The Island was named after Mzee Saanane Chawandi, who was the owner of the island. The park, was established as the first zoo in Tanzania in 1964. The main objective was to promote interest and conservation education in wildlife, and also to promote recreation to the people of Mwanza town.
Some fascinating activities visitors to the Saanane Island can enjoy include, rock hiking, picnics, game viewing and bird watching, along the shores of Lake Victoria.Tanzania National Parks Authority state that between 1964-1966 different species of wild animal were ferried to the Island, and these included, buffalo, bushbuck, dik dik, elephant, eland, impala, black rhino, topi, warthog, and wildebeest.
Others were zebra, monkeys, giraffe, porcupine and crocodiles. However, wilder animals like rhinos were caged. It is important to note that the Island was upgraded to a Game Reserve in 1991. Last year, the Tanzania government through the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, announced its intention to upgrade the Island from its previous status as forest reserve and wildlife aclimitization zone.
The move, officials says, is expected to increase the number of National Parks from the current 15 to 16 next year. It will be the second National Park to stride Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest water body after Rubondo Island. TANAPA Public Relations Manager Mr Paschal Shelutete, says “The proposed National park would be a home to mammals like impala, rock hyrax, velvet monkeys, wild cats, clawless otters and De-brazzas monkeys.
The aquatic part of the park will offer all types of fish, crocodiles, water snakes and monitor lizards, other reptiles, including tortoises, grass snakes, pythons and agama lizards.” Saanane Island park warden in charge of toursim, Ms Rukia Juma Mallya says the proposed park could be a role model to other game parks, “The island gets an average of 250 visitors per month and between 180 and 200 of those are locals,” she says.
Already gazetted in 2011, the Island is also going to be the smallest National Park in both Tanzania and East Africa, with its territory measuring some 0.7 square kilometres comprising of both dry land and Water. The Park will command a 200 metres perimeter of water South and 100 metres aquatic corridor in the North. There is also a new proposal that would be released soon that include two smaller islets the Chandkende located in southern part of the main island into bargain, says the Acting Conservation Manager of the proposed Saa-Nane National Park Donatus Bayona.
“Local residents have asked us to take under our wing the two islands in order to curb illegal fishing, environmental degradation, as well as fighting rampant crimes because the waters surrounding the two land features on Lake Victoria will be manned and patrolled by TANAPA wardens,” says the Manager. He says plans are also underway to introduce new animal species to boost islands’s wildlife variety. Attractions to the zoo include the landmarks of Mwanza, huge rocks in the water.