Mt Kilimanjaro Trek Overview

Mount Kilimanjaro is the crown of Tanzania. The view of this majestic mountain’s gigantic snow-capped summit dome, rising high above the surrounding savanna is one of Africa’s classic images . At 5895 metres (19,340 ft), Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and one of the highest volcanoes in the world, attracting trekkers and climbers from every corner of the world. The attraction is even greater because with time and adequate preparation, it is possible to walk all the way to the summit without technical mountaineering equipment or experience.

The Kilimanjaro massif has two main peak areas: Kibo, the flat topped dome at the centre of the massif, and Mawenzi a group of jagged points and pinnacles on the eastern side. The top of Kibo dips inwards to form a crater which cannot be seen from below. Although Mount Kilimanjaro lies just three degrees south of the equator, Kibo has a permanent cap of snow and ice. The highest point on Kibo and the whole Kilimanjaro massif is Uhuru Peak. Also on Kibo is the slightly lower peak of Gillman’s Point, both are goals for most trekkers. The peaks of Mawenzi are for mountaineers only. Kilimanjaro has been designated as a national park by the government of Tanzania.

Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman’s Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates. And their memories. But there is so much more to Kili than her summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the arctic. Even before you cross the national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated slopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates.

What is the weather like on Kilimanjaro?

The short answer is that the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro range from hot to bitter cold. The journey from the gate to the peak is like traveling from the equator to Antarctica in a matter of days. This is because the routes to the Uhuru peak cross different ecological zones. Mount Kilimanjaro has five major ecological zones, each approximately 3,280 feet (1,000 m) in altitude. Each zone is subject to a corresponding decrease in rainfall, temperature and life as the altitude increases.

weather on Mount Kilimanjaro

The ‘trade’ and ‘anti-trade’ winds of Kilimanjaro

In one year there are two rain-bearing seasonal winds buffeting Kilimanjaro. The south-east trade wind bringing rain from the Indian Ocean arrives between March and May. Because the mountain is the first main obstacle to the wind’s progress, and by far the largest, a lot of rain falls on Kili at this time, and for this reason the March-to-May season is known as the long rains. This is the main wet season on Kilimanjaro. As the south-east trade winds run into the southern side of Kili, so the southern slopes tend to be damper and as a consequence more fertile, with the forest zone much broader than on the northern slopes.

Then there are the dry ‘anti-trade’ winds from the north-east which carry no rain and hit Kilimanjaro between May and October. These anti-trade winds, which blow, usually very strongly, across the Saddle (the broad valley between Kilimanjaro’s two peaks), also serve to keep the south-east trade winds off the upper reaches of Kilimanjaro, ensuring that the rain from the long monsoon season stays largely on the southern side below 3000m, with little falling above this.

This is why, at this time of year, the first day’s walk for trekkers following the Marangu, Umbwe or Machame routes is usually conducted under a canopy of cloud, while from the second day onwards they traditionally enjoy unadulterated sunshine.

A second seasonal rain-bearing wind, the north-east monsoon, having already lost much of its moisture after traveling overland for a longer period, brings a short rainy season between November and February. While the northern side receives most of the rain to fall in this season, it is far less than the rain brought by the south-east trade winds, and as a result the northern side of the mountain is far drier and more barren in appearance. Once again, the rain falls mainly below 3000m.

Kilimanjaro Map

There are several route options available. Look to get acquainted with the layout