Climbing Kilimanjaro can be a life changing experience. You can do it for the challenge, for the unique scenery, for the feeling of success, for the adrenaline and accomplishments, and for many other reasons. One thing is for sure, your life will change after you’ve dominated the highest free-standing mountain on Earth.
The world’s tallest free-standing mountain is on many people’s bucket list – for not only the most spectacular sunrises you’ll ever see – but for the sheer elation you will feel at the summit; a moonscape of loose scree somehow resisting the whipping wind. Above you nothing but clear sky – the glaciers glowing blue against a still-pink horizon.
So why not touch the “Roof of Africa” – bring your spirit of adventure on safari and rise to the personal challenge of summiting Africa’s highest peak. At 5,895 metres (19,342 feet), Uhuru peak is the highest point of all Africa, and Mount Kilimanjaro is both a test of endurance and a celebration of the human spirit.
Location of Kilimanjaro
Located in northeast Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro can be seen from far into Kenya and Amboseli National Park. Part of the Eastern Rift Mountains just south of the equator, Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peaks tower over the surrounding plains.
While Africa’s contribution to the seven summits ranks high on the to-do list of serious mountaineers, scaling the 5,895 metre (19,341 ft) dormant volcano requires no technical skill. Climbers with a moderate level of fitness, positive attitude, and a body that adapts reasonably well to altitude have a good chance of success. It’s no surprise to learn that the number of people attempting the climb is high.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is not for the faint-hearted. High altitude, temperature fluctuations and strong winds make a summit a major achievement, whether you are a novice or a seasoned climber.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is unusual in that it is the only non-technical climb of the world’s seven highest peaks, plus it is easily accessible from Arusha. This makes it really easy for you to combine your safari with the personal challenge of climbing Africa’s tallest mountain.
About 75,000 mountaineering enthusiasts climb Kilimanjaro every year so it is not the most untouched mountain, nor is it the most arduous. However, it is certainly a test of one’s endurance, with altitude sickness the main reason for hikers not getting to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Despite this, we still highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in mountaineering.
We partner strictly with highly qualified operators who use great guides with years of experience of Kilimanjaro trekking to offer an intimate, personalised adventure during which you can have the freedom to savour the spectacular natural environment while you relish the challenge of this iconic climb.
Wildlife on Kilimanjaro
Large animals are rare on Kilimanjaro and are more frequent in the forests and lower parts of the mountain. Elephants, buffaloes, bushbucks, chameleons, dik-diks, duikers, mongooses, sunbirds and warthogs have been reported on the mountain. Zebras and hyenas have sporadically been observed on the Shira plateau. Specific species associated with the mountain include the Kilimanjaro shrew and the chameleon Kinyongia tavetana.
Climate on Kilimanjaro
The climate of Kilimanjaro is influenced by the height of the mountain and the isolated position of the mountain. Kilimanjaro has two distinct rainy seasons, one from March to May and another around November. The northern slopes receive much less rainfall than the southern ones. The average temperature in the summit area is approximately −7 °C (19 °F). Nighttime surface temperatures fall on average to −9 °C (16 °F) with an average daytime high temperature of −4 °C (25 °F). Snowfall can occur any time of year but is associated mostly with northern Tanzania’s two rainy seasons (November–December and March–May).Climbing in March or October, just before each of two rainy seasons, is the best hedge to avoid foul weather.
Kilimanjaro Climate Zones
Climbing Kilimanjaro is unique for many reasons, and one of these is that from origin to summit. Climbers find themselves weaving through several distinct climate zones. It is said that the journey from the gate to the summit is like travelling from the equator to the North Pole in a matter of days.
Mount Kilimanjaro has five major ecological zones, each approximately 1,000 metres (3,280 ft) in altitude.
Zone 1 is known as the Cultivation zone. It is approximately 800 to 1,800 metres (2,600- 6,000 ft). This region of the mountain was once covered in natural bush, plains and lowland forests. However, because of the rich volcanic soil, it makes an ideal part of land for agriculture. The Chagga people settled on these lower slopes to farm a variety of crops, such as highly prized coffee, tropical fruits and crops. Irrigated by underground channels tunneling through the earth from the lush rainforest nestles above.
The second zone is known as the Forest or Rainforest zone. It ranges in elevation from 1,800 to 2,800 metres (6,000 – 9,200 ft). This rainforest is drenched in heavy rains and bursts with biodiversity. The rainforest is simply amazing. The trail is flanked by deep gorges of emerald blankets of every shade of green imaginable. Rising majestically out of the forest floor are twisted, ancient trees draped in coats of moss. When there is a break in the foliage, you get views of the clouds weaving their way through the tree tops. This section is also home to Colobus and Blue monkeys, mongoose and lots of birds can be found amongst the giant ferns, vines, juniper and olive trees. If you are trekking from the North-East Rongai route or Western Lemosho, Shira or Northern Circuit routes you might be luckily enough to spot elephant, buffalo and large antelopes.
Heather and Moorland Zone
Zone 3 begins with the Heather zone and ends with the Moorland zone. The elevation starts around 2,800 to 4000 metres (9,000 – 13,000 ft). This low semi-alpine zone feels fresh and crisp compared to the humid rainforest, with temperatures down to 0oC (32o F). Heather and small shrubs blanket the landscape, and the presence of fauna becomes increasingly scarce. The most prominent flora is the unique and iconic Senecios (also known as groundsels) and Giant Lobelias; both are endemic to the region. The Senecios, which translates from Latin to “old man,” have thick weathered stems topped with large, succulent rosettes. Lobelieas resemble oddly-shaped palm trees with rosettes that close in the evenings to guard against the chilly night temperatures.
Alpine Desert Zone
This zone is characterised by an arid desert environment that is rather inhospitable. Its elevation begins around 4,000 metres and continues up to 5,000 metres (13,200 – 16,000 ft).This arid zone has thin soil that retains little water, making it inhospitable to most plant and animal species. Everlasting flowers are one of the main plant species that can withstand such harsh conditions, as well as tussock grasses and varieties of mosses and lichens. A few of the animals that make appearances in the moorland will wander to these elevations, but the occurrences are very rare. The thin air and proximity to the equator result in very high levels of solar radiation. Applying liberal amounts of sunscreen an absolute must! With little to no shelter from the harsh elements, intense radiation plagues the day and night temperatures plummet to freezing. From this zone the slopes of Kibo and Kilimanjaro’s summit come into perfect view.
The final region of the climb up Kilimanjaro is the Arctic zone. The elevation begins around 5,000 metres to the top of Uhuru Peak at 5,895 (16,000 – 19,341 ft). Finding a region like this in Africa’s equatorial belt is like finding a swath of rainforest in the middle of an Arctic glacier. Charcaterised by rock, ice and snow, there is virtually no plant or animal life in this zone as oxygen levels are near half what they were on the lower regions of the mountain. The lower section of this zone is made up of loose dirt and gravel known as scree. Scree is quite difficult to climb. This is part of the reason why the summit attempt begins at night when the evening dew has settled and frozen. This allows the scree to bind together making it a more stable path. Nights are extremely cold and windy, and the day’s unbuffered sun is ferocious. As you climb, ice will begin to appear in patches and soon in large fields as you approach the lower reaches of the summit glaciers. The crater is a fascinating place. Inside the inner crater is the Ash Pit and at 360 metres (1,100 ft) across by 120 metres (393 ft) deep. It is one of the largest in the world.
Planning Your Trip
Planning and preparation are crucial to the success of a Kilimanjaro climb! And when I say success, I mean not only your chances to reach the summit, but how much you enjoy the whole trek, from start to finish.
1. Deciding on a date
March to end of May is the wet season on Mount Kilimanjaro and not a great time for trekking. The rest of the year is good though with the absolute peak season being similar to the best game viewing from July through to the end of October. Afterall, you want to be in with a chance of catching your summit on a clear day to get an amazing view from the highest point in Africa.
2. Deciding on a climb route and the duration of your Kilimanjaro climb
There are seven official trekking routes by which to ascend and descend Mount Kilimanjaro: Lemosho, Machame, Marangu, Mweka, Rongai, Shira, and Umbwe. Selecting a route is a tough choice for most. To find the best route for you, considerations should be taken for the route’s scenery, difficulty, foot traffic and its altitude acclimitisation characteristics. Of all the routes, Machame (whiskey route) is considered the most scenic, albeit steeper, route. The minimum number of days required for this route is six days, although seven days is recommended. The Rongai is the easiest routes, but the scenery is not as varied as the western routes. It is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, close to the Kenyan boarder. Though gaining popularity amongst climbers, Rongai has low traffic. It is the preferred route for those looking for an alternative to the crowded Marangu route, for those who would like a more remote hike, and for those who are climbing during the rainy season (the north side receives less precipitation). The Marangu (coca cola route) is a classic trek on the mountain. It is the oldest, most well established route. Many favour this route because it is considered to be one of the easier routes on the mountain. However despite its popularity, this route has the least scenic variety of all the routes because the ascent and descent are done on the same path and it is the most crowded route for that reason.
Where you sleep depends on your hiking route. On all but the Marangu route, you will sleep in tents at designated campsites. The Marangu route offers shared hut accommodation with dormitory-style bunk beds. Taking an extra day for acclimatisation will greatly improve your chances to reach the summit. There are longer treks available depending on budget.
3. What to bring with you
We organize high quality treks to the summit of this unique mountain and employ a high-quality team of guides, porters and cooks and great equipment to make sure your chances of reaching the summit are maximized.
You will need to bring with you a daypack (light backpack) that you will carry during the hike and a duffel bag with the rest of your belongings which will be carried by hardworking porters. Kilimanjaro National Park operates an absolutely strict limit of 15kg per porter for your main equipment bag, which includes your sleeping bag. When packing your bag it is important to plan your clothing appropriately. We recommend good quality, thermal under and upper layers, lightweight layers as you do get warm when hiking in the lower regions of the mountain, good hiking trousers, plenty of hiking boot socks, gloves, warm hat, a wide brimmed hat, balaclava, good quality sunglasses, sunscreen (for the lips too!), rain protection for everything, water bottles/camel back, insulated winter jacket, waterproof/windproof jacket, warm jumpers and fleeces – these are just to name a few. But most importantly you need high quality hiking boots and they need to be well broken in! The rest of the equipment such as gaiters and walking poles can be provided for you.
Tanzania Safari Extensions
If you are after a life-changing experience, we can combine your East African safari holiday with a summit of Kilimanjaro that takes the route less travelled. Having gone all the way to Kilimanjaro most climbers choose to extend their trip with a Tanzania safari or even some beach time in Zanzibar or the main land coast. It is the perfect way to round off your African holiday of a lifetime. Mount Kilimanjaro is located in north Tanzania next to some of the top safari parks in Africa, so while making an assent it will be a shame not to visit the northern parks and experience the Serengeti, Ngorongoro or Tarangire.
About Origins Safaris
At Origins Safaris we have over 50 years of authentic African safari experience and we are passionate about wildlife, cultural heritage, adventure and exploration. We customize each and every safari to your personal requirements and expectations, ensuring an exclusive, unique and authentic experience every time.
With the transcendent view from the Roof of Africa, let God be your guide through the roughest valleys and up the steepest peaks and you’ll discover the romance of Kilimanjaro.
To book this unique experience, please contact us on https://www.originsafaris.com and we will send you all the relevant itinerary advice and documentation with the recommended equipment and preparation for the climb.
Origins Safaris – Authentic African Experiences Since 1963.