Many people overlook the mysticism and unrivalled beauty of Mount Meru in favor of the epic Mount Kilimanjaro. However Mount Meru offers splendid hiking opportunities and the chance to see some of Africa’s most intriguing sights. When you choose Mount Meru you can hike through untouched rainforests bathed in sunlight, spot herds of buffalo grazing on rich pastures and breathe in the cloying sweet scent of wild figs. You can wake up in wooden huts to the sparkling sunrise as it hits the breathtaking peaks of the brooding and dormant volcano that makes Mount Meru so special.
You will start your adventure at the fabulous Momella Gate in the forests of Arusha National Park. In the distance Mount Kilimanjaro stretches a shadow across the landscape and the green grasses sway in the breeze. As you stumble into a clearing you have the chance to watch the buffalo herds in their natural environment before stepping once more into the lush shade of the montane forests. The bright feathers of exotic birds flit through the trees and the wild cries of monkeys echo from branch to branch. Ash cone dots the climbing horizon and the crags of Mount Meru sparkle in the distance.
Imagine waking in the glades surrounding Miriakamba Hut, sipping a morning coffee as the sun climbs higher. The small but steep summit of Little Meru awaits you and the ascent is challenging but utterly rewarding as you see the crater floor spread out beneath your feet. At Elephant Ridge you have the opportunity to spot the grey mass of an elephant and other superb wildlife views from up high. Giant cushions of heather decorate the path and the moorlands provide a welcome retreat for enjoying a bite to eat and watching the stars prickle the sky as dusk descends on Africa.
The final climb to Socialist Peak is fraught with beauty and clear of tourists who have taken to the neighboring Mount Kilimanjaro. The whole of Africa seems to belong solely to you as you maneuver the narrow ridges of Rhino Point and shade your eyes to witness the entirety of the Great Rift Valley, the dream like peaks of Kilimanjaro and the death defying walls of the sheer crater drop. The paths to the summit of Mount Meru are steep but sensational. Once you hit the dramatic peak you can see Africa in a new light and admire the spires of Mount Kilimanjaro from a different angle. Relish the feeling of accomplishment as you feel the sun beat against your brow and your body succumb to an exhilarating fatigue of accomplishment.
Mount Meru makes for a fantastic choice for those wanting to combine a relatively quick hike with the chance to sport some of Africa’s breathtaking displays of wildlife. Whilst Mount Kilimanjaro remains sparse in terms of spotting mammals, exotic birds and other beauties – on the slopes of Mount Meru you can see it all. Fertile slopes with rich earth and jeweled green forests inhabit a wide variety of life; you can spot wild buffalo, primates, giraffes, snuffling warthogs, elephants and cackling hyenas. Truly lucky visitors may even have the chance of spotting a shadowy leopard slinking through the undergrowth.
Mount Meru is not as hardy as Kilimanjaro and the weather conditions are not as severe as you ascend the mountain. Whilst Kilimanjaro is extreme in its elements of ice and snow, Mount Meru retains a gentler climate. There may still be shards of glittering ice on the rocks but the air is warmer. However layers, fleeces and warm clothing is advised to keep you comfortable on your adventure.
The huts that dot the walkway from gate to summit provide shelter and a pleasant place to lay your head after a hard days hike. This means you don’t have to worry about hauling a tent up the mountain and you can enjoy the reward of sinking into a real bed at the end of the day. Sanitary facilities are also available and hot meals are provided by your mountain crew. Thanks to all these simple little luxuries when you choose Mount Meru you always have the strength to go on. Mount Meru combines dramatic scenery with a hint of comfort to keep you enjoying your hike day after day.
Guides and porters are invaluable to your experience when climbing Mount Meru. The guides will not only show you the way but let you in on all the secrets of the mountain. The guide will know where to look for wildlife, can tell you the name of that bright and beautiful flower and can give you the encouragement you need to continue. The porters always work exceptionally hard to lighten the load; they take the weight so you can enjoy your journey without restraint. It is essential to tip your mountain crew. This is how they make their living and a generous tip can truly make the difference to their life. You should aim to tip the guide around 70-100 US dollars and your porter around 50 US dollars.
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!