April 2011

Saadani: Where the beach meets the bush

Re produced from the Citizen

Sunday, 03 April 2011 11:21

By Elisha Mayallah

For long, the natural beauty of Saadani has provided a unique combination of land and marine flora in a major historical, social and cultural corridor. Today, it is also known as one of the most favoured honeymoon hot spots on its wide beachfronts.

With dazzling white sandy beaches, and a variety of tourist accommodation facilities, Saadani offers an unpretentious holiday destination. It’s the place for those seeking peace and quiet.

One-stop destination
From party animals to sun-worshippers, cultural enthusiasts to nature lovers, the Saadani is your one-stop destination that offers and exhilarating insight into the flora and fauna of a unique environment.

It also provides a different and perhaps the most intriguing alternative to the traditional game drive safari. Besides the usual game safari, there are boat safaris, canoeing, walking safaris and bird watching adventures.

At the entrance, the immediate surroundings, where palm trees sway in a cooling oceanic breeze, white sand and blue water sparkle alluringly beneath the tropical sun.

The short rains had settled the dust on our arrival recently, and Saadani on this day seemed perfect with the soft breeze, lapping of the sea, monkeys on the beach, traditional fishing boats passing by, the occasional thud of falling coconuts, crabs scuttling for their holes, the absolute tranquillity.

Traditional dhows sailed slowly past, propelled by billowing white sails, while Swahili fishers castled their nets below a brilliant red sunrise – all offering stunning views in the distant horizon.

Saadani is the only wildlife sanctuary in East Africa boasting an Indian Ocean beachfront; it holds all the features that make Tanzania’s tropical coastline and islands so popular with sun-worshippers. Yet it 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!

As we drove on, we watched two big snakes, similar to the African rock python, chasing a panic-stricken grant gazelle down the dusty road. The snakes soon gave up; however, keen to get back to their hunting mission they hurriedly tried to kill a dik-dik nearby as they turned. Luckily, the dik-dik survived, darted off like a jet fighter, leaving the hungry snakes angry!
There, emerging from the forest to cross to the beach, were over a dozen of elephants, their white downward slanting tusks glinting in the morning. Elephants mostly, we were told, are often viewed bathing and playing on Saadani’s beach, especially in the early hours of the morning.

The Wami River, which passes through the park, empties way down into the Indian Ocean. A boat safari on the Wami River is billed as one of the highlights of any visit to the park, offering high chances of close sightings of hippos, crocodiles and a selection of marine and riverine birds, including the mangrove kingfisher and lesser flamingo, while the beaches form one of the last major green turtle breeding sites on mainland Tanzania.

A flock of flamingos made a particularly dazzling pink display against the light blue background of the Indian Ocean. On the sandbanks, pelicans displayed their wings, and a colony of yellow weaver-birds overtook high trees with their intricate hanging nests, and a flash of red signalled carmine bee-eaters were in plenty.

We savoured (enjoyed to the full) the last hour with the gusto (delight) of sighting the wide range of grazers and primates: giraffe, buffalo, warthog, common water-buck, reedbuck, hartebeest, wildebeest, warthog, red duiker, greater kudu, eland, vervet monkey, yellow baboon and sable antelope.
Saadani’s natural exclusivity and quality of the various safaris that draw visitors here is surely a pack of adventures, and I felt greatly privileged to be here. Its uniqueness makes it another major tourist attraction in the Tanzania’s coastline.