Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peak is usually veiled by clouds but on clear days the sight of the summit is one of the most arresting on the continent. Kilimanjaro is not only the highest mountain in Africa but it’s also the largest free-standing mountain in the world – rising nearly six vertical kilometres from the surrounding plains – making a Mount Kilimanjaro safari a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Made up of three peaks – Shira, Mawenzi and Uhuru – Mount Kilimanjaro, or Kili as it is affectionately known, is a relatively young mountain and was formed by volcanic activity about a million years ago. It’s an iconic, evocative destination and from an altitude of 2 700m the entire mountain falls under the protection of the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park.
Although it sits in Tanzania, the best views of the mountain are actually to be had just across the border in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. But it is the chance to climb Kilimanjaro that has made this 5 896m mountain such a popular destination. Indeed, some 20 000 people a year make their way up Kili; the climb requires no special training or technical equipment though time must be taken to acclimatise in order to prevent altitude sickness.
That said, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is no stroll; it’s a seriously tough hike and usually takes five days or more – for a Kilimanjaro safari tour you should be both fit and mentally prepared, and proper high altitude clothing and camping gear need to be taken. There are many routes to the top, varying in terms of difficulty, climbing time and natural beauty. The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is always said to be during the drier months of January, February and September. July and August are also fine, but somewhat colder.