Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcanic mountain made up of three peaks. At 5,895 metres, it is the highest mountain in Africa, and one of the highest free-standing mountains in the world. It attracts over 20,000 visitors per year to attempt to climb its peaks. Hikes around the base are also possible.
Kilimanjaro Flora and Fauna
Located just 325 km south of the equator, the mountain rises impressively up from agricultural plains with its enigmatic glaciated peak. Though most visitors come for the climb, Kilimanjaro has an enormous biodiversity. Endemic species include the giant groundsels in the bunchgrass tussock grasslands, and other flora adapted to living in alpine plant conditions.
Trekking to the Summit
Because climbing Kilimanjaro does not require any technical skills or special equipment, thousands of trekkers each year are attracted by the challenge of climbing to the top. There are six main trekking routes: Marangu, Machame, Mweka, Rongai, Shira, and Umbwe. Of all the routes, Machame is considered the most scenic, albeit steeper, route. It can be done in six or seven days. The Marangu is relatively easy, but this route tends to be very busy, the ascent and descent routes are the same, and accommodation is in shared huts.
People who wish to trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro are advised to undertake appropriate research and ensure that they are both properly equipped and physically capable. Though the climb is technically not as challenging as the high peaks of the Himalayas or Andes, the high elevation, low temperature, and occasional high winds make this a difficult and dangerous trek. Acclimatisation is essential, and even the most experienced trekkers suffer some degree of altitude sickness. All trekkers will suffer considerable discomfort, typically shortage of breath, hypothermia, and headaches.
The Tanzania National Parks Authority has mandated minimum climb durations for each route. These regulations prohibit climbs of fewer than five days on the Marangu Route, and ensure a minimum of six days for the other five sanctioned routes. Some experts say that these minimums are not sufficient to avoid the acute symptoms of altitude sickness. As a general rule, it is far safer (and more enjoyable) to avoid altitude sickness by planning a sensible itinerary that allows for gradual acclimatization to high elevation as one ascends. Tour operators with a high turnover often recommend an optimal climb length around seven to eight days.