Africa’s highest peak is the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, ranging from cultivated lower slopes, wildlife-rich montane forest, heather moorland studded with giant lobelias, culminating in the barren and icy summit.
The forests of the national park, which starts at 2,700 metre contour are full of elephant, leopard, buffalo, endangered Abbot’s duiker, other small antelopes and primates. Above 4,000 metres a surreal alpine desert supports little other than a few hardy mosses and lichen, but even this vestigial vegetation finally gives way to a wonderland of ice and snow – the roof of the African continent.
The local people, the Wachagga, have no name for the entire massif, just for the familiar snowy peak that looks down on them imperiously, which they know as Kibo. In fact, this is one of the world’s most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Six trekking routes lead to the summit, plus other more demanding mountaineering routes. To reach Gillman’s Point on the crater rim, or continue to Uhuru Peak (the actual summit) you need little more than suitable clothing for mountain walking, the support of an experienced team of guides and porters, and – of course – a lot of determination. The ascent is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Arctic. The clearest/warmest conditions occur between December and February, but it is also dry (although much colder) from July to September. Accommodation is on huts and campsites on the mountain, which are reached from the several hotels and campsites in the village of Marangu and the town of Moshi.
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