Nestled on the shores of the Indian Ocean on the north coast of Tanzania, Saadani National Park is the only national park in the country which looks directly over the ocean. Its rugged coastline and golden beaches are perfectly complemented by Miombo woodland, open bushland and mangrove forests. This makes it a fascinating conservation setting because of its unique combination of marine and mainland flora and fauna, including green turtles, flamingos, African fish eagles, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and herds of elephant, buffalo, sable antelope and lion.
In 2010, the mobile safari company ‘A Tent with a View’ (which co-ordinates Imaginative Traveller’s fabulous Bush Rover suites) opened the Saadani Wildlife Research Centre in the grounds of its camp. The centre’s primary function was to study the growing elephant population in Saadani, and included collaring the elephants as part of a huge anti-poaching and conservation effort. Elephants were the cause of great contention among the local people after sixty coconut trees were felled in a single night by three bull elephants, and it was hoped that by providing better education that some of the threats to the species could be mitigated.
Since its foundation in 2010, the centre has continued to carry out wildlife research in the park, operating monitoring initiatives into green turtles, re-introducing zebra to the park, and, later this year, collaring lions from three separate prides in the park.
The number of lions has declined by 90% in the last century and it’s estimated that there are now fewer than 20,000 remaining worldwide. Tanzania is the last great frontier for these animals with something like half of the world’s remaining lions found here, both inside and outside the vast national parks. Saadani National Park and the corridor-connected Wami-Mbiki may easily be home to 200 lions – more than 1% of the global total – meaning this population is of vital importance in the lion conservation effort, particularly since they are the only viable coastal lions left on the planet.
‘A Tent with a View’ holds a close relationship with Saadani National Park, the two developing many projects together. It’s hoped that the Saadani Wildlife Research Centre will become a central part of the park’s strategy, providing visitors not only with an opportunity to see wildlife, but with the chance to learn about the complex ecosystem and how its parts interact.