Being Africa’s highest peak and the most identifiable landmark and the world’s tallest freestanding mountain- Mount Kilimanjaro is one of Tanzania’s most attractive destinations. Thousands of tourists from all over the world come to Tanzania every year in their zeal to climb to the 19,340ft (5,895m) summit of this beautiful mountain. The idea behind reaching the summit, or for that matter even attempting to reach the summit, of the world’s tallest accessible summit ‘without much experience and expertise’ is an opportunity too good to be missed. And many tie up climbing this mountain with visiting other wildlife areas in the country. For many visitors to Tanzania, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro offers one of their most precious momento of the country.
Mount Kilimanjaro was formed by volcanic activity near the rift valley about a million years ago. It consists of 3 visible peaks; Shira peak (3,962m), Mawenzi peak (5,149m) and the Uhuru peak at (5,895m)- the highest peak in Africa.
Mount Kilimanjaro is divided into 5 vegetation zones. The cultivated lower slopes (upto 1,800m), the montane forest zone (Between 1,800m and 3,000m), the semi-Alpine moorland zone (Between 3,000m and 4,000m), the Alpine zone (Between 4,000m and 5,000m) and the Arctic zone (From 5,000m upto the summit).
Concentration of Game
Unlike other conventional parks in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro is more about mountain climbing than wildlife viewing. However, there are few species of animals and birds in the forest zone of the mountain. Some species commonly seen by hikers include: Black and white Colobus and Blue monkey, Duiker Klipspringer and Bushbuck. Leopard, Bushpig and Porcupine are there but rarely encountered by hikers. Of the larger mammals there are Eland, Buffalo and Elephant but in quite small numbers.
Kilimanjaro is less famous in birdlife compared to the eastern arc mountains. Upto 40 Afro-montane species have been recorded so far. You are more likely to hear birds than actually seeing them while hiking. Some prominent species in the montane forest zone include: Raucous silvery-cheeked Hornbill and Hartlaub’s Touraco. While the only species found in the semi-Alpine moorland zone are Hill chat and scarlet-tufted Malachite sunbird, Lammergeier and Alpine Swift.
Best time to visit
Mount Kilimanjaro is open for climbing throughout the year. However the dry season, especially the months of March and September, are the best time to hike.
There are practically 6 routes for climbing this magnificent mountain. These are Marangu (5 days), Machame (6 days), Mweka, Shira (6/7 days) and Rongai (5 days)
This is the most popular route used by many climbers. It is a very safe route with ample acclimatization stops. It has got better accommodation and rescue facilities. The climb is less arduous and offers a better chance of viewing wildlife. It usually takes 5 days for ascent and descent using this route but one can opt for an extra day for better acclimatization.
This route has been very popular lately. It is regarded to be very scenic offers great views across to Mount Meru. It is relatively gradual, requiring six days for ascent and descent, hence offering longer period for acclimatization. This route however does not have good accommodation facilities compared to Marangu, and requires camping in most of the stops.
This is the fastest but the steepest route to the summit. Since it is too short for acclimatization, this route is not recommended for ascending. It is often used as a descent route by people climbing the Machame and Shira routes.
This route starts at the western side of the mountain. It merges with the Machame route at the Shira hut. It is possible to do this in 6 days but 7 days are recommended for better acclimatization.
This is the only route ascending the mountain from the northeast close to the Kenyan border. The climbing conditions for this route are similar to that of the Marangu route. Ascent and descent can be covered in 5 days though 6 days are recommended for better acclimatization.
This short and probably the most scenic of all the routes is not recommended for ascent because it is a very steep route with some patches where actual rock climbing is required. The route is occasionally used by some climbers as a descent route.
Mount Kilimanjaro national park is easily accessible by good surface road from Arusha and Moshi.
Beetween 5 to 7 days are required for climbing this mountain, depending on which route you intend to take and how many extra days you give yourself for acclimatization.
Our Recommendations on Kilimanjaro National Park
Climbing mount Kilimanjaro is very rewarding indeed. If you are a first time visitor to Tanzania and if you have enough days to spare and if you are in reasonably good shape then climbing this mountain will give you one of the proudest moments of your life. Unless you are a repeat climber, we suggest you use the easier routes like Marangu. The best thing would be to start your Tanzania tour by climbing the mountain before you visit the other conventional parks. Alternatively you can start with the conventional parks for game viewing, then climb Kilimanjaro and then finish off relaxing with few days at Zanzibar.
The Kilimanjaro experience will be very exciting even if you will not be able to make it to the top. Guaranteed!
Any reasonably fit person can climb mount Kilimanjaro. You don’t need to be a professional climber. Children as young as 7yrs old have made it to the summit and old pensioners have also been successful. The best way to maximize your chances of reaching the summit are in doing a steady ascent and giving yourself ample time for acclimatization. Fit people are usually more prone to mountain sickness because they tend to ascend too fast. People with heart or lung problems should not try climbing. Asthma sufferers however have shown to be quite successful.
The common symptoms of altitude sickness are headache, nausea, breathlessness, sleeplessness and swelling of the hands and feet. Very few people climb mount Kilimanjaro without feeling these symptoms. If you want to try medication for helping you with altitude sickeness then Acetazolamide (Diamox) is recommended. You can take 250mg twice a day for 5 days starting 2 or 3 days before you reach 3,500m. However the side effects of this drug, in some people, may be similar to those of mountain sickness so it is advisable to try the medication a few weeks before to see if it fits you.
One should however keep in mind that fatal health risks are possible with altitude sickness. Pulmonary and Celebral Oedema are also altitude related problems that can be very fatal. The symptoms of this are shortness of breath, coughing frothy spit and sometimes even blood, headaches, poor coordination, disorientation and hallucinations. Hypothermia is also common at very high altitudes.
The only treatment for altitude sickness is descent. In severe cases the rescue teams should be summoned.
The idea behind a successful climb is to make the ascent as steadily as possible and give yourself enough time for acclimatization. You will lose your appetite for eating at 3,000m level but you have to force yourself. Carbohydrates and fruits are recommended where as fatty foods are not because they are relatively harder to digest. Dehydration is one of the major reason behind many unsuccessful climbs. So you need to drink plenty of liquids during your climb. At least 3 liters of water per day is ideal. Energy-rich snacks such as biscuits, chocolate, sweets and glucose powder are also recommended.
General workout such as walking and jogging and proper diet few months prior to climb is also a good idea.
What you where and what you take with you on the climb are very important for a successful climb. Two weather conditions have to be considered when preparing to climb mount Kilimanjaro, cold and rain. You need to bring with you plenty of warm clothes, a windproof jacket, a pair of gloves, a balaclava, a warm sleeping bag and an insulation mat. During the rainy season a waterproof jacket and trousers are very important. The sun is very fierce at high altitudes so sunglasses and sunscreen are very essential.Other essential items are water bottles, solid boots and a good medical kit. Most of the items can be hired from us.
Arranging your climb with us ensures you besides a reasonable rate, a professional handling of the entire climb. Our qualified and experienced guides, who are registered with the mount Kilimanjaro association, understand how important it is for you to reach the summit especially after such long preparations and paying a huge chunk from your savings. Their motto is to make you reach the top with the maximum precautions.
Our equipment is new and very detailed. Besides the professional guide each group gets enough porters to carry the luggage. Our cooks who accompany you on the climb specialize in preparing nutritious food, which will help you keep healthy during the climb. For big groups we include extra guides who can help any group member descend if he/ she gives up allowing the main guide to carry on with the others.
We do not allow anyone to use our climbing services without paying the appropriate fees for rescue missions. We can organize quick rescue services whenever required.
Ours may not be the cheapest climbing rate, but for us your health and comfort during the climb is far more important and the little bit of extra that you will be paying will ensure our reciprocation with better facilities.
Customized Itineraries are also available upon request.
Please contact us for a perfect, well-organized and affordable climb of this awesome mountain.
Map of Kilimanjaro National Park