Mount Kilimanjaro National Park
Only three degrees from the equator, Mount Kilimanjaro's peak
is covered in snow, the Victorians believed Kilimanjaro's snow
to be a flight of fancy for many years. With an altitude of
5895m (19 340ft), it is the highest peak in Africa, the highest
freestanding mountain in the world, and one of the largest
volcanoes. Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest peak. The mountain,
a dormant volcano, has two peaks - Kibo and Mawezi, which are
surrounded by dense forests full of dazzling variety of flora
The base of the immense Mount Kilimanjaro has a diameter of
about 70 km. On a clear day his impressive formation can be seen
from more than 250 km away, and although it is only three
degrees below the Equator, iKilimanjaro's peak is permanently
covered with snow and ice.
Elephants, leopards, lions and colobus monkeys are among the
residents of the park. The encircling rain forests ensure the
fertility of the lush, lower lying countryside, where the Chagga
cultuvate their coffee, maize and bananas.
Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed most of the year, although
it is inadvisable during the rainy season, which is April and
May, and during the short rains in November. The summit of
Kilimanjaro is definitely a challenge, and there are risks
involved, but it can be reached by any reasonably fit person who
enjoys hiking, and reaching the summit will be an experience of
There are five principal trails up the mountain: Marangu, Mweka,
Umbwe, Shira and Machame. These are all hiking routes. The most
popular route is the Marangu route. It takes about five days and
involves walking about 85 kilometres.
There is so much more to Mount Kilimanjaro than her summit.
The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from
the tropics to the Arctic. Even before you cross the
national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated
footslopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive
elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and
other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the
moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with
otherworldly giant lobelias.
Above 4,000m, a surreal alpine desert supports little life other
than a few hardy mosses and lichen. Then, finally, the last
vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and
snow – and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent.