Kilimanjaro National Park
Hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro takes preparation and planning. Although relatively easy compared to other mountains of this size, it should not be the first high-altitude experience for those hoping to bag the summit. If you lack the experience, then consider visiting the Shira Plateau, and leave the alpine heroics for another day.
The largest town in the Kilimanjaro area is Moshi -- a small, dilapidated gateway to the park. Moshi can be reached by road or rail from Kilimanjaro International Airport-- about 56 kms to the west. Even if you take alternative routes to the summit, you must travel to the Marangu Park Gate to get your permit, pay fees, hire a guide, and take care of other details. You won't be allowed up the mountain unless you're accompanied by a guide. People have been cheated by fake guides, so make sure that your guide is on the authorized list.
You can rent a certain amount of equipment from the park or the hotels (sleeping bags, clothing, rain wear). But it's best to arrive with all most standard long-distance hiking supplies. Tanzania is a developing nation and doesn't have the same market for outdoor equipment as the industrialized world. Due to the shortage of wood and the impact of fires you should bring your own cooking and warming equipment. A small stove using kerosene, gas, or diesel is recommended.
The main or Marungu route is clearly marked all the way to the summit. On the alternate routes there are a few wooden signboards, but the main trail markers are blazed by red paint on trees and rocks through the forest zone and small cairns or piles of stones along the trails through the moorland and up the summit. You'll want to talk to your guide and the rangers, as well as consult a map, when choosing a route. If you're staying in huts, you must book them in advance.
To read a personal account of the perils and rewards that accompany the Kilimanjaro climb, see "The Roof of Africa."
For additional information, write the Kilimanjaro Mountain Club at PO Box 66, Moshi, Tanzania.
Special Thanks to Thomson Safaris and Tanzania National Parks for contributing Tanzanian information.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication