KILIMANJARO 101

kilis CLIMATE ZONES, WILDLIFE, SWAHILI AND TREKKING TIPS FOR CLIMBING AFRICA'S TALLEST MOUNTAIN

Photo creds Nicola Bailey


KILIMANJARO FACTS

  • Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, and has the highest peak in Africa: Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters.
     
  • While classified as a mountain, Kilimanjaro is actually made up of three volcanic cones that were formed by the Great Rift Valley. They are Shira (3,962m), Mawenzi (5,159m), and Kibo (5,895m).
     
  • While the other two volcanic formations are extinct, some believe Kibo could erupt again one day. The last major eruption was around 360,000 years ago, but some volcanic activity was recorded just 200 years ago.
     
  • Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim. Uhuru, Swahili for Freedom, was named in 1961 when Tanganyika gained its independence. Tanganyika later joined with the islands of Zanzibar to form Tanzania.
     
  • From Kilimanjaro you have a spectacular views of Mount Meru, a volcano 80km west of Kilimanjaro that’s 4,565m high.
     
  • Despite the strong equatorial sun, a glacier exists on top of Kilimanjaro. It’s brilliant white color is what allows it to survive as it reflects most of the sun’s heat. However, the icecap has shrunk in size by more than 80 percent since 1912, and it’s predicted that it will be gone in 15 years, perhaps sooner.
     
  • Once above 4,000 meters (around Karanga Camp), the temperature drops by 1°C for every 150 meters you ascend.
     
  • Look up! There’s little to no light pollution on Kilimanjaro, so the stars of the Southern Hemisphere are vibrant and plentiful. You won’t see the Big Dipper, but you can see the iconic Southern Cross, and the dark nebulae within the Milky Way make it more pronounced.

MACHAME ROUTE MAP


KILIMANJARO CLIMATE ZONES

ZONE 1: RAIN FOREST

Elevation: 800 - 2,800 m
Avg Temp Range: 1
5 - 32 °C
Drenched by about six and a half feet of rain each year, the rain forest is lush, green and bursting with life year round. Colobus and Blue monkeys, mongoose and lots of birds and insects can be found amongst the giant ferns, vines, juniper, fig and olive trees. There are lots of endemic flowers for you to look out for too - including violets, orchids and the famous Impatiens Kilimanjari!

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ZONE 2: HEATH

Elevation: 2,800 - 3,500 m
Avg Temp Range:
0 - 26 °C
Mist and fog cling to the lower edge of the forest in this zone, but, above the tree line, the land opens out into a clear and cool landscape full of mosses and grasses that are vital for safeguarding the soil and conserving the fleeting moisture. Here you’ll also see everlasting flowers, like Proteas, tall plants with red or yellow tubular blossoms called Red Hot Pokers, and single daisy-like flowers called Helichrysum Meyeri Johannis.

ZONE 3: MOORLAND

Elevation: 3,500 - 4,000 m
Avg Temp Range:
0 - 26 °C
Sometimes known as the Low Alpine Zone, the air feels crisp here. The Moorland has sparse vegetation and heather and shrubs blanket the ground; everything is much shorter due to the harsher environment. What it lacks in flower it makes up for in Giant Lobelias and Senecios Kilimanjaris. You’ll see lots of these interesting, stubby palm looking trees that are endemic to the mountain.

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ZONE 4: ALPINE DESERT

Elevation: 4,000 - 5,000 m
Avg Temp Range:
20 - -5 °C
You might feel like you’re on the moon in the Alpine Desert. There isn’t much life here apart from some grasses and a few small flowers. It’s very dusty and dry and a stunning part of the trek because from here you can see Kilimanjaro’s twin summits, Kibo and Mawenzi. Bright sun, high evaporation and wide daily changes in temperature characterize the alpine desert.

ZONE 5: ARCTIC SUMMIT ZONE

Elevation: 5,000 - 5,895 m
Avg Temp Range:
5 - -20 °C
The ultimate goal, the uppermost region is a taste of the Arctic just south of the equator! The oxygen level is about half of that at sea level and the sun is fierce. There’s very little wildlife apart from lichens (however, in 1926, a frozen leopard was discovered near the summit crater)! On your way to Uhuru Peak from Stella Point you’ll see what remains of the Furtwängler Glacier, an enormous icecap that once crowned the summit.


KILIMANJARO WILDLIFE

Colobus Monkeys

These acrobatic monkeys can be seen leaping from tree to tree in the forest canopy of the rain forest, and rarely descend to the ground. They are black with an impressive long “cape” of white hair and a long flowing white tail. These social animals live in groups of three to fifteen members, usually with just one male. In the past, they were hunted by local tribes for their striking black-and-white coats, but their biggest threat today is deforestation. 

White Necked Raven

They are the largest raven species in the region having a wingspan of up to 1 meter wide. They’re known for being tricksters and got their name from the very distinctive white patch on the back of their neck. Their usual diet is insects, seeds and berries, but they’re known for eating pretty much anything. You’ll see lots near the campsites looking for leftover food scraps.

Scarlet-Tufted Malachite Sunbird

These beautiful metallic green birds have a small scarlet patch on either side of their chest. They can often be seen hovering above the grass of the moorlands and hooking their long beaks into the Senecio Kilimanjari to feed on its nectar. These birds are diurnal, meaning active during the day, and are generally seen in pairs or occasionally in small family groups.

Impatiens Kilimanjari

These are the most noticeable, brightly colored flowers in the Rain Forest. They blanket damp shady floor there, and are particularly common by streams on the mountain. What the inch-long flowers lack in size, they make up for with their vibrant pinkish-red hood and curved yellow tail. This species grows nowhere else in the world, and truly capture the energy and spirit of the Rain Forest.

Senecio Kilimanjari

These crazy looking trees are abundant in the moorland of Kilimanjaro and are found nowhere else in the world! Their woody trunks and crown of large leaves can grow up to 5 m high. On top, they have a long spike of lemon-yellow flowers that bloom about once every 25 years. Their cabbage-like rosettes of tough leaves close at night to protect against frost.

Proteas

The floral emblem of South Africa, these everlasting flowers are found in the Heath zone of Kilimanjaro. It’s rare to see them flower. In fact, it’s not a unitary flower, it’s actually a collection of flowers that are densely packed into a bulb that opens up at a certain stage of its maturity. At full maturity the flowers dry and open up appearing to have been burnt by a bush fire.


SWAHILI 101

let’s go!
twende

slowly!
pole! pole!

sorry
pole

no worries
hakuna matata

sister & brother
dada & kaka

friend
rafiki

How do you say...in Swahili?
Unasemaje...na Kiswahili

My name is...
Jina langu ni...

Where are you from?
Unatoka wapi?

I am from...
Ninatoka...

Hi! How are you?
Jambo! Mambo?

good
poa

crazy cool like a banana
poa kichizi kama ndizi

goodbye!
kwaheri!

good night
lala salama

please
tafadhali

thank you (very much)
asante (sana)

you’re welcome
karibu

drinking water
maji ya kunywa

hot water
maji moto


TREKKING TIPS

  • It’s about the journey. Going slowly (or pole pole) will keep you safe, happy and healthy by allowing your body to adjust to the daily altitude gains. Not to mention, it gives you the chance to really take in all the stunning scenery!
     
  • Be on time! You'll be on a strict schedule and have to stick to it (this has to do with weather and camps). So, when they say 8am, they mean 8am. Twende!
     
  • Apply and reapply sunscreen and lip balm everyday and often. Even though it’s cold, you'll be close to the equator so the sun is no joke.
     
  • Keep your batteries and electronics warm by wearing them close to your body in the pocket of an inner layer during the day, and sleeping with them in your sleeping bag at night. This is especially important when you climb to higher altitudes and the temperatures start to drop. Camera batteries freeze and won’t work in cold temperatures...and you don’t want to miss getting your shots at the summit!
     
  • Store your water bottle upside down in your day pack so the mouth doesn’t freeze over. If you’re using a camelbak be sure to blow the water back into the tube when you’re done drinking to avoid it freezing when you get to higher altitudes. 
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TIPS TO DO KILIMANJARO LIKE WHOA

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  • Get to know the other trekkers and your crew. You're all taking an incredible journey - one that’s made exponentially better because you're sharing it with each other. Don’t forget that together, you have a collective strength that will get you through even the toughest times!
     
  • Be humbled. We live in an amazingly beautiful world! You're at the mercy of mother nature when you're on the mountain, and that’s a beautiful thing - one that we often forget in our daily lives. Even when you choose the best season, the weather can be unpredictable. So while we all hope for the best, be prepared for the worst. It’s all a part of the adventure - embrace it!
     
  • Experience the Undugu. This word means brotherhood and it encompasses the attitudes of Tanzanians. Broadly, it means extended family, generosity and compassion towards everyone in the community. Tanzanians go out of their way to help anyone who may need it...so say “Jambo! Mambo!” to all the dada and kaka you encounter on the mountain.
     
  • Take time every day to reflect on where you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.  Taking moments by yourself to stop and take it all in will help you recharge and keep perspective.