Swahili Coast Travel Guide

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For centuries the Swahili Coast of Tanzania has watched as the winds blow traders, warriors, conquerors, slaves, refugees, explorers and now tourists past her shores. Palacial remnants of Persian and Omani kingdoms still remain. Ancient mosques dating beyond the 12th century can testify to the far reaching roots of Islam. Over 800 km of Tanzania’s white sands border the Indian Ocean offering picture postcard views of deserted beaches fringed by coconut groves.

Pictures from previous generations depict elephants roaming the beaches in Tanzania’s only coastal wildlife reserve. Marine parks offer some of the best diving in the world and the deep channels offer unparalleled deep sea fishing. Yet despite the mulititude of attractions, the Swahili Coast remains one of the least visited areas of Tanzania.

The proposed upgrading of Saadani National Park in 2003 from game reserve to Tanzania’s latest national park is a breath of fresh air for a long neglected sleeping beauty. As Tanzania’s only coastal wildlife reserve this is a unique natural environment offering the option of game viewing and beach all in one destination.

In addition to this Saadani is the closest wildlife reserve to both Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Whilst game is not as numerous as in Selous or Serengeti, game drives are surprisingly productive – but what makes Saadani special is the variety of safari options available combined with the ever present Indian Ocean. This is truly where the bush meets the beach.

The newly opened A Tent with a View Safari Lodge, located on the shoreline close to the heart of Saadani NP, has managed to mould the perfect harmony of beach and bush experience. Offering a boat safari on the Wami river, game drives to different areas of the park including an early morning specialised elephant watching safari, and a variety of walks from the lodge, time at the lodge seems to miraculously disappear.

It is impossible to identify the exact factor which brings together all elements essential to creating an unforgettable experience. Often called the ‘it’ factor everyone may have different views on what ‘it’ exactly is – one woman’s Peter Beardsley is another’s Brad Pitt. However the sense of peace which envelops the environment at ATWV Safari Lodge must surely come close to offering all things to all men. The luxury tented bandas perched on stilts overlooking the sea are nestled in a coconut plantation, and each is individually sytled on a Saadani theme making imaginative use of natural resources. Large balconies equipped with hammocks give an elevated view of vervet monkeys and baboons playing on the beach or a myriad of birdlife roaming the shoreline. Dhows sail past your peripheral view as they have for centuries. The ever present and gentle breeze blowing along the coast is surely playing a role in lulling the visitor into a state of total relaxation. So here lies the dilemma – should I just laze around, perhaps swim in the clear waters and be pampered by the attentive but unpretentious staff at the lodge, or should I be out on safari?

The obvious answer is to combine both and make the best of both worlds. With early morning, late afternoon and even full day safari options you are left with the flexibility to plan how you spend your time. Available complementary to guests are several guided nature walks from the lodge, a canoe is available for birdwatching safaris on the nearby Mafui river and there is even the option of guided night walks around the lodge environs. If you have never seen an elephant shrew I can assue you it is every bit as bizarre as it sounds.

A few days spent in Saadani N.P. leaves the visitor completely refreshed. This is a truly unique environment and the wistful glances back as you leave the coconut palms behind on the way to the airstrip are a sure sign that this is a place that has found ‘it’. The lack of any other tourists in the park means unrestricted game viewing and combined with the deserted beach Saadani offers a feeling of priviledge that you can experience such a delicate balance of nature all to yourself. Perhaps soon the winds of change will start to blow along the shores of Tanzania and the current trickle of tourists may develop into a flood.

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