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Blog / Tanzania

Getting to Know Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro

When you think of the unparalleled natural beauty of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro no doubt springs to mind.

Located in northern Tanzania, near the town of Moshi, Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peak juts up dramatically from the midst of a vast savanna. It’s made up of three volcanic cones—Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira.

Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak at 5,895 meters (19,341 ft.), and is the highest free-standing mountain in the world—meaning it’s not part of a mountain chain, which makes it all the more striking.

The protected site of Kilimanjaro National Park is made up of the mountain, the surrounding savanna and the forest of the national park. These gorgeous 75,575 hectares are comprised of unique zones of vegetation and numerous endangered species. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. There are huts and campsites on the mountain, so you can plan to stay right where the action is. Kilimanjaro is just 300 kilometers from the equator, so its climate is pretty consistent throughout the year. January and February are the warmest and driest months of the year, so are prime times to visit—especially if you plan on seeking the summit.

Climbing the Mountain

For some, it’s all about conquering the mountain.


Here are some of the more noteworthy climbs of Mount Kilimanjaro:

  • The first people to officially reach the summit were German geologist, Hans Meyer, Ludwig Purtscheller and a local called Lauwo in October 1889.
  • In August 2014, Karl Egloff completed a run up the Umbwe Route and descent via Mweka in just 6 hours, 56 minutes and 24 seconds.
  • Even though you officially need to be at least ten to climb Kilimanjaro, in January 2008, seven-year-old Keats Boyd from Los Angeles reached the summit.
  • Officially the oldest person to reach the summit is, Robert Wheeler, who accomplished this feat in October 2014.


About 35,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year, but not everyone’s successful. It’s a mountain you can climb without fancy equipment, or technical climbing skills, which is appealing to many.

But don’t think you can waltz up the mountain without preparation. You need to climb with an organized trek, with a licensed mountain operator. There are several different routes to the top with varying degrees of difficulty—but you have to stick to these predetermined routes.

The climb is not without risks. By some estimates, about a third of the climbers don’t make it to the top. Some of these climbers succumb to dangerous altitude sickness, and officially two to three climbers die from this each year. But total deaths are higher than that—with some climbers falling to their death, succumbing to hyperthermia, or other accidents. But fear not—if you’re not the overly-adventurous type, you can opt for a tamer day hike instead.

What's In A Name? - While it isn't clear where the name "Kilamanjaro" originated, one theory is that it is a mix of the Swahili word "kilima" - which means mountain - and the KiChagga (a Bantu language spoken in some parts of Tanzania) word "njaro" - which loosely translates as "whiteness". Another theory is that Kilimanjaro is the result of a European mispronunciation of a KiChagga phrase meaning "we failed to climb it". That's funny! 

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Plants and Animals - Of course it’s not just thrill seekers who visit Mount Kilimanjaro. Many come to simply soak up the natural beauty. The mountain has five main vegetation zones:

  • The Savanna bushland,
  • The sub-montane agro forest,
  • The montane forest belt,
  • The sub-alpine moorland and alpine bogs, and
  • The alpine desert.

There are 2500 plant species on the mountain—including 1600 on the southern slopes and 900 within the forest belt. There are also 130 species of trees Above about 4600 meters very few plants are able to survive the severe conditions, but sturdy little mosses and lichens are found all the way to the summit. Animals also thrive in the area. There are some 140 mammals including primates, leopards, and Abbott’s duikers. There’s a little something for everyone to see in Kilimanjaro.

The Future The distinctive white top of Kilimanjaro may not be here in the near future. The continuous ice cap is shrinking. Since 1912, Kilimanjaro has lost 82% of its ice cap and since 1962 it’s lost 55% of its remaining glaciers. Some predict the glaciers will disappear completely within a few decades.

Have you been fortunate enough to visit Mount Kilimanjaro, or are you dreaming of going?

How about a little memento to invoke thoughts of Africa? In the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, skilled artisans handcraft gorgeous sculptures.
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Getting to Know Africa: The Magnificent Serengeti

When you think of an African safari, chances are images of the Serengeti spring to mind. Nothing quite imbues the grandeur of Africa and its wildlife as the vast open plains of the Serengeti. Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park. The nearly 15,000 square kilometer park is made up of grassland plains, savanna, riverine forest and woodlands. It was established in 1951 and became a World Heritage Site in 1981. It’s located about 300 kilometers from Arusha and stretches north to Kenya, and borders Lake Victoria to the west. Serengeti is a huge international tourist destination with over 90,000 tourists visiting the park each year, and was of course the inspiration for the wildly popular animated film The Lion King.

The Serengeti’s ecosystem is one of the oldest on earth. Little has changed in the past one million years. Its climate, vegetation and fauna have remained essentially the same.

Amazing Trees and Animals in a Gorgeous Landscape - There are hundreds of species of trees in the park. The Serengeti landscape would not be recognizable without the iconic flat-topped Acacia trees that dot the plains. These trees use their thorny outer branches as a defensive mechanism to prevent animals from ripping them to shreds. As one of the most important animal sanctuaries in the world, human habitation is not allowed in the park except for the staff of the Tanzania National Parks Authority. Away from human encroachment, animals thrive. Zawadee - Bring Africa Home does not adovcate any form of safari other than photographic safaris. We strive to contribute to the protection of species at risk. The Serengeti is famously home to the “Big 5”—lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and Cape buffalo. It has one of the largest lion populations in Africa, with around 3500 lions in 300 prides.

By some estimates there are three million large mammals roaming the Serengeti plains. There are 35 species of plains animals and more than 500 species of birds, including ostriches, flamingos and vultures. You can also find 100 varieties of dung beetles, numerous Nile crocodiles, monkeys, giraffes and much more.

The Roar of Millions of Pounding Hooves - You can view wildlife any time of year, but for a truly unforgettable experience, try timing your visit to see arguably the greatest land migration on earth. Twice a year over one million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras and Thomson's gazelles migrate over 800 kilometers across the plains of the Serengeti, in search of water and fresh grazing.

From December to February they head south, and from May to July they head back north making these months the best time to catch this unbelievable spectacle. To watch the great migration is to observe a life and death struggle. Witnessing such power and violence in the animal kingdom is unforgettable. Predators, such as lions, cheetahs and leopards lurk on the outskirts ready to pick off a young wildebeest or stray zebra separated from the herd. Crocodiles in the Mara River snap away at the onslaught of animals. And all the while, vultures circle overhead hoping to get a nibble. In the end, 250,000 wildebeest die during their journey, usually from thirst, starvation, exhaustion or predation, but most make it and will make the trip again.

Appreciate Unparalleled Beauty with a Safari - Even if you miss the great migration, there is much to see. In Swahili, the word safari simply means a journey. Here are a few safari options to get the most of your journey through Serengeti National Park:
  • Hot air balloon safaris: Imagine your perspective from above where you can fully take in the great landscape and its inhabitants.
  • Walking safaris: These can be for a couple of hours or several days for the more adventurous. Going slow on foot is a great way to use all your senses to appreciate the beautiful surroundings.
  • Game drives: You can get a little closer to the big game in a vehicle.

Topis and Buffaloes - Have you been lucky enough to visit Serengeti National Park? If so, you no doubt glimpsed a topi antelope or buffalo, which are abundant within the park. Whether you’re looking for a small sculpture for your mantel or a large frame for your wall, we have numerous products that capture the grace of the topis and mighty power of the buffalo. 

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