Friday, 9 January 2015

Saadani National Park - January 2015

The isolated beach by the campsite is a highlight
After spending Christmas in the Serengeti and new years in Selous, the 3rd long weekend in a row in January could not be missed to get in to the bush again. After weighing up Mikumi with the rain around, we decided to check out Saadani National Park for the first time. 

The lack of game and the presence of a village in the middle of the park kept us away all this time but the possibility of leaving Tanzania without checking the closest National Park to Dar es Salaam was enough to make plans to check it out.

The bridge across the river at the Wami entrance
The great thing about the park is its close proximity to Dar and we turned off the Msata road a little outside Bagamoya and we arrived at the Wami gate before 10AM. First sighting was a hippo in the river when crossing the bridge and first mission was to work out the layout of the park and potential places to park. Strangely the gate accepted entrance fees while camping fees had to be paid at the Saadani village tourism office in the centre of the park.

Campsite backs on to an isolated beach
First stop off was at Kinyonga campsite on the banks of the Wami river close to the Wami gate. We also spotted our first game for the trip with some Wildebeest in the distance outside the camp. The camp itself has a great location on the banks of the river with good shade. 

However, the major drawback was a full time caretaker which spoils the whole idea of camping. After having a look around and liking the campsite we left with the hope of camping there provided the caretaker had left for the day.

Juvenile raptor we reckon
An Eastern chanting Goshawk made it to the lifer list just outside the campsite which was a heartening start as birding was the major focus of the trip. Next was the sea salt village in an attempt to find the river cruise site which we thought would offer some decent birding. 

Sea salt village comprises of big salt works and an attached village, an eyesore in the middle of a National Park, although technically they're not in the national park, as they have a small area set outside the park for them. 

We couldn't locate the boat launching site of the site as described to us, was not much of a launch site other than for an old branchless and leafless baobab tree.

European Bee-eater
The Saadani village was another eyesore in the middle of the park and the park headquarters was under construction and directed us to two possible campsites. The first is on the beach with good facilities and beach access while the road to the Tengwe campsite in the forest where the road abruptly ended - presumably at the campsite. 

The rest of the was spent checking out the part and lunch at the beachside campsite. It was apparent there was a total lack of game but enough signs to suggest there was some plains game but obviously very shy of vehicles thanks to the years of poaching.

African Hoopoe
After lunch we decided to the head to the Mvave gate to check out the Zaraninge forest. The road leading left at the Mvave gate was enough evidence to turn around and we decided to check out the ‘middle road’ running parallel to the main road and railway track. This was a decidedly more interesting road in terms of scenery but devoid of any game. We were back at the Kinyonga campsite only to find the caretaker which only left the beach campsite as the only option. We decided to back track on the “middle road” and saw our first giraffes on a huge flat plain. The tall grass didn’t help spotting whatever little else the plain could have harboring but we suspected little else!
White cheeked bee-eater were a common sighting
The recent rains had dried up the roads but failed to pick one such dried up mud trap before it was too late. Ignoring the detour we opted over what looked like a dried up mud bog but under the top crust was wet black cotton soil. It was too late before realizing the issue that required digging ourselves out.  

A deceptive crust sank under the weight of the car

Mud caked tyre is not much good for traction
Then out of nowhere and totally unexpected there was a Civet cat on the side of the road but went down in to the grass the moment we stopped. With plenty of quiet time the Civet finally appeared and walked towards a small ravine. 

We decided to get ahead and wait at the ravine and it paid off when the Civet reappeared and gave us a great sighting but the light was poor in the evening shade of the ravine. 

After giving it more opportunities to show up again and with no luck we left in amazement. This is a seriously rare sighting, only our second in all these years, and it made for the total lack of anything else remotely interesting.

A rare Civet Cat was an unexpected highlight
We set up camp for the night with some sense of satisfaction on seeing Civet and a new bird but it was plainly obvious why we hadn’t bothered to check this place out before. 

Besides being a decent driving park, there simply wasn't any game around or the game was awfully skittish. The plan was to get up early morning as usual and check out what was around and head in the direction of Madete gate on the Pangani road.
This Vervet monkey watched over our lunch
Overnight and morning rain restricted us to the main road but it was interesting to check out the rest of the park. Disappointingly even first thing in the morning there were villagers on bicycles on the main road and presumably little chance of spotting anything interesting. 

The highlight of the morning was the largest herds of Waterbuck along the road. We had never seen such big herds of Waterbuck which were relatively calm which was odd, but we later worked out that Waterbuck is not pleasant eating thus not as affected as much by the poachers.

Common Waterbuck was a common sighting
The game guard at the Madete gate reckoned the road in to the park was fine as there wasn’t any rain on this side of the park. The drive indeed was pleasant but devoid of any game and finally the rain had caught up with the track and we had to turn back. 

We headed to check out the ‘tent with a view’ lodge located outside the park. The lodge is beautifully located on an isolated beach and surrounded by bush. The folks at the lodge were trying to sell us the idea that they track lions and hence their guests have good game viewing. Possible I guess but it did confirm there were lions in the park and probably located close to this northern side of the park.
Pleasant drives with no vehicles
We headed back in to the park and followed a set of vehicle tracks off the main road assuming if a vehicle got through so could we. It was more of the same, pleasant driving but absolutely no game and very few birds. Approaching a small ravine a flock of Crested guineafowls was crossing the road. 

This was cool and only our second sighting and offered us the opportunity to shoot something – at long last! We stopped on the causeway and waited for the flock to appear in the dry riverbed. This was a nice sighting for a bird we have been chasing for a while and then movement in the trees alerted us to a troop of black and white Colobus Monkeys – it was all finally happening in Saadani :)

Crested Guineafowl

Flock of Crested guineafowl
The troop of Colobus kept us occupied for a while as they were all crossing the dry riverbed high in the tree tops. One by one they would make their way up the branches to a crossing point and jump across to the branch across the river. With the shooting drought broken and lots of rain around we decided to leave the park as it wasn’t worth camping another night and paying all the fees.

Black and Whites

Pondering a jump
Driving on what were harmless decent bush tracks after the rain was a different story but with more of nothing we arrived at the exit gate and heading to the Travelers lodge in Bagamoyo for a night of cheap camping. Immediately outside the gate was a sight to behold in form of a total disaster of a road after overnight rain and a water bauser making a total mess of the road. 

After checking the salt pans in Bagamoyo the rest of the evening was relaxing in the gardens of the Travelers lodge amazed at the total lack of birds and checking out a group of mongoose who lived on the premises. 

Travelers lodge in Bagamoyo has a cool camp site

1 comment:

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