Towering 5,895 meters above sea level, the highest mountain in Africa, is Kilimanjaro. In Kiswahili this name means “shining mountain”. Located in the northern region of Tanzania just south of the equator, where the weather is tropical, this mountain stands with it snow-capped peak throughout the year. A true natural wonder of the world. But this mountain, which is a dormant volcano, has become known as the “Everyman’s Everest”. It is with no wonder that mountain is one of the best treks in the world, with around 50 000 people each year trying to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit of Uhuru peak. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom. Although the mountain has become the symbol of Tanzania’s independence from colonial powers, in today’s terms it has become a personal journey for so many showing that they too can reach one of the highest summits in the world.
From a technical perspective, and compared to the other summits around the globe, Kilimanjaro is the easiest to climb. There is no need to use special gear, or be an experienced mountain climber. From the young to the young of heart can reach the summit. Although most adventure climbing companies that conduct treks up the mountain will restrict the minimum age to 15. Likewise climbing this mountain does not mean that you will reach the summit. Only 10% of climber complete the five to six day trek to the summit. Even here the trick is to walk at a speed of one mile an hour, which allows the body to acclimate to the thinner air.
Even though no technical climbing is needed, it does not mean that this mountain is not rick free. Acute altitude sickness and rockslides have killed many in the past. Still, the mountain allow you to set your own personal accomplishment mark on it. Such as a cancer patient that climbs the mountain as a sign that they will beat the disease.
Then there is the pure natural beauty of Kilimanjaro. The mountain is surrounded by a nature reserve, and the mountain itself is alive with wildlife and vegetation. And this changes dramatically, from the tropical to the snow-capped areas. That is as you climb you will experience five different ecosystems, ranging from rain forest to arctic tundra.
The first system is the lower countryside slopes of the mountain. Here you can spot the elephant trunk flower. This is a striking red, green and yellow balsam with a curled tube shaped like an elephant’s trunk that is endemic to the area. Montane Forests is part of the second system. In this area you can see small mammals like hyrax and bush babies. But there is also a wide array of birdlife, Colobus monkeys, nocturnal cats, aardvarks, honey badgers; as well as antelopes, duikers and leopards.
The heathland and moorlands is the third zone. Unlike the Montane area which is tropical, the landscape starts to change to grasslands filled with flowering bulbs, of gladiolus and red hot pokers, but also a giant proteas and a wide display of Ericas. As the altitude rises, so does the landscape transform, with on the fourth zone where the towering alpine deserts start. Here hardly everlasting flowers and asters cling to the moisture. The temperatures can changes in this areas dramatically between day and night. The last area is the arctic ice cap. In essence the high elevation and dramatic temperatures has created a unique wildlife that only a few peaks can match.
Still more than the beauty of the Kilimanjaro tree and the elephant flower, there are good tourist facilities around the mountain. Ranging from decent hotels, places to rent mountain gear; as well as ground transportation. More so, there are sleeping huts and outhouses available on route for climbers, along with potters to carry and set up your tents as you climb.
Best climbing is from early January to March and from June to October. It does not mean you can’t climb Kilimanjaro all year round. This mountain is different, it is a rare example of one that you can do just that. That is since there is no intense weather conditions, although there is a dry and wet season each of these have their own delights for the climber.
Planning your trip is easy if you use a good guide – read more here.
Kilimanjaro has the charm that it is the highest mountain in the world that you can just walk up. No need for ropes or other gear, and no experience needed. Its wildlife and the landscapes makes this one of the best treks in the world. With different routes to pick, it is worth your next adventure holiday.
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