Mahree’s Tanzanian Safari – Part VI

March 4, 2014  By: Gretchen

Mahree spent two heavenly weeks in Tanzania at the end of 2013 – we’ve been sharing her trip report in installments. In this latest entry, she enjoys Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge and the delights of the Indian Ocean!

“Africa gives you the knowledge that man is a small creature, among other creatures, in a large landscape”

-Doris Lessing


My African safari continued onward from Sanctuary River Lodge to Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge. One can make the transfer via river or road – although I think the tides may have something to say about that. We went by Landrover, and I’m glad we did or I would have missed the pink baobab tree.

One of the things I love about Africa is that you never know what you’re going to see. Among other things I’ve seen was a woman walking with a bottle of Coke on her head, a wildebeest with a giant plant stuck between its horns, and now a pink baobab tree. Yes, near the salt pans that lie near the coast is an ancient baobab tree in all of its glorious pinkness, made pink by the same thing that makes the nearby flamingos pink, the organic compound- beta carotene which is apparently quite abundant in the soil. You’ve gotta love this, as baobabs are kind of menacing looking trees. They have always made me think of those Wizard of Oz trees that just might grab you if you’re not watching them. So, to see a pink one is kind of like seeing a pitbull in a tutu.


Sanctuary’s newly renovated Safari Lodge lies within Saadani National Park along the eastern shore of Tanzania, with the Indian Ocean on one side and the open bush on the other. This is a perfect beachside/bushside hideaway with two pools (one overlooking the ocean), two restaurants, two  bars, a library, and dozens of tucked away private spaces to curl up and relax, read, nap, or have an interesting chat – all while looking over some kind of breathtaking view.

My newly remodeled Maridadi suite or private bungalow, opened up onto its own private beach. My bed faced an enormous picture window overlooking the ocean which is calm and glasslike. This part of the Indian Ocean is incredibly warm and gentle. At low tide, you can walk hundreds of feet straight out into the sea without the water rising above your knees.

Game drive - Saadani National Park, Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge, Tanzania

The ocean is teeming with fish, dolphins, and whales. Saadani National Park is also a protected nesting area for the green sea turtle. Every year dozens of these mamas arrive in Saadani, dig out giant nests in the sand, and fill them with up to 150 little eggs. After the teeny baby turtles hatch, they have to avoid awaiting birds, snakes, lizards, crabs and then make a run for it to the sea.

 Lichtenstein's Hartebeest, courtesy of Rose Ann Rowlett

We stopped for sundowners next to a waterhole where we drank with a group of elephants under palm trees, (a first for me) before heading back to the lodge for dinner. By the way, the sunsets here are among the most beautiful I have ever seen – and I have seen a few!

We gathered on the open deck of the main restaurant looking out over the ocean and were served a veritable feast of seafood pulled from the ocean that morning. Suddenly, on silent cat-like feet, a genet appeared at our table. Kisi, as the staff had affectionately named her, was a regular, and though wild she was no fool, and had learned that visitors were likely to slip her a scrap under the table – a whole lot easier than hunting. So Kisi has become a regular a mealtimes.

"Kisi" Genet at Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge, TanzaniaOther wildlife I spotted in camp included; a red duiker, vervet monkeys, and plenty of chubby bush babies leaping through the trees. After dinner we were instructed to meet at dawn near the beach for a surprise. I thought I’d seen everything by now but I was to learn I was sorely mistaken.

Just as the sun began to rise over the still, calm waters of the Indian Ocean we all gathered to find a small motorboat waiting. We climbed aboard and as the sea turned from shades of dusty pink and lavender, we set off toward the horizon – toward what appeared to be… nothing? About twenty or so minutes out, a small sand bar seemed to begin rising out of the sea. Apparently, just off the coast of Sanctuary Safari Lodge there is a sand bar that, depending on the tides, rises up during different times of the day. Sometimes it appears in time for breakfast – sometimes for lunch; creating a private little island. It then disappears back into the depths of the sea.

We docked our boat and our guides quickly went about the business of preparing a breakfast fit for kings; popping up a canopy, chairs and tables, while also setting us up with snorkeling gear. I waded excitedly around the perimeter of the tiny island finding things like a turquoise colored starfish and watching as exotic dhows sailed by in the distance. Some of us swam out to a coral reef to view a myriad of creatures – no sea turtles but I did see a huge spotted puffer fish which, I admit, gave me bit of a fright.

Dhow off the coast of the Indian Ocean

After drying in the morning sun and feasting on our private island, we boarded our boat (remember the island does eventually sink) and headed back to the mainland. It was on the way back when I experienced a moment to rival all moments – and no, I wasn’t drinking on the island.

This is quite difficult to put into words but I will do my best. The water was incredibly still, like a sheet of glass. The color of the sky and water blended so closely together that it was difficult to define the line of the horizon. It was as if we were traveling through a misty, violet space that was otherworldly – so otherworldly that I don’t believe a camera could have captured it. Suddenly a school of dolphins began leaping in front of the boat, not really breaking the horizon but moving in and out of the space, like perfectly choreographed dancers in the mist. They moved in and out of the light – as if gravity did not exist. It was a sight so hauntingly beautiful that it is now among my most treasured memories and I feel so rich for having such an experience. It seems an injustice to even begin to describe such a thing.

All I can think to write is this: There are few things so incredibly precious which deserve our efforts, more than the preservation and the protection of nature.

Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest photo, courtesy of Rose Ann Rowlett