Facts about the Kilimanjaro
The Kilimanjaro mountain is one of nature’s most exotic wonders. Almost anyone you stop in the street will probably have heard its name at least once in their life time. The Kilimanjaro’s global fame comes from its obvious magnificence and glory that stands as the crown of Africa.
The Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa with its summit of about 4900metres (16,100ft) from its base and 5,895metre (19,341ft) above sea level. Kilimanjaro as its own is just a mountain, but what makes its magnificence are the three volcanic cones known as Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. The highest summit is ”The Uhuru peak” which is located on the Kibo’s crater rim.
These are all just basic information you can get on the internet. Now here comes the fun part. Grab your mountain boots, we are off for a mental hike.
1. Kilimanjaro is not technically a mountain.
Well at least not in the technical sense since mountains are formed through tectonic plates. What distinguishes The Kilimanjaro from other mountains is that it was formed through the accumulation of volcanic eruptions about a ‘few’ million years ago. Shira and Mawenzi are extinct while Kibo is merely dormant. The last eruption was believed to have taken place 360,000 years ago, and the last volcanic activity was recorded 200 years ago.
2. The story behind the name “Kilimanjaro”
This unique name originated from a ” Chagga” word ( ”Chagga” is a tribe located in the northern part of Tanzania) which means white because of its famous snow capped peaks. Sadly the Kilimanjaro has lost 85% of its ice from 1912 to 2011 according to data collected by NASA, the rest could be gone by 2020. So you better start packing.
3. Your gonna need outfits and gears for different climatic conditions.
Its not everyday you get to visit a place with 2 different climates, now imagine having to experience six climates within the same geographical area! That’s crazy right! Well not crazy enough for mother nature I guess. As you ascend to the mountain, you will notice the changes in the climate, and as you ascend higher the changes will become more obvious, this is a summarized guide to prepare you for what you might experience during your climb.
The cultivation zone
This is found between 2600ft and 6000ft as you ascend towards the mountain. This zone receives one of the greatest annual rainfalls, it also has a lot of rivers and small water streams formed by glaciers run off from the top of the Kilimanjaro. You will also notice farm lands and small ”Chagga” villages. Many of the porters or guides that will escort you during your trip are from these villages. The farms on this zone are basically for coffee production. Infact some of the best coffee comes from the foot hills of mount Kilimanjaro. Well, you’ll be the judge of that. Coffee is not the only product grown on these foot hills, you will also enjoy a beautiful scenery of numerous banana plantations, avocados, mango trees, and many other tropical fruits.
The forest or rain forest zone
You will enter this zone at around 6000ft to 9000ft. the forests circles majority of the mountain, however most of the rain falls on the south and east side. You will also see unique flora and fauna that are extremely diverse and unique. Mother nature also has another treat for you if you are lucky. You might just be able to spot wild animals, these occasions are rare but not impossible. You might be able to see blue monkeys and Colonus, olive baboons, elephants, mongooses, bush babies and even leopards. In even rarer occasions black rhinoceros, giraffes and buffaloes are also known to visit the mountain and have been spotted by a few climbers. But don’t miss the experience itself by trying to spot that polka dotted figure in the bushes and forget to observe and take in the surrounding beauty of the rain forest itself. The colors of the jungle are amazing, some climbers have even said the colors are probably more vibrant than any forest they have ever seen, and when there is a break in the foliage, you get beautiful sceneries of the clouds weaving their way through the tree tops.
The Heath zone
This is the third zone that starts from around 9200ft to 11000ft. You will notice you have reached this zone because at the beginning you will observe a lot of mist and fog but it soon disappears revealing a clear area of heather with blankets of grass and artichokes such as Protea.
This zone begins at 11000ft to 13200ft. It is characterized by unique well known plants found at the Kilimanjaro known as Lobelias and Senecios.
The Alpine desert
You probably didn’t expect to see a desert, but here it is.The temperature in this zone is similar to any other desert, it can have extreme high temperatures during the day to over a hundred degrees and cools off to freezing temperatures during the night. Because of such little water the soil begins to thin, you will only observe few patches of tussock grasses and moss balls that are probably the only plants that survive along this zone.
The arctic zone
So you made it to the final zone. Give yourself a tap on the shoulder, not a lot of climbers make it to this zone. so you more than deserve to feel good about yourself. But hold those applause , how do you even know you’re at the final zone? Well for starters the zone begins from around 16,000ft and it continues to the top of the Uhuru peak at around 19,340ft (so you cant exhale just yet). The lower section of this zone is made up of loose dirt and gravel known as scree, scree is quite difficult to climb. This is why the summit attempts begin at night when the evening dew has settled and frozen, this allows the scree to knit together making a more stable path.
When do you get to start seeing the ice? The ice will begin to appear in patches, then in large fields as you approach the lower parts of the summit glaciers. The traditional route will take you up to the rim of the volcano then it will head west for the final climb, then just like a mirage in a desert, you will see the sign that signifies that you have made it. You have reached the roof of Africa. And the view makes it so much more worth it. Across the horizon you can see Kenya spread along the plains.
If you still have some strength left in you, you can not miss seeing the crater. it is said to be one of the largest mountain craters in the world. Inside the crater you will see the ash pit that spreads across by 393ft and a depth of 1100ft, truly a magnificent site to see, totally worth pushing that last bar of energy.
4. You get to have a little safari experience.
Your fellow climbers will not be the only living things you will see during your climb as the last fact stated about the animals you might see along the zones. There is surprisingly an abundance of wildlife including elephants, monkeys, mongooses, and even honey badgers who populate the forest In the lower zones of the Kilimanjaro. Obviously the animal sightings will become increasingly rare as you ascend towards the mountain, but keep that camera handy, you might just get lucky and snap a national geographic worthy photograph of a monkey wrestling a honey badger. And if you don’t, the climb itself is an unforgettable experience on its own.
Climbing the highest mountain in Africa is not something you accomplish everyday. And believe me that is an experience that is going to stick with you for a really long time. So get booking and let us make your adventure unforgettable.
Your Rafiki blogger here,