Imagine waking up as the sun starts to glaze the treetops, standing in the light morning mist and watching the colors of Kilimanjaro flame from red to gold. The snowcapped peaks silent and brooding against an azure sky as the sounds of Africa’s wildlife starts to stir around you. You shiver a little as you take in this great shadow of the world’s highest mountain, slowly your body begins to tingle in anticipation because you know today is the day you do something memorable, today is the day you hike Mount Kilimanjaro.
Hiking the trails that dip and wind around the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro is an experience out of this world. Whether you choose to climb the dizzying heights to the very top or whether you prefer to explore the mystical and magical foothills, Kilimanjaro is the jewel in the crown of Africa.
You will start your journey in the ripe green forests that sit at the base of the magnificent mountain. As you push through tangled vines and step over thick bellied tree trunks you hear the call of a Blue Monkey as it swings from the branch and watches you with curiosity. Through the forest you encounter an Eland grazing and it disappears into the thick undergrowth with a start. Strange flowers blossom in the bright bursts of light that make it through the trees and the air starts to lose its deep, velvet humidity.
As you start to ascend you enter the grassy heath and the seemingly vast moorlands. The color starts to drain gently from the land and the air drops to a cooler, more considerate temperature. The flowers wither in this harsher environment but the giant lobelias open their branches wide. Sweet heather cushions the ground beneath your feet and hungry birds watch you with beady eyes.
The alpine desert is perhaps one of the most haunting terrains you will pass through on your Mount Kilimanjaro hike. Here the elements are fierce and the landscape unforgiving. Few flowers or animals can survive in this seemingly barren wasteland scattered with rocks. Seemingly desolate this is the first time you catch glimpse of the summit shining like a beacon and you realize what you have set out to accomplish.
Soon you have reached the summit zone, where the arctic landscape glitters in a strange turn of events, where snow and ice meet the African sun. Here life is sparse and the conditions over worldly, as you hack through glittering ice. The road becomes craggy, the conditions seem perilous but still you trek on.
Suddenly you are standing on the edge of the world; the whole continent of Africa stretches beneath your feet and the clouds swirl and part to reveal greens, gold’s, blues and hues of color you never even imagined. An exhilarating tingle encases your body as the adrenaline peaks and you realize you have conquered the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro.
There are many routes you can choose to take when it comes to hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and which route you take will depend on the wildlife you encounter. Even though the wildlife of Mount Kilimanjaro is not as opulent and easy as on the plains of the Serengeti you can still find some special wildlife sights as you climb. You may spot the black and white tail of the shy Colobus Monkey, or the unconcerned blue monkey sitting beside the Marangu huts awaiting your arrival. As you walk your step may be punctuated with the song of the sweet beaked sunbird or the caw of the silver cheeked hornbill.
Climbing and hiking around Mount Kilimanjaro is not for the faint hearted. You will need a spirit of adventure to see you through the long walks, the seasonal downpours and the beauty of sleeping beneath a blanket of stars. To make your climb convenient and comfortable you will need a tent. Life under canvas is imperative when undertaking the hike as the weather conditions can be trying. Wind, rain and freezing nights rush down the mountain and you need to keep yourself protected from the harsh nature of the elements with a good sleeping bag.
For any climber, hiker or walker a good pair of boots is paramount. You should invest in a quality pair of walking boots if you are considering ascending the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Don’t forget to pack those thermal socks and raincoat as blisters and damp skin will make your climb difficult. Thermals and fleeces will also come in handy when you hit the summit zones and the icy temperatures try to cut through to your bones.
The porters are the most important people to accompany you on your trip up the mountain. They work hard and usually get paid very little, life for a porter can be difficult and many rely on tips to help their families survive. Tipping is not only a tradition but you should consider it compulsory. Usually people pay the porter after they have descended from the slopes of the mountain. Each climber should aim to tip their mountain crew around 250-300 US dollars as a thank you for their hard work.
Tanzania’s stunning south, though perhaps not as well-known as the Northern Circuit, is diverse, beautiful, packed with game and well worth exploring. This particular itinerary is perfect for those looking for a Destination out of Dar Es Salaam, and for those who wish to take a relaxing beach extension in Zanzibar after their wildlife adventure!