KILIMANJARO ADVENTURE GUIDE
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW before TAKING ON AFRICA's tallest mountain
Arrive at Kilimanjaro airport (JRO) in Moshi by noon at the latest. We’ll be there to give you a warm Tanzanian welcome and bring you to our lodge. In the afternoon, we'll do a gear check to make sure everyone is fully equipped and ready to go. At night, we’ll all get together for a WHOA welcome dinner to meet the amazing guides and get briefed on the adventure that lies ahead of us!
Time to rise and shine! After breakfast, we’ll ride to the gate where the Machame route, and our epic journey begin! We’ll start the trek in the early afternoon on a winding trail through the lush and misty Rainforest (they don't call it a rainforest for nothing)! Be sure to keep an eye out for the colorful Impatiens Kilimanjari flowers and Colobus Monkeys as we make our way to Machame Camp. In the evening, we’ll have time to relax, watch the sunset, and enjoy dinner together.
After breakfast, we’ll leave the glades of the rainforest and enter a completely new and beautiful climate zone: the Heath. It’s characterized by its everlasting flowers and mossy low trees, which we'll stop to enjoy on several beautiful overlooks. After a little scrambling above the tree line, we’ll make our way to Shira Camp just in time to enjoy a dance party and a breathtaking view of the sun setting over Mount Meru!
From the Shira Plateau, we’ll head upwards, through a barren surreal landscape, to Lava Tower, which is our highest elevation so far at 4,600 m. After lunch and some acclimatization, we’ll head down through a forest of towering Senecio Kilimanjari that look straight out of Dr. Seuss’ imagination! Our home for the night will be in a beautiful valley beside the Barranco Wall overlooking Moshi.
In the morning, we’ll pack up our hiking poles and tackle the famous (and fun!) challenge of steep scrambling that is the Barranco Wall! At the top, we'll be rewarded with some of the most amazing views and photo ops on Kili. Today's a relatively short hiking day, that helps us acclimatize more and give our bodies some rest. We’ll spend the afternoon and evening at Karanga Camp where we'll be able to take in a beautiful view of the summit, and reflect on what's to come!
After breakfast and taking in some more great views of Uhuru Peak in the early morning light, we’ll make our way up to Barafu Camp through the barren Alpine Desert. We’ll get there in the early afternoon to eat, rest up, and gather our collective courage...because tonight is the big night we’ve been preparing for!
Around midnight, we’ll put on our head lamps and start our ascent to the summit under thousands of twinkling stars. It’s a steep, long night, and the most mentally and physically challenging part of the trek. However, the energy of our group, and the rhythm of our guides’ Swahili chants will help you keep going! This is the time when we will all dig deep and remember why we are doing this together. We should get to Stella Point (5,670 m) just as the sun is rising over Mawenzi peak. From there, it’s a slight, 1-hour ascent along the extraordinary Furtwängler Glacier to UHURU PEAK! After taking in the views and taking some pics, we’ll make our way back down the skree to our camp. In the afternoon, after some rest, we’ll head back through the Alpine Desert and Moorland to our camp nestled in the Heath.
After our last breakfast (and dance party) with our new mountain family, we’ll start our final descent down through the Rainforest and off Kilimanjaro. At Mweka Gate, we’ll have a special lunch (complete with some celebratory food and drinks) before driving back to our hotel in Moshi for much deserved showers. At night, we’ll continue the celebration at dinner and reflect on the amazing experience we shared together and what great adventures are to come!
At WHOA, we believe an important part of taking adventures is giving back, and that every travel experience is more special and meaningful if you immerse yourself and connect with locals and their culture. It's something that we weave into every aspect of our trips, but especially on this last morning, as we wrap up our time together. Today, we'll take time to reflect on our epic shared journey and celebrate how special and powerful women coming together is. We'll spend time with one of our local partners that is changing the lives of women and children in the region in positive and sustainable ways. Whether it's learning and laughing with children at a local village school or supporting and sharing with a women-run social enterprise that empowers disenfranchised women in the community, connecting in this way is always heart warming and eye opening, and gives more depth to our entire Tanzanian adventure!
In the evening, you can catch your plane back home if you need to go, OR get ready for a once in a lifetime safari to the region's stunning national parks! Our safari car will depart in the afternoon for Arusha (~2 hour drive), where we'll stay at another one of our favorite lodges and enjoy dinner together.
We'll set off bright and early on a ~3 hour drive from Arusha to Tarangire National Park, a beautiful reserve that is famous for its vast herds of elephants roaming around giant baobab trees. After a full day of game viewing in the park, we'll head to our exotic safari lodge for dinner and some much deserved R&R.
Be ready for an early wake up call as we head to the grand finale of our safari, the Ngorongoro Crater. This natural wonder is a cradle for wildlife, and is home to zebras, lions, elephants, flamingos, hippos, cheetahs, antelopes, ostriches, warthogs, hyenas...you get the idea! After another beautiful day of game viewing, we'll head out on the 5-6 hour drive to Moshi. If you're flying this evening, it's important that you DO NOT schedule a flight before 8:30pm, in fact, it's common for people to book their flights out the next day to enjoy a little more down time in town before getting on a plane. After safari, we recommend continuing on to Zanzibar for some sun, sand and turquoise blue waters if you can! We don't have a group itinerary for this special, historic Tanzanian island, but are happy to help you put together exactly what you are looking for, so just ask.
*Itinerary subject to change based on availability and unforeseen conditions, but that's part of the adventure! Even when things change, trust you'll be well taken care of with WHOA quality, professionalism, and TLC!
MACHAME ROUTE MAP
KILIMANJARO GEAR GUIDE
Use our Kilimanjaro gear checklist as a guide for what to pack, but also use your own best judgement and discretion when choosing exactly what you'll need (no one knows you better than you)! Our biggest piece of advice is to pack as light and smart as possible and bring durable, multi use items. Your large duffel, which will be carried by a porter from camp to camp, has a strict 15 kg weight limit (including your sleeping bag), and you will carry your personal necessities (camera, rain layers, sunscreen, etc...) in your day pack. (While you’re trekking, you’ll be able to store additional luggage safely at the hotel.)
We always choose climbing dates that are during the dry seasons, but remember that no one can predict what the weather will do on Kili (that’s part of the adventure)! Mid December-March and June-October are the recommended months to climb Kilimanjaro and are usually full of cloud free days and mild weather, relatively speaking. On average, the temperature during the day at 4,000 m tends to be 15°C (50°F) and -10°C (14°F) at night. At the summit, temperatures are usually about 5°C (41°F) during the day and around -20°C (-4°F ) at night. It sounds really cold, but remember you’ll be moving, and with the right layers and proper gear, it’s nothing you can’t handle!
Your local outdoor outfitter is a great resource if you have any questions regarding the specifics of what you need. Tell them what you are doing and they’ll be able to help you make sure you’re getting the proper gear for Kili conditions. Also, keep in mind, you can rent equipment to cut down on costs. As usual, never hesitate to reach out to us if you have any concerns or questions. Be sure to check out our What to Wear to Uhuru Peak Gear Guide and 5 Not So Common Must-Haves for your Trek on the our like WHOA blog.
Bring something light with a brim for sunny days, and a warm beanie that will cover your ears for colder nights. Both are great for hiding dirty hair too!
2-3 PAIRS OF GLOVES
Bring one mid weight lightly insulated pair, and one more serious thermal, insulated outer pair with removable liners for summit night.
3-4 MOISTURE WICKING TOPS
Bring a few lightweight tops, so you can layer and re-wear them. Pack a mixture of tanks and long sleeve options.
3-4 MEDIUM LAYErS
These will provide insulation, and include, but are not limited to, thin fleeces, light down jackets, and vests that you can easily stuff in your daypack and layer on and off as your temperature and the conditions change.
1 OUTER LAYER JACKET
A breathable, water and wind proof jacket with a hood that you can wear comfortably over all your layers. This is a must-have at higher altitudes and to layer on in the case of rain.
Not to be confused with a Baklava, this is a quadruple threat! It’s great for keeping your entire head, ears, neck and face warm when it’s really cold and windy, especially summit night.
1 PAIR HIKING BOOTS
The most important thing you’ll bring! Make sure they are Gore-Tex, have ankle support, and that you’ve broken them in nice and good.
1 PAIR CAMP SHOES
Comfy, closed toed, easy to slip on shoes are great to have for camps, and going to the bathroom at night. Trust us, the last thing you want to do is put your boots back on after a long day of hiking. We love our CROCS for this - they’re lightweight and durable.
You’ll want a few pairs of pants to last you the entire trek. Bring at least one pair of shorts or capris for the hotter days in the rainforest, and a few pairs of long pants or leggings to layer on as it gets colder. For summit night, you can either layer a few thermal and fleece pants under your lightweight outer layer pant to keep you shielded from the elements, or warm ski pants.
1 WIND + WATERPROOF PANT
A non-insulated, outer layer pant is a must-have to layer on over your base layers in the case of rain or wind.
ALL ABOUT THAT BASE
1-2 THERMAL BASE LAYERS
A thin, snug fitting, moisture wicking top and bottom set that you can wear underneath everything at higher altitudes to regulate your body temperature by keeping sweat away from your skin. We recommend a sport synthetic fabric like polyester or merino wool.
4-5 PAIRS WARM SOCKS
Bring durable wool socks in a few different weights - lighter for the hotter days, and serious heavy ones the nights and colder days. A couple pairs of liner socks are great to help prevent blisters too!
2-3 SPORTS BRAS
Bring bras that provide support, feel comfortable against your skin, dry quickly and don't bind, smoosh or chafe.
Even better if they’re the quick dry wicking kind! The amount you bring is based on personal preference. Another stay fresh tip we love is to use ultra thin panty liners that you can easily dispose of and change everyday instead of wearing a new pair of underwear.
GET YOUR ARSE IN GEAR
1 DAY PACK
You’ll need a basic, light weight hiking backpack to wear everyday to carry your water, extra layers, snacks, etc… Something around 28 L is perfect. We recommend getting one that is compatible with a water bladder and hose, and has a built-in rain cover.
1 LARGE WATERPROOF DUFFEL
This will store all of your gear and clothing for the trek, and will be carried from camp to camp by one of our amazing porters. It’s important to note, that it must be less than 15 kg all packed (approx. 75-90 liters). You can rent these from us, just be sure to note it in our Pre-Adventure HUB.
1 WATER BLADDER
Staying hydrated is of the upmost importance! We highly recommend getting a 3 L Camelbak with an insulated tube and cap. It’s the easiest way to carry and drink your water, while trekking.
1 WATER BOTTLE
Bring a 1 L wide mouth, BPA free plastic water bottle or Nalgene. You'll want this on summit night when your Camelback might freeze.
1 PAIR TREKKING POLES
Three-section, adjustable-height models are best. You can save space and rent these from us locally, just be sure to make a note of that in our Pre-Adventure HUB.
1 PAIR GAITERS
You’ll wear these over the top part of your shoe and lower pant leg, these help protect your feet from any water, dirt and pebbles that might try to sneak in. These are especially great for the downhill portions of the trek. You can rent these from us, just be sure to note it in our Pre-Adventure HUB.
1 RAIN PONCHO
Sometimes, like in the rain forest, it’s too hot and uncomfortable to wear your waterproof jacket, so a poncho is perfect to throw on to protect you and day pack. Not to mention, if it's raining a lot, using only a rain jacket and pack cover will leave too much exposed and your straps will get soaked.
1 FOUR SEASON SLEEPING BAG
Thermarest sleeping mats are provided free of charge to everyone on our treks!
1 SLEEPING BAG LINER
This will add an extra layer of warmth at night, and is a must have if you’re using a rented sleeping bag.
1 BUFF OR BANDANA
An all around great item to always have with you. You can use it as a neck gaiter, head band, sweat rag, etc...
1 HEAD LAMP + EXTRA BATTERIES
Important for when the sun sets at camp, and on summit night when we're hiking through the night. Start the trek with fresh batteries, and bring a spare set just in case.
Protect yourself from the fierce equatorial, mountain sun! Make sure they fit well and are UV-blocking and polarized.
CAMERA + EXTRA BATTERIES
There are so many amazing photo ops! DSLRs can be cumbersome to have with you while trekking, but nowadays, most smartphones have great cameras and are compact and durable enough to work well in the mountain conditions. Compact point-and-shoots work well too, just make sure no matter what you choose to bring, that you have spare batteries and/or portable battery chargers. Always pack your electronics in waterproof bags/cases.
ALL THE SMALL THINGS
Consult with your physician on any prescription medication you might need for this adventure, especially Diamox, a common medication taken for preventing altitude sickness. Other common medications you might want to bring along include, pain relievers, anti-histamines, antidiarrheals, etc…
Make sure it’s valid for 6 months after your adventure dates, and it’s always a good idea to travel with an extra photocopy of it. Bring a Ziploc/waterproof bag to keep it dry when it’s on the mountain with you.
We’ll have all this stuff on hand, but make sure you have a compact kit with Neosporin, bug spray, band-aids, moleskin, duct tape, anti-septic, etc...
SUNSCREEN + LIPSCREEN
This is a must have for being in the strong mountain sun all day! Bring a new, full tube with an SPF rating of 30+.
Don’t forget the essentials like travel sized deodorant, sun screen, lotion, hair ties, hair brush, face wipes, tampons,contact solution, toothbrush and toothpaste etc…
QUICK DRY TOWEL + LOTS OF WET WIPES
Who needs running water and a shower?! Don't forget about the environment and make sure your wet wipes are biodegradable.
2 LUGGAGE LOCKS
Always lock your things! Have one for your duffel on the mountain, and have one to lock your suitcase that will stay at the hotel while you’re trekking.
BAGS, BAGS, BAGS
You’ll want to bring along several durable bags in all shapes and sizes to help organize, pack, and separate dirty clothing and gear, and to carry trash. Everything from Ziplocks to heavy garbage bags to stuff sacks.
There’s plenty of hearty food provided at meals, but bring lots of extra snacks. The days are long and you need to keep your energy up! Bring nutrient rich things like protein bars, trail mix and electrolyte powder. It’s common to lose your appetite at high altitude, so bring some comfort foods like crackers and candy!
OFF THE MOUNTAIN
For the days you’ll spend off the mountain know that Tanzania is warm and casual. We recommend packing light dresses, tops, capris and comfortable sandals and/or sneakers (walking is the best way to get around town). Bring a light sweater or scarf to cover your shoulders when it cools down in the evenings and when visiting town. When visiting local organizations or schools wear skirts, dresses or pants that cover your knees and tops that cover your shoulders and are not low cut. It’s also best to avoid tight pants and leggings (unless covered by a long shirt) - this is out of respect for the local culture. If you are going on a safari before or after, pack earth tones like khaki, brown and dull green, and avoid bright colors - especially blue because it attracts tsetse flies! Bring small bills for meals, drinks and souvenirs. Most places take US dollars but they must be marked past 2009. All meals and tips are included on our trek so you won’t need to bring any cash on the mountain with you, but you’ll want it for town.
While classified as a mountain, KILI is actually made up of three volcanic coneS.
They were formed by the Great Rift Valley, and are called 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.
Once above 4,000 meterS, around Karanga Camp on day 4, the temperature drops by 1°C FOR every 150 meters you ascend.
KILIMANJARO CLIMATE ZONES
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!
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.
Sometimes known as the Low Alpine Zone, the air feels crisp and cool here. Shrubs blanket the ground, but still, vegetation is sparse due to the harsher conditions. However, what it lacks in flowers 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.
You might feel like you’re on the moon when you’re in the Alpine Desert! There isn’t much life apart from some grasses and a few small flowers. It’s very dusty, dry, and a stunning part of the trek because from here you can see Kilimanjaro’s twin summits, Kibo and Mawenzi. This zone is characterized by bright sun, high evaporation and wide daily changes in temperature.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hi! How are you?
poa kichizi kama ndizi
crazy cool like a banana
thank you (very much)
maji ya kunywa
dada & kaka
sister & brother
How do you say...in Swahili?
Jina langu ni...
My name is...
Where are you from?
I am from...
HOW TO HAVE THE HAPPIEST & HEALTHIEST ADVENTURE POSSIBLE
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!
LAYER IT ALL ON ME
As the altitude gets higher, the temperature range gets gradually wider, and that's what makes layering so important on each day of the hike!
TAKE THE CHILL OFF
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. 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!
REMEMBER THE BIG PICTURE
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.
Be on time!
You'll be on a strict schedule and have to stick to it (it has to do with the changing weather, meals and making the most of our daylight). So, when the guides and GALs say 8am, they mean 8am. Twende!
DON'T GET BURNED
Apply and reapply sunscreen and lip balm everyday and often (and you'll be holding poles all day, so don't forget the tops of your hands)! Even though it’s cold, you'll be close to the equator so the sun is no joke.