Introducing Mt Kilimanjaro National Park
Since its official opening in 1977, Kilimanjaro National Park has become one of Tanzania’s most visited parks. Unlike the other northern parks, this isn’t for the wildlife, although it’s there. Rather, it’s to gaze in awe at a mountain on the equator capped with snow, and to climb to the top of Africa.
At the heart of the park is the 5896m Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and one of the continent’s magnificent sights. It’s also one of the highest volcanoes and among the highest freestanding mountains in the world, rising from cultivated farmlands on the lower levels, through lush rainforest to alpine meadows, and finally across a barren lunar landscape to the twin summits of Kibo and Mawenzi. (Kilimanjaro’s third volcanic cone, Shira, is on the mountain’s western side.) The lower rainforest is home to many animals, including buffaloes, elephants, leopards and monkeys, and elands are occasionally seen in the saddle area between Kibo and Mawenzi.
A trek up Kili lures around 25,000 trekkers each year, in part because it’s possible to walk to the summit without ropes or technical climbing experience. Yet, non-technical does not mean easy. The climb is a serious (and expensive) undertaking, and only worth doing with the right preparation. There are also many opportunities to explore the mountain’s lower slopes and learn about the Maasai and the Chagga, two of the main tribes in the area.
There are entry gates at Machame, Marangu (which is also the site of park headquarters), Londorosi and several other points. Trekkers using the Rongai Route should pay their fees at Marangu gate.