Saanane Island National Park

Quick facts:

Region: Mwanza

Access: By boat

Attractions: Lake Victoria, animals, jumping stone

Activities: Hiking, zoo, camping, picnic

Accommodation: Available nearby

Best time to visit: All year round

First established as an animal garden in 1964, Saanane Island National Park is Tanzania's first-ever zoo

Saanane National Park is one of the island national parks in Tanzania, along with Rubondo Island National Park. It holds the distinction of being the smallest national park in East Africa and the first to be situated within a city center. This petite park boasts a rich history and diverse wildlife despite its size of only 2.18 square kilometers

Saanane’s journey began in 1964 when it was established as an animal garden, pioneering the concept of zoos in Tanzania. Between 1964 and 1966 various wild animals were gradually introduced to the garden. These included wildebeests, zebras, antelopes/impalas and porcupines among others. Currently, there is also a lion’s den with a few lions living within. There is also a separate cage for peacocks on the other side of the park

In 1991, recognizing its ecological significance, it was upgraded to a forest game reserve. Finally, in 2013, following an agreement by the national assembly in December 2012, Saanane was declared a national park, solidifying its role as a crucial conservation area

The island bears the name of Mzee Saanane Chawandi, a local farmer and fisherman who originally owned the land. As the government saw the potential for conservation and education, they relocated Mzee Saanane to the nearby Gabalema island, forever etching his name in the park’s history

In a series of air campaigns during the Uganda-Tanzania War of 1978-1979, unfortunately, the park, then known as “Saa Nane Island Game Sanctuary,” was accidentally bombed on 29 March 1979. Several animals were lost as a result but the garden maintained its status

Saanane National Park is one of the island national parks in Tanzania, along with Rubondo Island National Park. It holds the distinction of being the smallest national park in East Africa and the first to be situated within a city center. This petite park boasts a rich history and diverse wildlife despite its size of only 2.18 square kilometers

Saanane’s journey began in 1964 when it was established as an animal garden, pioneering the concept of zoos in Tanzania. Between 1964 and 1966 various wild animals were gradually introduced to the garden. These included wildebeests, zebras, antelopes/impalas and porcupines among others. Currently, there is also a lion’s den with a few lions living within. There is also a separate cage for peacocks on the other side of the park

In 1991, recognizing its ecological significance, it was upgraded

to a forest game reserve. Finally, in 2013, following an agreement by the national assembly in December 2012, Saanane was declared a national park, solidifying its role as a crucial conservation area

The island bears the name of Mzee Saanane Chawandi, a local farmer and fisherman who originally owned the land. As the government saw the potential for conservation and education, they relocated Mzee Saanane to the nearby Gabalema island, forever etching his name in the park’s history

In a series of air campaigns during the Uganda-Tanzania War of 1978-1979, unfortunately, the park, then known as “Saa Nane Island Game Sanctuary,” was accidentally bombed on 29 March 1979. Several animals were lost as a result but the garden maintained its status

Saanane Island National Park is the smallest park in East Africa and the fisrtto be found within the city centre

Interesting facts about Saanane Island National Park

  • Saanane Island National Park holds the record for being Tanzania’s first-ever zoo when it was established in 1964
  • It is the smallest national park in East Africa, covering just 2.18 square kilometres
  • Found in Mwanza, Tanzania, it is the only national park within East Africa that is located in the city centre

Getting to Saanane Island National Park

Saanane is found within a kilometre of Mwanza city centre. As an island national park, Saanane Island can only be accessed by boat. These boats are operated by TANAPA and you’ll only pay for them while paying for other park fees. The boats can be shared or you may book it for yourself. As of November 2023, the total costs for the entrance and solo boat cruise was TZS 47,200/= for locals. The boat ride takes about 7-12 minutes to reach the national park

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