Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, the highest freestanding mountain in the world and the highest natural structure that can be climbed without any technical equipment – with Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro, at 5 895 m in altitude. The diversity of forest, moorland, alpine desert and glaciers that you’ll travel through on your way up the mountain makes this an once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
This is the place on earth where you can hike for 60 km, gain more than four kilometers in altitude, experience mud sliding in the rain forests, traverse alpine heath and moorland, battle through high altitude desert and snowfields and come within touching distance of ancient glaciers. All this virtually on the equator! This is Mount Kilimanjaro National Park.
The park exists to preserve mount Kilimanjaro’s unique scenic and geological features and its fauna and flora for the use and enjoyment of all people. Kilimanjaro lies in the heart of the Rift Valley, a great chasm stretching 5 600 km from Mozambique in the south to the Red Sea in the north. Geologists believe that the rift was formed when the earth’s crust began to fracture two million years ago spewing forth lava from several weak points.
What is now Kilimanjaro is the result of three volcanic cones – Shira (3 962 m), Mawenzi (5 149 m) and Kibo at 5 895 m, the highest point on the African continent. Shira collapsed into a caldera, followed by Mawenzi, rapidly eroded into a sharp, shattered peak. Kibo is the tallest and continued to grow to reach its present height about 450 000 years ago. The last volcanic activity was about 200 years ago when an explosive hiccup left a symmetrical cone of ash around the rim of Kibo. The volcanoes are now dormant and the likelihood of further eruptions is minimal although there are active fumaroles (jet streams) and sulfur deposits in the ash pit on Kibo.
This mountain is 330 m south of the equator on the northern boundary of Tanzania. Its location close to the Indian Ocean and its size and height strongly influence the climate. Consequently the Kilimanjaro with its gleaming glaciers, wreathing veils of clouds and variety of eco systems stands so solidly and majestically amidst the vast open East African plains that it beckons you to experience all it has to offer yourself. Several thousands of hikers from all over the world visit this mountain every year.
The hike on foot from the entrance gate (very likely in a drizzle) through dense rain forests on muddy paths to an altitude over 3 000 m on the first day already indicate that this is not an ordinary hike. Further on when altitude starts to take its toll the first view of Kibo and the surrounding heath is a welcome compensation. All throughout, the wonder of nature to adapt to the environment is stunning! Everlasting, Giant Lobelias and a variety of heath, all have developed mechanisms by which they not only survive but also manage to flourish. Then, entering the Alpine desert one must come to the conclusion that humans have survived for so long simply because of their ability to adapt. At this point the preparation for the visit to the mountain has its effect. Both body and mind is tested to the limit in an environment where the body must perform on 50% less oxygen than at sea level and ambient temperatures may drop to minus 20 ˚C.
Why then call Kilimanjaro a hiker’s paradise? Just the privilege to be on this mountain and to experience all its extraordinary facets is more than enough to call it such. You will need all the previous hiking experience on a single week long hike. You will experience the mystery of mind, body and soul adapting to the widely varying conditions. You will become breathless with the wonders of Gods creation and finally standing on top of the highest mountain in Africa, will come to realize how small you really are.
You will come to the realization that you cannot conquer a mountain. You can only be thankful of the privilege to tread on it, to experience its wonders and to have the facilities to overcome its obstacles. Any victory claimed should be that over your own physical and mental insignificance and limitations.
Staff at Hikers Paradise have personal experience of hiking on Kilimanjaro and are available to prepare you for a trip to this wonderful mountain. Regular slide shows and information sessions are offered to assist in the preparation.
Hikers Paradise is situated off South Street in Centurion and can assist with information on hiking opportunities in South Africa and abroad.
Contact 012 663 7647/8; www.hikersparadise.co.za