Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa (19,340ft or 5,895m above sea level). Although only 330 km south of the Equator, on the northern boundary of Tanzania, its location on an open plain close to the Indian Ocean and its great size and height, strongly influence the climate and this its vegetation, animal life and the climbing conditions.
It is composed of three extinct volcanoes: Kibo 19, 340 ft (5,895 meters), Mawenzi 16,896ft (5,149m) and Shira 13,000 ft (3,962m). It is also one of the world’s highest free-standing mountains.
To assist with your preparations we have compiled the following information dossier, which we hope you will find helpful.
The Mt. Kilimanjaro climb is considered a strenuous and physically demanding trip (reaching altitudes exceeding 19,000ft above sea level). It is imperative that you are fully prepared (both physically and mentally) for this trip and you must ensure you have all the appropriate equipment and clothing which can greatly affect the overall enjoyment of your tour.
You will experience equatorial to arctic conditions. The range begins with the warm dry plains with an average temperature of 30 degree centigrade, ascends through a wide belt of wet tropical forest, through zones with generally decreasing temperature and rainfall, to the summit where there is permanent ice and below freezing conditions.
The altitude and seasons determine weather conditions. The fact that for most months of the year there are so few rainy days makes it possible to climb in relatively good conditions all year round. The rainy season is from end of March to May with short rains in November and December.
Mt. Kilimanjaro has five altitude/climate zones; the lower slopes, forest, heather and moorland, highland desert and the summit. Within each zone there is an association between altitude, rainfall, temperature, plants and animals.
The zones occupy belts of approximately 3,281ft (1000m) of altitude each. In general the temperature falls about 1C for every 656ft (200m) increase in altitude, rainfall also decreases steadily with altitude from the forest upward.
Plant life is abundant in areas of high temperature and high rainfall. As you climb you will see that plant life decreases, not because of the height, but because conditions are colder and drier. As animal life is dependant on plants, fewer animals live at high altitude.
The lower slopes 2,624 – 5,906ft (800 – 1800m) were originally scrub, bush and lowland. This has been cultivated and is now used for livestock grazing and local crops. In this cultivated zone you will not see large wild animals.
The forest 5,905 – 9,187ft (1800 – 2800m) is the richest zone on the mountain. A band of extremely beautiful mountain forest encircles the entire Mt. Kilimanjaro, frequently covered in cloud. Protected from the sun by clouds the moisture cannot easily evaporate so there is high humidity, dampness and fog.
Although flowers are not plentiful in the forest those seen are often striking. The forest is the home of most of Kilimanjaro’s wild animals although often hidden from view. However, you are likely to see both blue monkeys, and black and white Colobus monkeys. In the western part of Mt. Kilimanjaro that is close to Amboseli National Park in Kenya you might see elephants, antelopes, rodents, duiker and bushback.
The heather and moorland 9,187 – 13,124ft (2800 – 4000m) is a low alpine zone with a cool clear climate except for mist and fog near the forest. Heather and heath-like shrubs grow in this area, as well as gorse-like bushes, attractive grasses and flowers. There are not many large mammals here and those that do visit the moorland are usually in transit to other areas, although eland, duiker, dogs, buffalo and elephants have been seen. You may see anguar and mountain buzzards, the crowned eagle, lammergeyer and the white-necked raven.
The highland desert 13,124 – 16,405ft (4000 – 5000m) is the alpine zone. There is intense radiation, high evaporation and huge daily fluctuations in temperature, nights can be below 0C and in the day time as high as 25C to 35C in direct sun. Under these harsh conditions only the hardiest lichens, moss and tussock grasses can exist. This area does not offer much in the way of wildlife but its views are spectacular.
The summit area above 16,415 ft (5000m) is characterized by arctic conditions – freezing cold at night and burning sun during the day. Oxygen is about half that at sea level and there is little atmosphere to protect you from the sun’s radiation. Creatures large and small are rare in the summit zone, although a leopard has been found frozen in the snow many years ago.
Below you will find some basic facts about Kilimanjaro:
-Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340ft (5,895m).
-Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain (i.e. distance from the bottom of the mountain to the top) in the world.
-Kilimanjaro is as high as you can go without requiring oxygen or specialist technical mountaineering skills.
-Kilimanjaro is located in Northern Tanzania, bordering Kenya, in East Africa.
-Kilimanjaro has six different, non-technical routes up the mountain that take between five and eight days, not including rest days.
-These routes are Marangu route (Five or Six days), Machame route (Six or Seven days), Lemosho route (Eight days), Rongai route (Five or Six days), Shira route (Seven days) and Umbwe route (Five or Six days).
-Kilimanjaro has five camping routes that include Machame, Shira, Lemosho, Umbwe and Rongai and one route (Marangu) with hut accommodations provided by the National Parks.
-Kilimanjaro has five distinct ecological zones – mountain forest, hagenia, heathland, alpine desert and the summit that make it one of the most beautiful and varied peaks on Earth.
-Kilimanjaro is the most accessible, the most exotic and the most do-able climb.