Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano that is located in northern Tanzania. Consisting of three volcanic cones: Kibo (the highest point of the mountain), Mawenzi and Shira, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, towering at a height of 5,895 metres above sea level. The mountain is part of the East African Rift System, a part of the African Great Rift Valley and is believed to have formed several million years ago as a result of intense volcanic activity. The Kilimanjaro is relatively young compared to the other mountains within the East African Rift and is still geologically active though its eruptions are now rare.
Climate & Ecosystems
Kilimanjaro has a unique climate which varies with altitude. Starting from the tropical rainforests below, the vegetation gradually changes to moorland and alpine desert landscapes on the highest elevations. The summit is often snow-capped and has glaciers which are rapidly receding due to global warming. The mountain is divided into five climatic zones, each of which supports a unique ecosystem.
The lowest zone is the tropical rainforest, starting at the mountain’s base up to about 9,000 feet. This zone is known for its lush vegetation, including moist and hardwood forests, viny lianas and a variety of mosses, lichens and ferns.
The Montane forest follows the rainforest and extends up to 12,200 feet in elevation. This zone is characterized by shorter trees, such as evergreen and deciduous oaks, firs and cypresses, and other unique species such as laurels and pines.
Above the Montane forest is a zone of grass and shrub-covered plateaus where crops such as maize, potatoes, barley, groundnuts and sweet potatoes are grown in small plots by local farmers.
Above this zone is the heather, moor and senecia zone which extends up to 15,000 feet. This zone is full of grasses and other short vegetation, including heather, Erica, Senecio and Helichrysim, and supports various wild animals such as antelopes, hyraxes, and buffaloes.
The highest zone of Kilimanjaro is the alpine desert, stretching up to the peak of the mountain. This zone is near the summit and is characterized by bare rock and snow-covered slopes. It is an inhospitable place with extreme temperatures and little vegetation.
Routes & Trekking
The most popular route to the summit is the Rongai Route, on the north side of the mountain, which starts in the rainforest and connects with the main Marangu Route at the Second Cave. It takes about five days for climbers to reach the summit, with an overnight stay at the peaks of Gilman’s Point (18,651 feet) and Uhuru Peak (19,341 feet). There are also other easier and less known routes, such as the Lemosho and Northern Circuit.
Trekking Kilimanjaro is a challenging but rewarding experience. Climbers need to be fit, have a good understanding of the local environment, and be well informed about the weather conditions and other considerations. Experienced guides and good quality gear such as proper trekking boots, warm clothing and a sleeping bag temperature rated to -20 Celsius should be taken along. It’s also recommended to ascend slowly, take frequent breaks and drink lots of fluids to avoid altitude sickness.
The Kilimanjaro is of great cultural significance to the people who live in its foothills. For them, it is a symbol of their history, identity, strength and bravery. It is also a source of inspiration for local poets, writers and musicians, for whom the mountain is a muse.
Kilimanjaro is also an important part of the country’s economy: it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Tanzania, with an estimated 50,000 people visiting the mountain every year. The influx of tourists has created jobs such as porters and guides, as well as additional income for the local communities.
Conservation & Future
Kilimanjaro is a popular tourist destination, making it vulnerable to over-exploitation and human activities such as deforestation, farming and illegal hunting. In recent years, the mountain has seen a decrease in glacier coverage due to global warming and more frequent droughts. These environmental changes have had a devastating impact on the ecosystem and its biodiversity. To protect and conserve the mountain, the Tanzanian government has implemented several conservation measures, such as banning logging and imposing strict regulations on tourists.
In spite of these efforts, Kilimanjaro’s future is uncertain. Scientists warn that the mountain may become entirely snow-free within a few decades due to the effects of climate change. It is therefore important to mitigate the effects of human activities and preserve the mountain in its pristine state for future generations.
Kilimanjaro’s economic impact is significant. The wealth generated by the mountain’s tourism sector has helped to improve the lives of local people and boost the economy of the region. According to a study conducted by Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, approximately 25 percent of the local population relies directly or indirectly on income generated by tourism. This includes climbers, porters, tour operators, hotel owners, food providers, and many other service providers.
Kilimanjaro also contributes substantially to the national economy, with the Tanzania National Parks Authority generating more than $55 million annually from entrance fees and tourism-related services. In addition, the mountain serves as a valuable resource for scientific research which helps to improve our understanding of the fragile ecosystems, climate change and its effects.
Health & Well-being
Trekking and climbing Kilimanjaro offers more than just a stunning view and adventure. In addition to being an enjoyable experience, it can have a positive impact on one’s health and wellbeing. Physically, Kilimanjaro’s high altitude provides an increased cardio and endurance workout, while its wild landscapes serve as a distraction from everyday worries and stresses. Mentally, the mountain can help to challenge one’s limits and facilitate a sense of achievement.
The mountain can also be a spiritual experience, offering an opportunity to connect with nature and contemplate life’s purpose. For many climbers, the experience of beholding the Kilimanjaro’s breathtaking beauty, surpassing physical and mental endurance, or simply pushing one’s limits makes the journey worthwhile.
Kilimanjaro is also a great opportunity to experience Tanzania’s vibrant culture and meet its people. The mountain is surrounded by small villages, giving climbers the opportunity to interact with locals and witness the traditional way of life. A climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro is also an opportunity for climbers to discover the hidden secrets of the mountain, such as archaeological sites and caves. Lastly, it is a great opportunity for visitors to learn about African wildlife, as the mountain’s different climate zones offer great wildlife spotting opportunities.
Myth & Mystery
Kilimanjaro is steeped in myth and mystery, with various stories, some of which are centuries old, woven around the mountain and its people. For example, the Chagga people, the mountain’s indigenous group, believe that spirits inhabit the mountain. They also believe that the mountain is home to a wild man covered with hair, known as the Genim or Kimweli.
Another popular legend is that of Lemanja, the goddess of fertility, who is said to reside at the summit of Kilimanjaro. According to this story, a young girl was climbing the mountain in search of the goddess and was never seen again. The girl’s braided hair is believed to have turned into the mountain’s icy streams.
Whatever stories are believed, the beauty and mystery of Kilimanjaro will continue to captivate and inspire visitors for years to come.