The highest peak on the African continent, Mount Kilimanjaro towers over the renowned plains of northern Tanzania and the Amboseli National Park, Kenya, as one of the most impressive geographical features in all of Africa. An unforgettable, challenging and life-affirming experience, this unique climb is the highest non-technical ascent available to tourists; all you need is a walking pole, determination and a whole lot of stamina.
Wildlife across Mount Kilimanjaro
Whether you choose to climb this majestic mountain or would rather spend time gazing at the snow-capped peaks, the Mt Kilimanjaro National Park is sure to be one of the greatest experiences when visiting Africa. The park is host to four unique climate zones, each different to the one below upon the hike up to the summit. The Forest Zone consists of luscious rainforest, circling the base of the mountain, it is a rich habitat with a wide variety of flora and fauna including elephants, primates such as black and white colobus and blue monkeys, buffalo, and more. As you enter the lush montane forests, feel immersed within the chatter and chirps from the trees above, as clouds cling for their lives to the trees, creating a wet and misty atmosphere. Climbing a further 3,200 metres, the moorland zone opens up to an unusual primate landscape filled with giant heather and studded with giant lobalias. Here, few creatures are resilient enough to survive above 2800 metres, however, species such as the four-striped grass mouse, and mole rat reside among larger species such as eland and buffalo found on the Shira Plateau, the northern side of the mountain. Reaching above 4,000 metres, the surreal alpine desert seems like a dramatic contrast with intense weather conditions and loose sand, it is an evident struggle to support any life. The only species found here is a species of spider, a high-altitude arachnid, surviving on flies blown up the sides by gusts of wind. The final zone is known as the ‘Summit Zone’ or the Arctic Zone, a winter wonderland encompassing the scree slopes, a land of ice and snow, completely different to the lush tropical forests thriving below.
What to do
Of course, a trip to the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park wouldn’t be complete without a hike up the ’rooftop of Africa’ to witness breathtaking views of Amboseli National Park, the Rift Valley, and the Masaai Steppe. Located near the town of Moshi, Mt Kilimanjaro is a protected area, carefully regulated for climbers to enjoy without any trace left of their presence. The adventure of a lifetime, hiking the mountain is extremely rewarding and if paced well, everyone from seasoned trekkers to those fancying a day’s activity can scale the snowy peak. Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most easily accessible summits with most hikers reaching the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, correct clothing, and a touch of determination.
There are six usual trekking routes, with more challenging mountaineering routes for committed and experienced climbers. Of the six, we prefer Rongai, a scenic and peaceful route and the only one starting from the north side. We also do the ‘Grand Traverse’, far away from the crowds; this is the most diverse and remote of all the trails with simply unbelievable views along the northern circuit, as well as opportunities to see animals such as elephants, buffalo and eland.
The tranquil Lake Chala is an exceptional sight to see, located on the edge of Mount Kilimanjaro inside a high crater rim. Covering 1.6 square miles, Chala Crater Lake is one of the park’s most famous sights due to its incredible waters ranging from pure turquoise to emerald green depending on the time of year.
Accommodation throughout your stay will be in tents, with sanitary toilets, highly trained professional chefs and a waiter. Safety is of utmost importance to us, using at least one guide per three guests, as well as porters. Their safety is paramount too, and we ensure they are paid the best wages, even if they are unable to complete the trek. The key is to take it slow, enjoy the trek and dramatic views, and make sure you allow time to acclimatise and take it seriously. Oxygen levels at the summit are approximately 50% of those at sea level.
Trekking is clearest and warmest from December to February, but it is good between July and September when it is still dry, yet colder.