Answering the Call of the Wild: The Top African Safaris

Mount Kilimanjaro
  |  Gorp.com

Snow-capped and solitary, Mount Kilimanjaro is a dramatic backdrop for many East African safaris. Rising 19,340 feet above the Tanzanian plain, Africa's highest peak dominates the horizon for miles around and stands as a symbol of the continent. Kilimanjaro is also an adventure destination in itself—and and ideal detour for climbers on safari.

Surprisingly, Kilimanjaro is the easiest of the world's great peaks to climb. The summit can be reached in a few days by any reasonably fit person—and you don't need to have previous mountaineering experience.
The ascent is a study in contrasting ecosystems. From the dry savannah base, you hike through rain forest and moorlands, and eventually arrive at a mile-wide snow-covered caldera. When you reach the nearly four-mile-high summit, you feel as though you've been transported to another continent—and the panoramic view is breathtaking.

You can organize your own ascent, starting from either the northwest (Kenyan) or the southern (Tanzanian) flank. You will need to acclimate yourself to the high elevation, so plan to spend a couple days at an altitude between 9,000 and 12,000 feet.

Although Kilimanjaro has no steep pitches that require special technical skills or equipment, it helps to have some alpine experience. Good boots are a must. An ice ax is useful if you plan on spending at least two days hiking through snow with some icy stretches.

Foreign climbers must hire a local guide. You can find one, as well as porters to carry your gear, through the Marangu Hotel (011.255.55.51307). The best times to climb Kilimanjaro are January through March and July through October.

If you prefer to climb with an organized group, Journeys (Ann Arbor, MI 800.255.8735. www.journeyes-intl.com) offers a seven-day trip that departs from Arusha in Tanzania. The cost—including guide, porters, and provisions—is about $1,400 per person.

A good second choice is Mountain Madness (Seattle, WA 800.328.5925. www.mountainmadness.com). This agent's 11-day climb costs $3,350 and is offered year-round.


Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 28 Aug 2001 | Last Updated: 20 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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