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Kilimanjaro - Kibo at sunrise

005.00 south, 036.00 east , 5 895 m a.m.s.l. , highest mountain in Africa , tallest free-standing mountain on earth.    Derived from  Ki-Lima Njaro  ~  Mountain of Greatness

Kilimanjaro - Imagine a place, vast and so peaceful as to render you silent, so majestic as to leave you forever inspired. Such a place is the roof of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro. For centuries foreign nations have spoken of a majestic mountain in equatorial east Africa, so high that it carries an eternal snow cap. Mt. Kilimanjaro, known even to the ancient Greeks stands tall today, guarding over the vastness of the east African plains. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Imagine hiking through the different climatic zones equivalent to a hike from the equator to the South Pole, but in 6 days ! At 5 895 meters above sea level, it is the ultimate hiking adventure on earth.

Originally thought to be a possible source of the Nile, its snowcap has been the subject of heated discussion for decades. The first documented sighting of its lofty peaks was on 11 May 1889 by the Reverend Johannes Rebmann. Tales abound how he was scoffed at for reporting a snow-capped peak on the equator, but rather as a result of shaking up the theories of the day about the origin of the Nile than the fact that there was snow on the equator. However, later during the same year it was Hans Meyer who conquered the highest peak in Africa at 5 895 meters above sea level. The expedition consisted of many porters , guides and advisors. It took the intrepid Meyer almost 6 weeks to reach the summit, 6 times as long as it takes the average climber today.

One should qualify the term "climber" as it is in most cases technically incorrect. The majority of routes leading to the summit of Uhuru Peak are pure hiking routes requiring no climbing skills at all. It is in fact, one of the highest peaks accessible to hikers in the world. Of course there are routes on Kilimanjaro which require advanced climbing skills, but these do not fall in the category of "commercial route". We are more concerned with the hiking routes which are available to most reasonably fit people. Although Uhuru Peak is reachable by any reasonably fit and determined person, the trip should not be underestimated. Kilimanjaro requires effort and determination and one should prepare for the journey with this in mind.

topofcake1.jpg (29928 bytes) Topography
Kilimanjaro is unique in that it is a lone standing volcano in otherwise fairly level surroundings. From the nearby town of Moshi (900 m above sea level), one reaches the foot of Kilimanjaro at around 2 000 m which normally indicates the start of any route. From cultivated land at 1 500m, the slope rises gently through 5 different climatic zones to finally level out at the summit of Uhuru Peak at 5 895m.

The shape of Kilimanjaro is instantly recognisable as a volcano, and were it not for scientific studies indicating its dormancy, Kilimanjaro would seem to all as being extinct. Evidence of its hibernated stirrings can be found by descending into the ash pit inside the main crater. Kilimanjaro is actually the collective description of three seperate peaks, together forming Mt. Kilimanjaro. These are, from the west, Shira, Kibo (the highest) and Mawenzi.

The lower slopes, below 1 800m are predominantly used for coffee production, a famous export product of Tanzania. Higher up, a densely forested area reflects distinct equatorial characteristics up to around the 2 700m mark. As one goes higher from 2 700m to around 3 400m, the terrain could be decsribed as heather. Going higher again, there is a narrow band of moorland up to around 4 000m. From here, the altitude leaves its mark very clearly, and there is a stretch of almost a 1 000 meters (up to arround 5 000m which is pure alpine desert. Very little apart from lichens and mosses can survive here. From the 5 000m mark one will experience arctic conditions with extremely cold temperatures at night and scorching sun during the day. From the summit, several major glaciers decorate the mountain like a giant pudding. To mention a few, one will find the Rebmann-, Decken-, Kersten- and Heim glaciers on the southern rim with the very famous Arrow glacier directly to the west. These glaciers, although present permanently, are receding each year due to the earth's changing weather patterns.


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Its close proximity to the equator would move one to assume that a tropical climate prevails for the whole area. Nothing could be further from the truth. Kilimanjaro has its own climate, from tropical downpours, raging blizzards to gale force winds. Depending of course on the season, one can reasonably accurately predict the conditions for a particular expedition. Needless to say that one should ideally plan an expedition according to the seasons.

On the lower slopes, due to their elevation, the climate is mostly subtropical and mild with high rainfall. The rain seasons which affect this area can be grouped into two distinct seasons. Long rains and short rains. The long rains, associated with the monsoon generally occur from the middle of March and continue towards the beginning of June.

Kilimanjaro's low seasons mirror that of the two rain seasons as conditions then are not conducive to enjoyable hiking. The second rain season is shorter and less intense than the first. This season is commonly referred to as the short rains. From the end of October until the end of December, rainfall can be expected, but mostly intermittent showers which clear up reasonably quickly. Conditions such as during the long rains can be experienced then, so care should also be taken if you're planning a trip over Christmas. When planning your expedition, ensure that the members of your party have experience in the type of conditions which you expect. Temperatures range from around 25-30 degrees Celsius at the foot of the mountain to around minus 15 -20 degrees at the summit. With wind chill often forcing the temperatures even lower, the summit area of the mountain should be treated with respect and thorough preperation. During the rain season, an average rainfall of around 200mm per month can be expected on the lower slopes with heavy snowfall on the summit area.

There are several major routes leading to the summit. Each has its own characteristics and are suited to different types of hikers. The main routes contain several elements of other, lesser routes, but ultimately, all of them reach Uhuru Peak. The two routes which form the basis of most ascending routes are the Machame and the Marangu

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In most instances, the Machame route is also a part of other routes such as Shira and Umbwe.  Umbwe is spectacular, but very direct, leaving too little time to acclimatise. On the Machame route, there is also a further option to the summit for the energetic and adventurous. This is the final ascent via the Arrow Glacier on the west. Keep this one in mind for a second or third visit to Kilimanjaro. By far the most hiked route is the Marangu. It is also affectionately known as the "Coca-Cola route" or the "tourist route" The perception is that this route is easier than others like the Machame. We believe that it should rather be described as being more comfortable, instead of easier. This is because on the Marangu exclusively, you will find huts with beds in which to sleep and even electric light. For those hikers wanting a little more creature comforts, the Marangu is the option. You have the choice of either a 5 day (not recommended) or the 6 day option.  Then, the more scenic route is without doubt the Machame route. While accommodation is strictly in tents, the flip-side is a scenic "slideshow" over 6 days. This route is suited better to adventurous hikers who don't mind the camping aspect. The Machame can be done in 6 days, but not shorter. Generally speaking, 6 days are sufficient for going to the summit and returning to the bottom, but additional days can be included to assist with acclimatisation.


Which route to choose ?


dinnerathorombo.jpg (31123 bytes) Depending on your taste and experience, you may simply want to get to the top of the mountain, regardless of which route. You may also want some degree of comfort, relative to what's available on the mountain. If you want the simplest route to the summit, without the effort of sleeping in a tent every night, you will most definitely choose the Marangu. It is often referred to as the "Coca-Cola" or the "Tourist" route and approaches the mountain on the same route as the descent.
The Marangu route provides sleeping huts at every camp site. These huts are equipped with 12 V electricity generated with solar energy and comfortable beds with mattresses. Meals are had in large dining huts where there's always an atmosphere of excitedness and adventure. The option of doing the Marangu in 6 days is highly recommended.Approaching the mountain from the south east, on a six day option, the huts in order are : Mandara, Horombo, Horombo, Kibo, Horombo and down again. The optional 6th day on this route can be spent acclimatising at the Horombo hut, normally hiking towards the peak of Mawenzi east of Kibo on the extra day. Note that spending more time on the mountain does help tremendously with acclimatisation. The start is at the Marangu park gate.
Click here to view more details on the Marangu route



machamelunch.jpg (30038 bytes) Many hikers attempting Kilimanjaro are keen outdoors people, used to sleeping out under the stars. For those who don't mind sleeping in tents, but actually prefer it, the Machame route offers probably the best choice on the mountain. As a 6 day minimum route, you virtually circle the main peak of Kibo before actually starting out to the summit from Barafu camp. As mentioned before, accommodation on the Machame is strictly in tents and it is essentially a more natural experience.
As opposed to the Marangu route, meals on the Machame are always had on the floor and depending on the weather, either outside or in a mess tent. It is surprising just how enjoyable such a "floor meal" can be given the limited facilities available to porters to make your life more comfortable.Starting out at the Machame Gate, the first camp site is the Machame camp on the upper edge of the rain forest. As this route follows a different ascent route to the descent, it means that every night (and day), there is a different view of Kibo and the surroundings. This makes for more distractions and in some cases an easier route. The Machame by virtue of its design is the more scenic route of the two, but more suited to the adventurous hikers. From Machame camp the next camp site is Shira, followed by Barranco, always skirting the southern slopes of Kibo. The night prior to the summit attempt is spent at Barafu camp (meaning "ice" in Ki-Swahili). After reaching the summit, the descent follows the Mweka route down until you reach Mweka camp and then down to the Mweka park gate.
Click here to view more details on the Machame route

Points to consider when planning your trip :
There are two major routes to consider when, as a hiker, you are planning to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. The Marangu route, affectionately known as the "tourist", or "Coca-Cola route", has probably gained these nicknames due to its relative comfortable ascent to the top. Accommodation is in huts which boast 12 Volt electricity (solar powered lights). At each camp site there is a dining facility where tired hikers can congregate and relax after a long day’s hiking. The Marangu route is the shortest commercial route to the summit and can be done in either 5 or 6 days.

There is also the Machame route. More scenic than the Marangu, it offers accommodation strictly in tents without the relative luxuries of electricity or any fixed infra structure. To many, this is the biggest attraction of the Machame route. It offers a different camp site on each consecutive night of the hike, affording you many different views of the summit of Kilimanjaro and the neighbouring peaks of Mawenzi and Shira. The Machame route also has the added benefit of offering alternative summit routes. (ie. via Arrow Glacier or Barafu Hut) The fact that either of these two routes may be chosen when ascending via Machame gives added value to the route. As accommodation is strictly in tents, the Machame route lends itself to the more adventurous hiker. Should you not be overly particular about whether you sleep in a tent or a hut, you will certainly find the additional scenic value of Machame worthwhile. Due to the Machame route’s location, it is always done as a 6 day hike. Another option is to combine different routes such as Umbwe, Shira or Mweka with the more traditional ascents as mentioned above.

There are two distinct rain seasons in Tanzania. The long rains during April, May and June and the short rains during November and December are normally accompanied by heavy snowfall on the mountain. You are best advised not to climb during a rain season as conditions are sometimes very difficult. However, the possibility of climbing during a rain season is not necessarily precluded. The popular seasons are mostly directly after a rain season as more snow adds to the scenic attraction of the mountain.

Mt. Kilimanjaro has become very popular recently as more people than ever before are reaching the summit each year. With superior information and sufficient time to prepare, you stand an extremely good chance of reaching the summit. We strongly suggest that you familiarise yourself with the different routes before making your decision. The ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro is seasonal and it is therefore essential to book your climb well in advance in order to ensure availability, especially if wanting to go during the high season. Correct training and a positive mental attitude are crucial ingredients in your planning and you should ideally allow several months between booking and embarking on the expedition. We have successfully hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro on numerous occasions and have lead several large groups to the summit, giving us first hand knowledge of all the major hiking routes. Our detailed presentations are designed to give you an accurate perception of your preferred route without you actually having to climb the mountain. The choice of route should be based on your own personal preferences and whilst there is no real easy route, certain options do provide more comfort than others. If you reside at or near sea level, we would strongly suggest that you consider a 6-day route such as Machame or Marangu which would be better suited to provide sufficient acclimatisation opportunity.

When attempting to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, you will be exposed to extreme weather conditions. Further, you will be entering a Malaria area where malaria prophylactics are recommended. Here follow some important points regarding health issues.

MALARIA - Tanzania is considered a Malaria risk area and care should be taken when visiting the country. Malaria is caused by the parasite carried by the female Anopheles mosquito. It is a serious disease which can be fatal if not treated. We recommend that you take all the appropriate steps to avoid being bitten while simultaneously taking the prescribed medication. Please note that certain medication could be contra-indicated to your condition or certain medications in general use. For specialist advice, please call The Travel Safe Clinic on their national Toll-saver number at 0860 100072. With branches in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, you can be assured of immediate and professional assistance and advice.

ACUTE MOUNTAIN SICKNESS (AMS ) - AMS, as the name indicates is commonly encountered when climbing high mountains or visiting areas of exceptional altitude. The symptoms of AMS are mostly headaches, nausea and disorientation. The combined effects of reduced barometric pressure and lack of oxygen conspire to form one of the most formidable obstacles on Kilimanjaro, commonly referred to as altitude sickness. The illness can be very serious and has lead to fatalities in the past. Effective acclimatisation and preventative medicine is the best way to combat the onset and development of AMS. Once again, we urge you to consult your physician for specialist advice on available medication. Alternatively, you can contact the Travel Safe Clinic at the number given above. For further reading on altitude related illnesses, please follow this link.

YELLOW FEVER - It is compulsory to receive a Yellow fever inoculation prior to your entry into Tanzania. The inoculation must be done at least 10 days prior to departure and proof must be obtained from the institution dispensing the inoculation. It is commonly in the form of an appropriate certificate, yellow or orange in color. As this inoculation is valid for a period of 10 years, it is advisable to complete the formality as soon as possible to avoid any possible side effects shortly before

Citizens from most countries require visas to enter Tanzania. South Africans are required to have a visa and a valid passport when entering Tanzania. We offer a complete visa service for a nominal fee per application. In order for us to process any applications on your behalf, we require the following :

With all the paperwork sorted out, you need to start preparing for the actual climb. Here are some final points to work through in order to complete your preperation.

Equipment - Tribe Safari provides a complete rental service on all the required equipment as well as very competitive rates on equipment for sale. Please contact us well in advance with your equipment needs.
Training - With experience and after several successful summits, we have developed a tailor made training programme (for gym use and hiking) which if followed, will ensure your physical readiness for Kilimanjaro.
Mental attitude - A positive mental attitude is probably the most crucial ingredient in any successful summit attempt. With correct training, adequate equipment and superior information, half the battle is already won. Your own personal motivation and resolve must be able to withstand the test of hardship while on the mountain and good preperation can only contribute to this.
Travel insurance - Travel insurance designed specifically for your Kilimanjaro hike is optional and is available through Tribe Safari. We strongly recommend that you are covered by comprehensive travel insurance for the duration of your trip. We are able to offer you several options which are underwritten by Global Travel Sure.

WB01539_.gif (682 bytes) If you would like to book or view more detail on itineraries and rates for Kilimanjaro, please click here and fill out your details in the appropriate spaces.

All expeditions are lead by certified guides, registered with the Kilimanjaro National Parks Board. We use the same guides for all our expeditions, ensuring constant high standards and client satisfaction. Our guides have been selected after years of experience and through feedback from previous clients. On selected dates throughout the year, or by special request, an experienced member of our staff can accompany your group.