Kilimanjaro National Park Tanzania, The Most Unique in Africa : Upon planning a trip around the world, there is a spectacular destination where you will enjoy nearly all the things you want to do. This splendid destination is Tanzania. Yes, the home of three among the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa; the Great Migration, Ngorongoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro. This beautiful country hosts various cultural groups, national parks, and game reserves which attracts thousands of visitors from all corners of this planet. Since Tanzania has many things to offer for you, specificity is required when choosing what to do in this spectacular country. Now, I would like to explain all you need to know about Kilimanjaro National Park.
Kilimanjaro National Park is a stunning protected area located in the Northern Circuit (northern Tanzania) in the Kilimanjaro region. It is home to Africa’s highest peak, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, and one of the Seven Summits. This park has a total area of about 1688 square kilometers and it is located close to the town of Moshi and 128 kilometers from Arusha. This incredible park is easily reachable from strategic regions with airports receiving international airports.
These include Dar es Salaam and Arusha. Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) receives flights from various nations on different continents so the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). If you land in Dar es Salaam you will book another flight to Arusha. From Arusha, you will drive to Moshi then to one of the gates of the Kilimanjaro National Park. Chartered flights from all regions in Tanzania are available to this park. Local aircraft from all regions in Tanzania offer cheap flights to Arusha (JRO)and Moshi. Some airlines operating internal flights include Air Tanzania, yes the Wings of Kilimanjaro, Coastal Aviation, Precision Air, Fastjet, Auric Air, Flightlink, and many others. The best time to visit Kilimanjaro National Park is from January to March and from June to October. During these times, the sky is clear allowing you to spot clear views of this majestic mountain.
Kilimanjaro National Park has many attractions that may interest you. It hosts Mount Kilimanjaro, wild animals, birds, and stunning vegetation. Let’s explore one after another.
Mount Kilimanjaro; is a dormant volcanic mountain with three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Kibo retains its snow throughout the season and that is why Mount Kilimanjaro is sometimes called the snow-capped mountain. It is on Kibo where its highest peak, Uhuru peak is located. Uhuru peak is at 5895 meters above sea level and about 4900 above the plateau base. Climbers are required to book a hike of six to nine days to reach the summit. If you have never been adapted to high altitudes like this, I would advise you to go for an acclimatization exercise on Mount Meru, the wild little brother of Mount Kilimanjaro. Mount Meru hike takes 3 to 4 days to reach the Social Peak (4566m) enough to make you adapt to high altitudes. After acclimatizing, you can proceed to the spectacular Mt. Meru’s “big brother” where you will enjoy climbing the highest peak in Africa. The Kilimanjaro climb is sensational.
You will have to choose your best operator and the best route for your climb. There are seven attributed routes to the summit of the magnificent mountain. These are Machame route, Rongai route, Umbwe route, Lemosho route, Marangu route, Northern Circuit route, and Shira route. The choice of your routes should consider these factors; how difficult is the summit night? Routes with easy summit nights are Machame and Lemosho routes while the toughest summit nights are experienced on Rongai and Marangu routes. The most remote route is Rongai where you will climb by yourself or with few people who rarely choose it. However, this route has a lot to offer from superb views to comfortability. Machame and Lemosho routes are best for acclimatization. Your choice should also consider the time taken to reach the summit. The Umbwe takes about 6 days; Machame takes 7 days, Lemosho takes up to 8 days and Northern Circuit takes about 9 days. All these routes differ in price range from one to another. For instance, Machame costs about $2540, Rongai costs $2630, Lemosho costs $2670, Northern Circuit costs $2999, Lemosho costs $2590 and Marangu costs $2450. You should note that tour operators have their special packages that may interest you. Some of the packages includes
- A 9-day Safari & Hike on Kilimanjaro’s Shira Plateau with a cost $3, 450 per person.
- 9-day Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route with a cost of $2, 495 per head.
- 7-day Kilimanjaro Trekking Tour via Machame Route with a cost $1, 945 per person.
- 6-day Mt. Kilimanjaro Trekking via Marangu with a cost of $1, 500 per head.
- 6-day Kilimanjaro Climb via Umbwe Route with a cost of 1, 590 per head
Vegetation zones; Kilimanjaro National Park is home to Mountainous vegetation, which starts from its base to the summit. There are five main vegetation zones namely lowest zone, Montane Forest Zone, Semi-Alpine Moorland Zone, Alpine Zone and Arctic Zone.
Lowest Zone; this is also called Cultivation Zone. It is between the 792m-1800m altitudes. This zone consists of many human activities like cultivation and grazing of livestock. You will enjoy the magnificent views of this zone on your drive to the gates of Kilimanjaro National Park (Mweka, Marangu and Machame Gates).
Montane Forest Zone; this zone starts from 1800m and elevates to 3000m altitudes. It is very wet receiving plenty of rainfall of up to 2000mm annually. It is dotted with over 1200 species of vascular plant. Some dominant tree species in this zone are Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius), East Africa camphorwood (Ocotea usambarensis), wild olive (Olea africana), maracanga (Macaranga kilimandscharica) and wild figs (Ficus sp). As you ascend to higher altitudes, you will encounter beautiful trees such as fragrant (Hagenia abyssinica) and African pencil-cedar (Juniperus procera). This zone is also endowed with sensational flowers like red-and-yellow impatiens and violets. If you want to interact with the animal species residing this park, this is the excellent zone for you. Excellent views of monkeys, Cape buffalos, elephants, leopards, servals, bushbucks and duikers have been witnessed here. Superb birds including Hartlaub’s turaco, silvery-cheeked hornbill, greenbuls, robin-chats, emerald cuckoo and nectar-loving sunbirds have been spotted in this zone. Other fauna species include Jackson’s three-horned chameleon and butterflies. Have you heard of the largest duiker in the world, Abbott’s duiker? This endangered species is found in the montane forest of eastern Tanzania. It is also found in this zone.
Semi-Alpine Moorland Zone; found between the 3000m-4000m altitudes, this zone is merely dotted with shrubs, grasses and short trees. It receives relatively low rainfall as compared to the montane forest zone. It is home to exotic flowers like yellow-flowered alpine sugarbush and alpine red-hot poker. It is dominated by giant lobelia and giant groundsel. Since this zone has higher altitudes, animal species that can be spotted include mice, rock hyrax and klipspringers. Birdlife surviving such higher altitudes are scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird, Augur buzzard, Alpine chat, Alpine swift, streaky seedeater and Mountain buzzard.
Alpine Zone; this one is between 4000m-5000m altitudes. It is a semi-desert where you will experience daily fluctuations of temperatures. Plant species found here are grasses, lichen and moss. There is no permanent wildlife in this zone. However, in rare cases, eland can sometimes be spotted so do elephants.
Arctic Zone; this the highest vegetation zone in Kilimanjaro National Park. It is located at 5000m-5895m altitudes. There is no rainfall at this zone. Life does not exist there. Nevertheless, a frozen leopard was discovered in 1926 and pack of African wild dog in 1962.
After exploring on the attractions found in this awe-inspiring national park, you may be left in a dilemma of deciding on what to do apart from climbing this mighty mountain. A fond of activities which can be done there include birding, game viewing, primate trekking and visiting Lake Chala. This park is home to over 150 bird species making it an impressive destination for birders. Birders will enjoy encountering with mountain birds and species dwelling in high altitudes. Over 30 mammal species are found in this park. They include dik-diks, elephants, colobus monkeys, Cape buffalos, duikers, leopard, servals and many others. Baboons, white and black colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and black-faced monkeys make this park a splendid place for trekking primates. Lake Chala is a crater lake found at the edge of Mount Kilimanjaro with an area of about 1.6 square miles thus Kilimanjaro National Park Tanzania.
Kilimanjaro National Park is surrounded by excellent accommodation facilities strategically located at about 5 to 18 miles from the park gates. Budget, mid-range and luxurious facilities are available. They include Mt. Kilimanjaro View Lodge ($76 per night), Kilemakyaro Mountain Lodge ($48 per night), Kambi Ya Tembo Elerai Tented Camp ($519 per night for 2 guests), Kilimanjaro White House ($34 per night), Chanya Lodge ($102 per night), Ndarakwai Camp ($762 per night for 2 guests).
As human beings, we try a lot to keep things like story short and clear without knowing that we are spoiling the whole thing. My short description about the outstanding Kilimanjaro National Park is not a complete and perfect summary about it. However, if you want to summarize it in your memories planning a trip is necessary.