Located in the blue waters of Lake Victoria on the Tanzania side, Saanane Island National Park is an island hugged by weathered granite boulders. The Island National Park covers a meagre 2,18 square kilometres of rugged greenery and is the only national park that forms part of a city, albeit off the mainland.
This is East Africa’s smallest national park and is a protected area for fauna and flora. The national park is the place to spot the old-world De-Brazza’s monkeys, one of the highlights of visiting the island. Pythons, monitor lizards, reptiles and aquatic creatures populate the rocky island, while crocodiles dominate the shores.
The sapphire waters of Lake Victoria render the perfect habitat for Tilapia, Nile perch and crocodiles. Views of the lake and the mainland from the island make Saanane a destination worth visiting. Boating, island walks and picnics are the order of the day at Saanane.
Visitors to the island will need to take a quick boat trip from the mainland city of Mwanza, which is the main city of the island. The closest international airports to the city of Mwanza are Julius Nyerere and Kilimanjaro.
The park is named after a fisherman who eventually moved to another island when it was turned into an area for conservation in the early ’60s.
There are various primate species on the island, including vervet monkeys, as well as countless bird species like kingfishers and herons.
Saanane is an aquatic environment that provides the ideal habitat for amphibians, reptiles and fish. On terra firma, the lush green regions on the island provide the ideal habitat for game, such as zebra, wild cats, rock hyraxes and impala. The shy and character-filled De-Brazza's monkey and cheeky vervet monkeys are the main primates found on the island.
Crocodiles, Agama lizards, monitor lizards, otters, tortoises and pythons are all be found on the island, thriving in their natural environment. The waters of Lake Victoria provide a home for tilapia and Nile perch.
There are over 70 species of bird in the national park, comprising a mix of migrant and resident birds. Spot the African openbill, Rufous-bellied heron, long-tailed cormorant, African marsh harrier, cinnamon-chested bee-eater and pygmy kingfisher.
Saanane Island National Park is a year-round destination, but there are certain times of year that are more pleasant to visit. June to August is the dry time of year, which is the peak season.
Short bursts of rain occur between September and December, the time when the landscape is replenished.
The only way to get to Saanane Island National Park is via boat—an exciting adventure across the bright placid waters of Lake Victoria. Boat cruises depart from the mainland and provide ample opportunity to spot hippos, crocodiles and water birds. Boat cruises are normally two hours and include stops for picnic lunches on the island.
Hiking on the island is recommended. Bouldering rocks provide unique vantage points of Lake Victoria and can be reached by following the trails around the island. Visitors can arrange a guided walk or hike around the island with a professional trail guide. Pre-arranged day walks include bush lunches/picnics.
Saanane Island National Park is perfect for bird watching and game viewing on foot or a boat cruise.
There is no accommodation on the island. The island forms part of Mwanza city, which is located on the mainland on the shores of Lake Victoria. There are mainly hotels, lodges and village homestays located in the port area.