Historical Significance of Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro, or Kibo as it is known to locals, is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It is located in Tanzania, just north of the Kenyan border and is one of the seven summits, a list of the highest mountains on each continent. It is situated about 320km (200 miles) south of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and is one of the continent’s most iconic sights. In the early nineteenth century, Kilimanjaro was considered to be impregnable and unconquerable by the local African tribes, making it a symbol of mystery, adventure and danger.
In 1889, German doctor and explorer Hans Meyer became the first person to summit Kilimanjaro and due to this, has since earned legendary status among adventurists and mountaineers. Several other famous climbers, including British mountaineer Edward Norton, followed in Meyer’s footsteps and have continued to attempt to conquer the mountain in more recent years. At present, visitors flock to the mountain every year to take part in the trek up to the peak, take in the breathtaking views or even enrol in a glacial research programme.
Kilimanjaro Climbing and Trekking Routes
Kilimanjaro has five official climbing routes, all of which are open to the public. Of these five, the Machame route has become the most popular due to its scenic beauty and challenging terrain. Located on the southern side of the mountain, Machame can also be culturally stimulating as it is situated through an array of local villages. Other routes include Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho and the rarely used Umbwe route. Trekkers have to spend between five and nine days climbing up the mountain depending on the route chosen, the level of expedition and acclimatisation.
How High is Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro stands at an impressive 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level, about the same height as Mount Kenya, the second highest peak in East Africa which sits at 5,199 meters (17,057 feet). Its summit, Uhuru Peak, is the highest point on the African continent. Anybody wishing to ascend the mountain must ensure that they are kitted out with robust clothing, waterproofs and all other necessary mountaineering supplies required.
Reaching Kilimanjaro’s Summit
Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is nevertheless one of the most awe-inspiring experiences in the world and the journey is usually divided into five stages. These stages represent a climber’s progress up the mountain, beginning at the base and culminating at the Kibo hut at the summit. During the climb there are various obstacles that have to be successfully overcome, such as steep ascents, cold weather, high altitudes and different terrains. However, if these are all navigated properly, climbers have the chance to witness an astonishing array of landscapes on the way to the top, which reward their determination.
Safety Measures for Mountaineers
Before setting off on any expedition, experienced mountaineers and treks would advise that climbers should be in good physical shape and should acquire enough knowledge regarding the routes and terrain. Acclimatization due to the high altitude is another factor to consider – the approach should be gradual, appropriate breaks should be taken and altitude sickness should be monitored closely. Climbing Kilimanjaro is considered to be a physically strenuous and demanding endeavour, however, if done right it can be an unforgettable and rewarding experience.
Kilimanjaro and Nairobi
Kilimanjaro and Nairobi are situated over a distance of 320 km (200 miles). In terms of airtime, the journey between the two cities can take between 2–2.5 hours depending on the weather conditions and aircraft. The drive from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro takes around 7–8 hours and for some, this can be done in one day with stops for lunch and sightseeing. For travellers taking the train, the journey can take between 8–9 hours, making it one of the most time-consuming options.
Nairobi to Kilimanjaro by Bus
Another option for making the voyage from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro is by bus. One route to take would be the Inter Regional Coaster Service, which has daily departures from the Ohlanga bus station in Nairobi to Arusha (a major city located near Kilimanjaro). This journey should take eight hours and cost around 3000 Kenyan shillings (Ksh). Note however, that the condition of the roads in Tanzania can be very poor due to potholes. Therefore, it is best to check the bus timetables and road conditions prior to travelling.
Flight Connections between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro
The most efficient and cheapest way to travel between Nairobi and Kilimanjaro is by air. There are several flights to Kilimanjaro from Nairobi every day and the prices could vary depending on the route and the airline. Kenyan Airways, Air Kenya Express and Precision Air are just some of the airlines that offer direct flights from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, with the journey taking around 2 hours. Prices for a one-way ticket can range from $145 to $310.
Getting Around Kilimanjaro
Once in Kilimanjaro, tourists can get around the mountain region by taking buses, taxis or shuttles. There are numerous taxis and shuttles that travel between different parts of the mountain and those wishing to climb the peak can either hire a trekking guide or do it alone. Trekking guides, which provide valuable information about the various routes and terrains, can be hired from various tour operators. All tour operators are required to abide by the terms of the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority, which sets the rules for climbing the mountain.
Safaris Around Kilimanjaro
For those that are not interested in climbing Kilimanjaro but still want to explore the region, a safari tour is a great way to go. These usually last around a week and travels through some of the most beautiful parts of Tanzania. Tourists can explore the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. In addition, they will get to spot some of the incredible wildlife present such as wildebeest, elephants, giraffes, hippos and more.
Planning for Kilimanjaro Trek
For those who choose to trek up Kilimanjaro, planning is key. Make sure to plan around the climatic events and trek season, as certain months may be too rainy or too cold. Select the most suitable route and allocate leisurely acclimatization time. It is important to note that five to nine days will be required depending on the route and the level of expedition desired.
Equipment Required for Kilimanjaro Trek
It is also important to make sure that you are equipped with the right items before embarking on the trek. These include trekking poles, walking boots, warm clothing (even in summer), sleeping bags and mats, snacks, a water filter and other essential items. Also, ensure that you are well hydrated to avoid altitude sickness and injure yourself. This can be done by drinking two to three litres of water per day.
What to Expect After Reaching Kilimanjaro’s Summit
Once at the pinnacle, climbers can soak in the magnificent views of the sunrise over the crater, the flat topped peak and the rolling hills from the highest point on the continent. The journey is also psychologically rewarding as well and serves as an affirmation of courage that is hard to find in everyday life. As one of the most exceptional endeavours of a lifetime, summiting Kilimanjaro is a beautiful goal and achievement.