Located in the centre of the historic triangle of Bagamoyo, Pangani and Zanzibar, Saadani National Park covers 1100km square. It is the only wildlife sanctuary in Tanzania bordering the sea. The climate is coastal, hot and humid. It offers a unique combination of both marine and mainland flora and fauna in a culturally fascinating setting. About 30 species of larger mammals are present as well as numerous reptiles and birds. Besides many species of fish (over 40), green turtles, humpback whales and dolphins occur in the ocean nearby
Gazetted in 2005, it encompasses a preserved ecosystem including the former Saadani game reserve, the former Mkwaja ranch area, the Wami River as well as the Zaraninge Forest. Many villages exist around the boundaries of the park. 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 coastal rain forests remaining in Tanzania.
Saadani village once was an important harbour-town and slave trading centre in east Africa. Now it is a small Swahili fishing village with about 800 inhabitants whose livelihood is mostly fishing. Other villages adjacent to the park make their living through farming, especially coconut growing.
After periods of Portuguese and Arab domination, the region gained importance in 18th and 19th centuries following a rising international demand for ivory and slaves. The actual Saadani village emerged 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. In 1886 the German protectorate`s borders were established. Two years later, the coastal people organized resistance against the Germans under the joint leadership of Abushiri bin Salim al Harth and Bwana Heri. On 6th June 1889 Saadani was bombarded and taken by Germans. Bwana Heri being considered by the Germans as an honorable enemy, he was told to rebuild Saadani.
Saadani`s and Bagamoyo`s caravan trade declined at the end of the 19th century while Dar-es-salaam rose to be the most important trading centre of the coastal region. Commercial production along the coast, such as rice, sugar and copra, which were exported to Zanzibar and the Indian Ocean, disappeared after the German invasion. These were replaced by cash crops such as coffee, cotton and sisal for the European market. Following the transfer of the protectorate to the British after the First World War sisal, kapok, cashew estates and cattle ranches were established in the Saadani area. Ruins of stone houses still bear testimony to the former flourishing condition.
An old German boma (government house) and several graves can still be found in Saadani.