Home to the highest mountain on the continent, Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is the setting for those wanting to experience the aptly named ‘ Roof of Africa’.
In the early twentieth century, Mount Kilimanjaro and the adjacent forests were declared a game reserve by the German colonial government. In 1921, it progressed to being designated a forest reserve. In 1973, the mountain above the tree line (about 2,700 metres (8,900 ft) was reclassified as a national park and later also declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. What we know as the park today, was expanded in 2005 to include the entire montane forest with a subsequent total size of 1,688 square kilmoeters
The proud Mount Kilimanjaro is the focus of the national park and all its visitors and has a peak of 5895m. It is comprised of two dormant (Kibo 5,895m and Mawenzi 5,149m) and one extinct (Shira 3,962m) volcanoes respectively. It is the World’s highest free standing mountains that rise on the undulating surrounding plain that averages around 1000m above sea level.
Mount Kilimanjaro supports a unique combination of eco-climatic zones that takes you to the equivalent of a trip from the equator to the arctic in a brief tour. As one climbs Kilimanjaro, vegetation and weather changes in response to the changing elevation.
Between 1800-2800m, one goes through a montane forest.
From 2800-4000m, vegetation is mainly heath and moorland.
From 4000-5000m, vegetation is alpine desert with sparse plants adapted to harsh conditions.
The summit zone has temperatures below the freezing point throughout the year. The mountain peak is normally covered by snow year-round.
Encircling this proud mountain, is a wide band of exceptionally beautiful montane forest About 96% of water on Kilimanjaro originates from within this zone. The forest zone is worth a visit even if one are not climbing to the peaks with many nature trails that explore it. This belt supports several plant species, including endemic plants like Impatiens kilimanjari.
It is about 86Km from Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) to Park Headquarter (Marangu) by road and it take one and half hour (1Hr30Min). The park can only be reached by road.
The distance from Arusha City to Moshi Town is 123Km and it takes two hour (2hrs), reaching to Marangu (Park Headquarter) from Moshi Town is 48 km and takes an hour (1Hour) drive. It is about 86Km from Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) to Park Headquarter (Marangu) by road and it take one and half hour (1Hr30Min). The park can only be reached by road.
A variety of animals can be found in Mount Kilimanjaro National park. Above the timberline, the Kilimanjaro tree hyrax, the grey duiker, and rodents are frequently encountered. The bushbuck and red duiker appear above the timberline in places. Cape buffalo are found in the montane forest and occasionally in the moorland and grassland. Elephants can be found between the Namwai and Tarakia rivers and sometimes occur at higher elevations. In the montane forests, blue monkeys, western black and white colobuses, bushbabies, and elusive leopards can be found.
There are even 179 bird species and 24 species of bat on these mountainous slopes, adding to the hiking experience.
As the core focus of a visit to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park Mountain is hiking, it is that that will be considered. Climbing can be done throughout the year, however, the best time is mid June-October and December-mid March.
The park is endowed with various tourism activities that visitors can do during their visit though all are centred around Mountain. The activities includes; Mountain Climbing to the Summit (MC), Paragliding, Nature Walking Safaris (Short Walking Safaris (SWS)), Long Walking Safaris (LWS), Mawenzi Technical Climbing (MTC), Picnicking, Filming, Non-Summit Bound Climbers, Crater Camping and Mountain Cycling (MB).
Below are a list of peaks that these activities aspire to reach
Kibo, the highest peak (5,895m), is covered by snow throughout the year despite being close to the equator. Conquering this peak is an adventure of a lifetime.
Mawenzi, the rugged peak (5,149m), can only be attempted by technical climb. Only people with specialized knowledge, skills and equipment are allowed.
Shira with the height of3962m, is the oldest peak that collapsed some 750 years ago while before collapsing was the highest of the three
Cathedral Point is the point found on Shira Peak and can be climbed easily during day hike or summit.
Shira Plateau - After collapsing, the Shira peak formed a plateau of outstanding scenic beauty on the mountain. This plateau has an open grassland, heath and moorland with a large concentration of endemic plants including Senecio and lobelias. While on the plateau, one can visit the Shira central cone, the Cathedral and the Needle. Several kinds of migratory mammals such as buffaloes, elephants and elands use this plateau for feeding or salt licking.
Uhuru Point - This is first highest point reached by climbers trying to conquer Kibo peak, 6km from Kibo hut (5895m). Visitors reached at this point are provided with the gold certificates and recorded as a successful climber
Stella Point - This is a second highest point reached by climbers trying to conquer Kibo peak, 5.3km from Kibo hut (5739m). Visitors reached at this point are provided with the silver certificates and recorded as a successful climber.
Activities for non-summit bound climbers include visiting:
• Water falls (Lauwo)
• The Shira Plateau
• Watching wildlife including high altitude birds
• Walking through the Mountain Forest
• Day walk to Maundi crater in the park, Lake Chala and cultural sites such as Kifunika and cultural camps in the villages around.
The Park provides a variety of accommodations ranging from Mountain huts, hostel and 32 public Campsites. Booking for huts and hostel is done through licensed local tour operators