cashew estates and cattle ranches were established the Saadani area, ruins of stone houses still bear testimony to the former nourishing conditions. An old German Boma and several graves can still be found in Saadani.
Saadani National Park was gazetted in 2005, encompassing former preserved ecosystems the Mkwaja ranch area, the Wami river as well as the Zaraninge Forest. In 1969 when the Saadani game reserve was officially created, Saadani village elders were consulted and the loss of cultivated land was compensated for. 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 remaining coastal forest in Tanzania.