Saadani can be visited as a year-round travel destination because the tropical weather ensures that temperatures stay almost constant through the seasons. The waters of the Indian Ocean are always an almost constant temperature too, offering pleasant conditions for swimming and snorkelling. The area does, however, experience very distinct wet and dry seasons, and this may affect the time of year you wish to travel, and the animals you are likely to see, too.
The Dry Season
The dry season is the most popular time of year to visit Saadani National Park and, as with the two rainy seasons, there are two distinct periods of the year that can be termed ‘dry’. This can be a bit of a misnomer though, as for one the monsoons can be unpredictable and secondly, it’s possible to experience rain any time of the year, so always be prepared for this.
Between January and February, you can see the wildlife in the park moving out into the by-now green and waterlogged savannahs and open plains to feed on the new dense growths of vegetation. This is a great time to enjoy the beach too, as this is when Saadani experiences its highest temperatures. This short patch of dry weather though is soon punctuated by the Long Rains, and the second dry season begins again around June and generally lasts until the end of October.
For those interested in the marine life of the Indian Ocean, the best time to visit is at the end of the dry season, when the water is at its clearest after several months without rain. During the rains, the water can become murkier due to sediment and mud being deposited into the ocean from the overflowing rivers that empty into it.
Most travellers choose to visit Saadani during this second dry season, not only because of the pleasant weather and ease of travel but because this is a time of year when the wildlife is moving to the watering holes and it can be easier to find them while on safari. In reality, though, whatever time of year you choose to travel, you are likely to spot all the animals you are looking for.
The Wet Season
Being on the east coast of Tanzania, Saadani is subject to two monsoons that hit yearly. The short monsoon is generally expected to arrive from the southeast between November and December. Known as the ‘Short Rains’, you can expect things to carry on almost as normal within the national park and along the coast. Be prepared for short downpours, but also be aware that the rain can at times be unpredictable and may cause disruption to road or boat travel.
The more intense monsoon arrives between March and May, and is likely to be more intense than the Short Rains. During this period, the northeast monsoon arrives across the national park and can cause road closures and flooding. Conversely though, despite the extra difficulties that may be associated with this monsoon, this is when the wildlife is always at its most active. It’s a great time for birdwatching and you will find the animals moving around the plains and the forests freely. Fewer people visit during the Long Rains due to the more difficult nature of logistics involved, but give this time of a year a chance and you may be rewarded with a view of the park that few others get to witness.
Saadani National Park is a prime region for birdwatching. Many visitors will travel specifically for the opportunity to see certain species of bird or to enjoy the migrations. While you will be able to see many types of birds throughout the year, the migratory birds arrive from as far afield as Europe between November and May. This coincides with the warmest temperatures – as they escape the cold of the north – and also with the rainy seasons in Saadani National Park. For optimum weather conditions, visit during the short dry period between January and February.