We’ve been to some of the national parks in the so-called northern circuit of Tanzania in the last month, and honestly? We prefer Saadani. We went to Ngorongoro crater with the expectation of hundreds of other cars, but it was quite empty, so this was not something that disturbed us. Still, it has the touch of a zoo with the crater walls as the fence. It felt as if the animals were presented on a silver platter to you, no searching for the wildlife in hide, and the animals were really too used to the cars driving around the roads; sometimes we’d even had to honk to get the zebras out of our way, they wouldn’t care to move until the car would be less than half a meter from their behind. The lions were just laying under a tree and wouldn’t even bother to look up to check who stopped. We found it a very unnatural behavior and just not really wild anymore.

With this said, I think that Saadani has really a lot to offer, especially for those who do not just want to make marks on their checklist of wildlife seen, but to really get an African experience. Let me give you some points – and I will not mention the typical slogan of “where bush meets beach”:

  • Saadani has a big variety of wildlife to offer: giraffes, elephants, lions, hippos, crocodiles, hartebeests, waterbucks, reedbucks, buffaloes, wildebeests, bushbucks, yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, black- and white colobus monkeys and other more difficult to spot species such as eland, zebras, leopards, hyenas, the rare Roosevelt’s sable antelope, porcupines and aardvarks.
  • Saadani is one of the few places in Tanzania where you can do a boating safari on a river to see hippos and crocodiles really next to you (and not standing next to a smelly pool).
  • With more than 300 bird species spotted and identified in the park, ranging from water birds to eagles and vultures to tiny sunbirds, Saadani makes a good spot for bird lovers as well.
  • The landscapes are stunning – Saadani has about everything from candelabra trees to thick forests, acacias and savannas to mangrove systems, Marula trees, open savannas, high grass, flat salt pans and then the view to the Indian ocean on some hills.
  • This park is not on the standard itinerary, so you’ll meet very few visitors during your game drives – if you love to watch the animals all by yourself, you’ll love it.
  • Because of its mostly thick vegetation, there are hardly any open savannas where you’d need binoculars to see whether you just spotted a buffalo or an elephant. The animals will be really close to you and they’ll always check if you are not a danger to them. You’ll see animals behaving naturally and right next to you.
  • If you like to be active on your safari as well, then this is the right place: it’s not only sitting around in the car, but it’s an adventure to find the animals – track their footprints and droppings, check in which waterholes is still some water left, listen to the noises and smell the scents – sometimes the herd of buffalos is just behind the next scrubs.

Saadani is definitely not a “zoo” experience, but rather a reminder of safari 50 years ago. If you love adventure, seclusion and totally wild nature, this place is for you.

Here is why what we loved especially about last year – Enjoy!