Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, standing at 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) tall. This dormant volcano is located in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania. The peak of the mountain is approximately 320 kilometres (200 miles) south of the equator.
Known for its dramatic elevation, Mount Kilimanjaro is the fourth-most prominent mountain peak in the world. It is also the highest free-standing mountain in the world, rising up from the surrounding plain. The mountain is part of a three-peak massif, which includes Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo.
For thousands of years, Mount Kilimanjaro has been a source of fascination for locals and travellers alike. It is the highest peak in Africa and is believed to be the birthplace of humankind. It also has an important role in the folklore and mythology of many indigenous African tribes.
Due to its height, Mount Kilimanjaro is home to three distinct zones of vegetation: the lower slopes of the mountain have a montane forest belt; there is a highland of grass and heath in the middle; and the summit has an arctic-like tundra. The mountain attracts significant wildlife, including the endangered Abbott’s duiker, marmots, elephants, black rhinos, leopards, and zebras.
In recent years, Mount Kilimanjaro has become a popular destination for hikers and adventure-seekers. Thousands of tourists embark on an arduous climb to the summit each year, although the summit is not accessible from the south side due to the extrememe conditions. The most common route for attempting to reach the summit is the Marangu Route, although this is considered to be the least difficult.
There are a number of other routes available for those who want to journey to the summit. Each route has its own unique features and challenges, and each offers spectacular views of the Kilimanjaro Region’s spectacular landscapes. The international airport closest to Mount Kilimanjaro is usually Kilimanjaro International Airport, located in Arusha Town.
For those who are curious to visit this majestic mountain, it is important to note that altitude sickness can be dangerous. Proper planning, preparation and an experienced guide are essential when attempting to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Professional guides are available to hire and provide invaluable advice concerning safety and route selection.
The climate around Mount Kilimanjaro is considered to be tropical, with temperatures ranging from 25⁰ – 29⁰ Celsius (77⁰ – 84⁰ Fahrenheit). Even at the summit, temperatures are considered mild, rarely dipping below -7⁰ Celsius (20⁰ Fahrenheit). However, due to the altitude, the air at the summit can be very thin, making it difficult for some people to adjust.
The weather can change quickly on the mountain and snow is common above 3,500 metres (11,500 feet). Rain showers can occur at any time, particularly from December to March. During this time, the mountain is often shrouded in clouds and the visibility can be poor.
The Mount Kilimanjaro area is home to several native ecosystems. On the lower slopes of the mountain, montane forest grows in several layers. This is known as the Afro-montane forest, and includes species such as cedar tree, olive trees, and bamboos. Above 3,000 metres (9,840 feet), the vegetation turns into a subalpine forest of juniper and heath.
Above 4,500 metres (14,760 feet), there is an area of grassland and heath known as the moorland zone, which is home to species such as proteas, geraniums and lobelias. At the summit, the vegetation is sparse and adapted to the harsh conditions, with the freeze-tolerant giant groundsel being the most conspicuous plant species.
Mount Kilimanjaro’s diverse habitats and elevations mean it is home to an array of wildlife. Mammals such as elephant, leopard, buffalo, duiker, hyrax and eland can be found in the montane forests, while more colourful birds, such as turacos, sunbirds, and bee-eaters can often be seen in the heath and moorland zones.
Carnivorous mammals such as spotted hyenas, jackals, and servals can also be encountered, and primates such as black and white colobus monkeys inhabit the lower slopes. Mount Kilimanjaro is also home to numerous amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates, such as the threatened Kilimanjaro galago and the endemic white-tailed mongoose.
Threats to Conservation
The plant and animal life found on Mount Kilimanjaro are facing a number of threats. Illegal hunting, deforestation, and climate change are all contributing to the decline of wildlife on the mountain. Unsustainable farming practices are also encroaching on the mountain’s vegetation and disturbing the fragile ecosystems.
In response, numerous conservation projects have been established to protect the mountain’s abundance of wildlife, with research programmes being conducted to monitor the health of the mountain’s fauna and flora. In recognition of its importance, the entirety of Mount Kilimanjaro is a protected nature reserve.
A Global Captivation
The story of Mount Kilimanjaro is one of many parts — of its culture and scenery, of the people and wildlife around it, of the mythology and folklore that has been passed down for generations. In recent years, this captivating story has become a global phenomenon, attracting travellers from all over the world.
Every day, tourists test their limits as they attempt to reach the summit of this legendary mountain, drawn by the promise of breathtaking views, unparalleled adventure, and an enduring connection to the birthplace of humankind.
The Chaga people, an ethnic group who live in the Kilimanjaro region, believe that Mount Kilimanjaro is the throne of God. It is also believed to be a place of great power, with healing and spiritual properties. Several ancient myths surround the mountain, which have been passed through generations.
The mountain has even become a symbol of hope and resilience, with the Chaga people using it as a rallying point for political and environmental action.
Despite its glamour and charm, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro is not for the faint-hearted. The altitude and extreme weather conditions mean that even the most experienced hikers can find themselves struggling with the conditions.
But even so, the mountain continues to be a globally beloved destination. It ignites a unique sense of adventure in its visitors, and a feeling that is not easily forgotten.