Mount Kilimanjaro Trek: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A Mount Kilimanjaro trek will make your trip to tanzania a memorable one.

Whether you are traveling solo, with friends or with families; are a hardcore mountaineer, a beginner climber or a non-experienced trekker who seeks remarkable adventures, a Mount Kilimanjaro trek will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression! Visiting Africa is a bucket list experience that usually involves safaris. While this is truly a one of a kind experience, adventurous travelers who aim to soak up Africa’s magnificent scenery have one not-so-secret favorite spot: on Africa’s rooftop, Mount Kilimanjaro.

MOUNT KILIMANJARO FACTS:

  • Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain.
  • It is one of the seven summits (the highest peaks on each of the seven continents), and rises 5,895 meters or 19,340 feet above sea level.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones: Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo. Mawenzi and Shira are extinct volcanoes. Shira has collapsed, creating Shira Plateau. Kibo, the highest peak, is dormant and could erupt again one day. Its last eruption was 360,000 years ago.
  • Uhuru peak is Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit, the highest point on Kibo.
  • There is a book stored in a wooden box at the summit and successful climbers who reach the summit can write in it.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro could be snow-free within 20 to 50 years either because of the effects of Global warming or deforestation.

To help you plan your Mount Kilimanjaro trek adventure, here are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Answered:

Mount Kilimanjaro Trek FAQs:

How can I go to Mount Kilimanjaro?

Before you get too excited about going on a Mount Kilimanjaro trek, you’ll need to know how to get to the site. Mount Kilimanjaro is located in the northeastern part of Tanzania in East Africa. To get here, you have several options to either catch a flight to Dar es Salaam (aiport: DAR), Nairobi (airport: NBO) in Kenya or, the most convenient and nearest airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) in Arusha.

More flights from different parts of the world are available in both DAR and NBO compared to JRO and since most travelers find flights to NBO a lot cheaper, this usually becomes their choice of entry.

From Nairobi, you can fly to Kilimanjaro airport for approximately 1 hour or take shuttle bus to Arusha for 5 to 6 hours. If you’re coming from Dar es Salaam which is in the southern part of Tanzania, it’ll take you about 60 to 90 minutes via air or 8 hours by road.

Whatever hub you decide to go to, one’s Mount Kilimanjaro adventure should start in Moshi or Arusha town. From there, you will drive down to Marangu where you can find the entrance gate to Kilimanjaro National Park and then register for your climb. Travel time from Arusha to Kilimanjaro is usually 3 hours. Typically, your tour operator will arrange your pick-up and drop-off from these points.

Is it possible to climb without a guide?

NO.

The government of Tanzania and the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority established a policy regulating all trekkers to be accompanied by a registered and licensed guide. In addition, straying away from official routes is strictly prohibited as well as staying in bivouacs or caves.

What are the routes available?

There are 7 established routes to reach the summit. Each route offers varying degrees of difficulty, scenery and success rates. Upon arrival at the gate, you will be asked to register with the Park Authority before you can begin your climb and at the same time specify your chosen route. If you haven’t thought about it yet or if you’re still caught between several routes, this guide (Click to Enlarge) might help you decide:



Table that shows the different routes to Mount Kilimanjaro for your Mount Kilimanjaro trek

Suggested tours:

Machame Route          |          Marangu Route          |          Lemosho Route          |          Rongai Route

How much does it cost to climb Kili?

If you’ve already done a bit of research, you’d already know by now that climbing Kilimanjaro can’t possibly be cheap. Although prices vary depending on the route, the group size, the level of service and the package deal from different tour operators, a climb can cost you anything from $1000 to $4000. Some companies offer more than that or maybe even a lot cheaper than $1000, but that’s something you really have to be mindful of.

Kilimanjaro National Park entrance fees, camping/hut fees plus Tanzanian taxes by far make up the largest chunk of the expense, costing about $200 per climber per day. This fee covers the conservation fees, camping or hut fees, guide and porter entrance fees, rescue fees and 18% VAT. Other additional but relevant expenses include staff wages (from porters to guides to the chef), transportation, food, administrative costs and, if applicable, camping gears and equipment.

How about the food?

Food during a Kilimanjaro climb is prepared and carried by the staff. A cook/chef will impressively put together nutritious, tasty variants of food despite the minimal access to equipment and ingredients. If you have any allergies, food restrictions/diet and religious restrain, always inform your tour operator so they can accommodate it and prepare something that best suits you.

Typically, you will have an early breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea/snacks and dinner every day. Breakfast spreads usually consist of eggs (however you like it), cooked stew, porridge, bread with either jam, honey or peanut butter, a piece of fruit which is usually either a banana or an orange, and some tea, coffee or hot chocolate. For your lunch, since you’re probably trekking your way up the summit, it’s usually packed and carried on a daypack.

At the end of the day’s hike, afternoon tea is served with peanuts, biscuits and salted popcorn. Of course, food selection may vary. After a few hours, the largest meal of the trekking day will be served. Dinner usually starts with soup followed by a main course. Expect heavier meals during dinner – meat, chicken, pasta, rice, potatoes!

What are the different climatic zones in the mountain?

When climbing Kili, you’d be astounded by the varying landscapes and even more by its changing climatic zones. Some trekkers even said, “It’s somehow like going through different seasons in just a matter of days in one place!”

Zone 1: Cultivation (2,600 ft to almost 6,000 ft or 800m – 1800m)

The coffee farm in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the beautiful sights to behold on your Mount Kilimanjaro trek.

Receiving most of the rainfall in the mountain, this zone is made up of farmland and tiny Chagga villages (most guides and porters live here). You can find mostly coffee and fruit plantations in this zone and while most routes start with a drive through these lands, some routes which exit through Mweka Gate will allow you to walk through some of the fields.

Zone 2: Montane forest (6,000 ft to just over 9,000 ft. or 1800m – 2800m)

A trail along Montane forest in a Mount Kilimanjaro trek.

This zone circles a majority of Mount Kilimanjaro and it is where you can also find wildlife albeit elusive. Since most of the rain falls on the south and east side, the forest is much more lush in these areas compared to the north side. Blue and colobus monkeys can be easily spotted in this area but if you’re lucky, you can also find leopards, giraffes, olive baboons, elephants, black rhinos, mongooses and buffaloes.

Zone 3: Heather-Moorland (9,000 ft and tops out around 13,000 ft. or 2800m – 4000m)

moorland on Mount Kilimanjaro

In this zone, you will be above the cloud line and since there will still be little cloud cover to protect you from the sun, lots of sunscreens are highly advised. You will find a lot of giant heathers and heather shrubs as you leave the rainforest and then once you pass through the rocky trail, you will find yourself in large fields of wildflowers. Also, be mindful of this zone’s highly erratic temperatures. During the day, it will be very hot as temperature could soar over 100°F and during the night, it could be freezing at less than 32°F.

Zone 4: Alpine Desert (13,000 ft. up to 16,000 ft. or 4000m – 5000m)

alpine desert in Mount Kilimanjaro

Also called Highland Desert zone, this region features a barren and very unique landscape. You will find deep gorges on the slopes as well as volcanic rocks in all shapes and sizes. You will also have to endure the harsh sun and the sub-zero temperature all day so bundle up!

Zone 5: Arctic (16,000 ft. and continues to the top of Uhuru Peak at 19,340 ft. or 5000m – 5895m)

glacier summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

The glacier summit is known the Arctic zone because of the ice patches and the summit glaciers. In the lower section, loose dirt and gravel known as “scree” make up the area. Hence, it is quite difficult to climb to. This is one reason why climbing the summit begins at night when the screes are tightly knit together, creating a more stable path. When you reach the rim of the volcano at Stella Point, you only need to follow the rim as it rises beside a massive glacier at Uhuru Peak. From there, you will see the sign that you have reached the summit. Welcome to the Roof of Africa.

Is there a minimum age required to go on a Mount Kilimanjaro trek?

Yes. The minimum age required to go on a Mount Kilimanjaro trek is 10 years old. However, it is not impossible to attain approval for exceptions from Kilimanjaro National Park Authority especially if the kid has a significant climbing/hiking experience, is known to acclimatize well and is accompanied by a guardian who is a hardcore hiker himself. In fact, the youngest kid to ever climb Kili is 7 years old.

When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro lies near the Equator and so, it only has dry and wet seasons. Although it is very possible to climb Kilimanjaro any time of the year, it is best to climb when there is a lower possibility of precipitation. The best time to go on a Mount Kilimanjaro trek is between January and February and between July and October.

summarized table on the best times to climb Kilimanjaro

What gears and paraphernalia should I bring?

Going on a Mount Kilimanjaro trek will require you to bring the following items:

* Short Sleeve and Long SleeveTrekking Shirts
* Top and Bottom Base Layer
* Hiking trousers
* Polartec fleece jacket
* Insulated winter jacket
* insulated trekking pants
* Lightweight rain gear
* Hardshell jacket
* Sunhat, ideally with neck cover or neck gaiter
* Warm beanie or headgear
* Sunglasses
* Gloves/Mitts (both inner and outer)
* Adjustable Trekking Poles
* Mid-weight Hiking Boots
* Camp Trainers / Trekking Sandals
* Trekking Socks (bring thick ones, too)
* Waterproof duffel bag
* 20-30L Daypack (with rain cover)
* 4-Season sleeping bag (if you’re not taking the Marangu Route)
* Insulated sleeping mat
* Large-volume water bottle
* Sunscreen (better if it’s sweat-resistant)
* Insect repellant
* Blister Plasters
* General medications
* Toiletries
* Energy bars
* Camera
* Face towels

Can you rent gears there as well? 

Yes, they have most of the equipment for rent but it would be so much better to bring your own to ensure that everything is up to your standards.

How can I choose the best tour operator?

With over 200 licensed operators for a Mount Kilimanjaro trek, the choices can be quite overwhelming. However, take note that the operator you choose to trek with is crucial to your success and overall experience. 

Some tour operators have foreign guides. Others offer premium add-ons. These factors result in higher tour value, costing to about as high as $5,000 or more! The question is, do you need those premium add-ons? Would you want foreign outfitters as guides over locals who have trekked the mountains many times before, maybe even since they were younger?

When picking the right tour operator, factor in the following considerations:

  • experience
  • price offer
  • inclusions and exclusions
  • company background (Is it registered?)
  • personal reviews and feedback (You can check various online forums, reviews or you can ask friends who have gone to Kili)
  • your peace of mind: If you feel right, that’s great. But if you feel uneasy and unsure with that tour operator, ditch them. You deserve peace of mind when you travel so it is of utmost importance that you feel comfortable, safe and happy with your travel guiding team.

And now, you’re all set!

Going on a Mount Kilimanjaro trek is indeed an unparagoned adventure and an extraordinary achievement for any traveler. Remember, “you climb mountains, not so the world can see you but so you can see the world.”

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