The mighty Kilimanjaro sits atop a vast rainforest, known as the Kilimanjaro National Park, located within the Kilimanjaro Biosphere Reserve. Although the mountain itself is towering, the rainforest forms a broad gentler base and stands at an altitude of between 4,900 to 7,500 feet, providing spectacular views of the slopes, Mount Meru and the Rift Valley. This lush tropical forest is home to a variety of wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, leopards and monkeys, making it a popular safari destination.
Kilimanjaro’s summit consists of three main peaks, Shira, Mawenzi and Kibo, separated by deep ravines. Flanked by glaciers, the summit also contains a number of extinct volcanoes, including Oldoinyo Lengai. It was at this summit that Sir Henry Morton Stanley, in 1889, became the first European to summit the mountain.
From the summit, you can reach the summit of Uhuru, the highest point on the mountain. The views from here are spectacular and breathtaking, the highest peaks of the continent spreading out in all directions. It can take a trekker up to 7 to 10 days to summit, depending on the route taken and how often you stop to rest.
Experts in Kilimanjaro trekking recommend that you should be well prepared for the rigors of an ascent. Though the trek generally follows well trodden paths, the terrain can be unstable and there is a real danger of altitude sickness. It is estimated that up to 50% of trekkers may suffer sneezing, nausea, headaches and fatigue due to the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. Poor preparation, insufficient water, skipping meals, and exposure to sun and wind can all contribute to a more dangerous journey.
The Climbs of Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro has six official routes to the summit: Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Umbwe, Shira and Lemosho. Each of these routes is unique, presenting its own set of challenges. Machame, often called the Whiskey Route due to its challenging nature, is the most popular of all six tracks. Situated in the south western part of the mountain, it is the most dense with flora and wildlife. It is also considered to be the most beautiful one with picturesque views along the way.
Marangu, also known as the Coca-Cola Route, is situated in the south east and is the most widely used path to the summit of Kilimanjaro. This is the least challenging route, however it is also the least scenic. This is due to the same route being used for the ascent and the descent and the limited number of campsites.
Rongai is the northernmost route and is thought to be the second most popular route. Rongai is more remote than the other routes and does not pass through the higher altitude zones of the mountain, providing instead views of the rolling grassy and shrub-covered lower slopes.
Umbwe is the shortest, toughest and least popular route, for the experienced trekker only. It is a very steep climb, but with stunning views along the way, and is recommended to those who are highly fit and well prepared.
The Shira route also presents some very challenging terrain, however is a much prettier alternative compared to the Machame or marangu routes.
The Lemosho route, the longest and least-trafficked route to Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit, is the perfect option for those looking for an unforgettable trekking experience. With the longest ascent of any route and limited ascents and descents, this route allows trekkers time to properly acclimatize and to take in the scenery.
The Animals of Kilimanjaro
The wildlife around Kilimanjaro is varied and beautiful, including large mammals such as buffalos, elephants, giraffes and antelopes, supported by a host of smaller creatures such as bush pigs, antelope, dik-diks, and mongooses.
At the higher altitudes, the wildlife is less common, though you can still spot large herds of the elusive antelopes occasionally making their way across the landscape. These animals, together with large flocks of guinea fowl, meerkats and zebra, are the only living creatures able to thrive in the harsh environment of Kilimanjaro.
The forest is also home to a variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians. The numerous streams and rivers contain dozens of species of fish, with the highest being the Ngorongoro Trout. On the higher altitudes, there exist a number of snow-dependent species, such as the Abbot’s Duiker, a particular species of antelope found only on the mountain.
The Kilimanjaro National Park is also renowned for its diversity of butterflies. Scientists have identified over 300 species of butterflies, with some existing exclusively around this location. The White-winged Saltator, for example, is only found within a 50 mile radius of the mountain.
The Glaciers of Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro has several glaciers, though many of these are retreating at an alarming rate. Scientists believe that the glaciers could disappear within the next two decades, and their disappearance will have a significant impact on the ecology of the mountain.
The Furtwängler Glacier is the largest of Kilimanjaro’s remaining glaciers, and is tucked away on the western side of the mountain. This glacier mostly survived the previous century due to its depth, which kept it out of the reach of the sunlight. Its neighbour, the Rebmann Glacier, is retreating quickly due to its shallow depth and the effects of climate change.
The Northern and Southern Icefields on the main summit of Kilimanjaro are also retreating, though overall their retreat rate is slower than that of the Rebmann Glacier. The Eastern Icefield, located beneath Shira Plateau, is the only glacier to have grown slightly over the past few decades, though it too is still in retreat.
The encroaching snowline and melting icecaps are likely to have drastic consequences for the region. The ice acts as a water reservoir, capturing rainfall and snow melt and then releasing it slowly into the rivers as temperatures rise. If this water is lost, it could cause drought, famine and death.
The Trekking Economy
Kilimanjaro is an important economic factor for the people living in the area, with revenues from trekking supporting a vast number of local businesses. The Tanzanian government has also developed an entire industry around the fame of the mountain, with tourists being encouraged to trek to the summit as part of their African safari.
Trekking up Kilimanjaro has had a dramatic effect on the local economy, in particular providing jobs for the people living in the area. This has attracted many international trekkers, drawn by the lure of tackling the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. The Tanzanian government provides a number of packages for those looking for a guided trek, which include medical support and all the necessary equipment required for the ascent.
Once at the summit, trekkers can spend their hard-earned money in the numerous souvenir shops and restaurants, as well as on souvenir t-shirts, hats and other goods. This has helped to ensure that trekking Kilimanjaro is an economically viable business, and a key source of income for hundreds of people living near the mountain.
The Role Of The Tourist
The flourishing Trekking economy is dependent upon the tourists who come to conquer Kilimanjaro’s summit. It is therefore important that they are respectful of the local environment and culture and that they take care to not spoil or damage the flora and fauna in the region.
When trekking, it is important to respect the rules and regulations of the Kilimanjaro National Park. There is a strict Leave No Trace policy and trekkers must take all their rubbish with them and dispose of it properly.
It is also vital to be aware of the possible health risks posed by the climb, including dehydration and altitude sickness. Many people underestimate the rigors of tackling Kilimanjaro, and as such it is essential to be properly prepared.
Tourists should also be sure to plan their trek carefully, ensuring that all the required equipment is taken. If you are visiting for the first time, it is best to take a guided trek, especially if you are unfamiliar with the customs of the area.
Finally, it is important to remember the reason that you are visiting Kilimanjaro. To attempt to climb the highest free standing mountain in the world is an amazing feat, and one that should be appreciated and celebrated.
The Majesty Of Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro is a majestic mountain, with its steep slopes, breathtaking views and impressive glaciers. Trekking to the summit is an incredible challenge and an incredible experience, and one that you will never forget.
The area around Kilimanjaro is steeped in history and culture and provides a unique insight into the life of the local people. The animals, birds, and plants that call this region their home are both beautiful and diverse, providing a living history of the African landscape.
Kilimanjaro has been an enduring symbol for generations of Africans, providing hope in moments of despair and joy in moments of celebration. It is both a place of pilgrimage for the local people and a destination for tourists from around the world.
Trekking up Kilimanjaro is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime as you summit the highest peak on the African continent. You will be amongst the clouds and surrounded by beauty and wonder, whilst standing at the highest point on the African continent.
The Local Impact Of Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro’s popularity provides much needed resources for the local Tanzanian people, with many benefiting from the increasing numbers of tourists flocking to climb the peak. This in turn helps to create jobs and provides much needed funds for the local economy.
The mountain also has a spiritual significance to the local people and is a source of pride and identity. It is seen as a sacred place and is visited for ritual ceremonies and pilgrimages.
Kilimanjaro is an important part of the life of the local people, and its beauty and majesty ensures that it will remain an inspiration for generations to come.
The natural environment of Kilimanjaro has suffered greatly in recent years, as many of the glaciers and rainforest systems have been destroyed by increasing temperatures and human activity. It is important that tourists are aware of the potential impact of their visit and take steps to protect and preserve this unique and fragile eco-system.
Kilimanjaro is a fragile and sacred environment and it is essential that efforts are made to preserve and protect this iconic landmark. As part of their commitment to environmental preservation, the Tanzanian Government has instituted several measures to ensure that this is achieved.
Efforts are underway to replant the rainforest and reintroduce the lost wildlife. The government has also created a number of conservation programs and educational initiatives to encourage the local people to take responsibility for the protection and preservation of Kilimanjaro and its surrounding areas.
In addition, the government has developed sustainable trekking packages to ensure that the influx of visitors to the mountain is managed in a responsible manner. This includes regulations and policies to ensure that the mountain is not damaged or over-exploited
By taking responsibility and protecting the environment and ecosystems which surround it, Kilimanjaro will remain a majestic and awe-inspiring site year after year, inspiring generations to come.