It is said that the experienced mountain climber in not intimidated by a mountain – he is inspired by it. At 19,336 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is Africa’s highest peak. If you are well prepared, you can reach the “roof of Africa” in good health.
High season, January to March and September to October, is a good time to plan your trip to Mount Kilimanjaro. The weather conditions are best during these months and the safest for climbing the mountain. It is a good idea to get fit while you are planning your trip. Although the mountain is walkable, it is a steep climb.
What travel documents are required for travelling to Tanzania?
A valid passport and visa are required to enter Tanzania. Yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers from yellow fever endemic countries or regions. Travellers from non-endemic countries are not required to show proof of vaccination upon arrival. United States citizens with valid passports may obtain a visa before arriving in Tanzania or at any entry staffed by immigration officials. It is highly advisable to obtain your visa before arriving to avoid possible delays. It is highly recommended that you carry a certified copy of your travelling documents when you explore Mount Kilimanjaro and leave the original documents in safe-keeping at your hotel or lodge.
Is it safe travelling in Tanzania?
Travellers are encouraged to use taxis or drivers from a reputable source of transportation. Robberies can occur. It is rather common for drivers to pick up another passenger who threatens and robs the victim, often forcing the person to make a series of ATM cash withdrawals until reaching the daily limit. If your taxi stops to pick up another person, exit immediately. Avoid using Daladala microbuses and bajaji three-wheeled taxis. When travelling in a car, lock your doors and hide your valuables from sight.
Crime is a problem in most African countries and visitors should be alert and cautious. Mugging, bag snatching and robbery occur in Tanzania. Thieves and pickpockets on buses, trains and streets steal from inattentive passengers. You should avoid walking around at dusk or night. The emergency telephone number in Tanzania is 111.
Photography of military installations is forbidden in Tanzania. There are cases of individuals that have been detained for taking pictures of schools, hospitals, bridges, airports and industrial sites. If a public official attempts to solicit the payment from a fine from you, ask to travel to the nearest police station to file a report regarding the incident. Same-sex activities are illegal in Tanzania and are punishable by up to five years in prison for women and fourteen years in prison for men.
How to get to Mount Kilimanjaro
Moshi and Arusha are the closest to Mount Kilimanjaro. Mount Kilimanjaro lies on the northern border of Tanzania and south of Kenya. Kilimanjaro International Airport is approximately 45 minutes by taxi from Moshi. Flying to Nairobi, Kenya can be less expensive, but you will need a Kenyan transit visa which is available on arrival. From Nairobi to Moshi is an eight hour bus ride. Flying to Dar-es-Salaam is also an option. A bus from Dar-es-Salaam to Mushi will take approximately seven hours.
Things to see and do in Mushi
Visiting the local markets in Mushi can be an exciting experience. Mushi is home to many religious institutions and the Commonwealth War Cemetery. Make sure to visit the former German administration office located between Kilimanjaro Co-operative bank and BP petrol station on Mawenzi road. The metal pillar used for natives who broke the German military law can still be seen. Shantytown is located north of Moshi and offers several restaurants. Tours to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Manyara National Park and Arusha National Park are in close proximity to Mushi and tours can be arranged through several companies. You can hire a local guide to see the real Moshi and Swahili culture or take a day trip to Marangu Waterfalls.
Explore the local restaurants
There are many nameless restaurants in Mushi where you can try the local food such as “ugali” or “wali na mahage” and at Abba Ali’s Hot Bread Shop you can enjoy bread and honey, doughnuts, cakes and desserts. Restaurants in Mushi include Deli Chez, The Salzburger Café, Coffee Shop and Indotaliano. Approximately six kilometres outside Mushi is the Honey Badger Lodge that serves quality Swahili food.
Moshi is home to a large majority of members of the Chagga tribe that is well-known for their love of food and beer. The East Africa Bar, KNCU Restaurant and the Police Mess are popular places where the locals visit. The locally brewed beers are named Kilimanjaro, Tusker and Safari. The Glacier is a nice outdoors pub. The La Liga is the biggest night club in Moshi and they often play the local bongo.
Do’s and do not’s in Tanzania
Greeting is one of the most important cultural aspects in Tanzania. If someone greets you, it is also means the person respects you. In most African countries it is custom to greet before starting a conversation. People Tanzania will respect you if you can greet them in Swahili. The word “Jambo” means “how do you do.” “Sijambo” means “I am okay”. Good morning in Swahili is “Subalkeri” and good afternoon is “Masalkheri.” The following tips can be helpful if you plan on visiting Tanzania:
- Tanzanians, like most African countries, respect their elders as much as they can. Elders are considered wise and having a lot of knowledge. It is also believed that the elderly have the power to curse any young person.
- Tanzanians respect those who cook food. It is considered rude to smell food. If you want to see if fruit is ripe, press on the fruit.
- Avoid using your index finger when you speak to someone or call someone. The person will see it as an insult. Index fingers are used to call dogs.
- Public affection is considered private and is not something displayed in public. Holding hands between two people of the same sex is considered as a close relationship.
- Food plays an important role in the Swahili culture. If you have Swahili guests, it will be expected from you to offer food and drinks. Ask what kind of drinks they would like. Do not ask them if they would like something to drink.
Mount Kilimanjaro routes and what to pack
The mountain offers five climbing routes, namely Marangu Route, Machame Route, Rongai Route, Lemosho Route and Umbwe Route. Machame and Lemosho are the two most popular routes for magnificent views, while Marangu is the easiest route to climb and the worst for acclimatisation.
Altitude sickness is a major concern and causes headaches, vomiting and digestive problems. The fact that you climb very high in a short period of time, affects the body. Ensure to pack a first aid kit. Gear and equipment to pack include a waterproof jacket with hood, insulated jacket, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, waterproof pants, hiking pants, fleece pants, long underwear, brimmed hat, balaclava, gloves, hiking boots, thick socks, sunglasses or goggles, backpack cover, lightweight towel, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, trekking poles, head lamp, duffel bag, toiletries, sunscreen, lip balm, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, wet wipes, camera with extra batteries and pencil and notebook.
Standing on the roof of Africa
Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders: a snow covered mountain on the equator, an ocean of green forest surrounded by dry savannah. People who wish to trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro are advised to undertake appropriate researchand ensure that they are both properly equipped and physically capable.
A great way of researching Mount Kilimanjaro and learning more about the challenges that the mountain offer, the following books can be a good source:
- Kilimanjaro: A Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain by Henry Stedman
- Kilimanjaro: A Photographic Journey to the Roof of Africa by Michel Moushabeck
- Kilimanjaro: A Trekker’s Guide (Cicerone Mountain Walking) by Alexander Stewart
- Mighty Mount Kilimanjaro (Geronimo Stilton, No. 41) by Geronimo Stilton
- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro by Stephen Carmichael
- The Shadow of Kilimanjaro by Rick Ridgeway
- Making the Climb: What a Novice Climber Learned About Life on Mount Kilimanjaro by John C. Bowling
- Africa Trek I: From the Cape of Good Hope to Mount Kilimanjaro by Alexandre Poussi
- Kilimanjaro: Mountain at the Crossroads by Audrey Salkel
- Kilimanjaro Adventure by Hal Streckert
- Mount Kilimanjaro: The Rooftop of Africa (Natural Wonders) by Galadriel Findlay Watson
- Uhuru Peak: The Quest for Mt. Kilimanjaro by Davine A. Green
It is also imperative that climbers are guided by an experienced outfitter, with proven competence, reliability and safety.
When you climb Kilimanjaro and stand on the roof of Africa, you see the world a different way. The famous song by Juluka goes: “I’m sitting on top of Kilimanjaro, I can see a new tomorrow. I’m sitting on top of Kilimanjaro. I cast away all my sorrows.”
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