Not called “the roof of Africa” for nothing, Mount Kilimanjaro attracts over 35,000 climbers a year. Cue seemingly endless streams of Facebook/Instagram photos, featuring ecstatic travellers on the summit of the nearly 22,000 ft mountain.
It is testament to the fantastical features of Mount Kilimanjaro and its magnificent surrounding area that 125 years after it was first climbed, it remains steeped in a timeless cultural mystique. So rather than just taking the compulsory “I did it” picture, here are five different ways to capture the magic of Africa’s tallest mountain.
1. Five major ecological zones on a single climb.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest mountain not part of a range. It is also 322 km below the equator with no shelter from the easterly winds of the Indian Ocean. All of these seemingly unremarkable factors combine to have a very impressive effect: your climb will take you through five distinctly different ecological zones. Take a picture of each and compare the transition.
- Bushland: A grassland zone at the foot of the mountain. It may be increasingly used for human settlements but look out for genets, bushbabies and the tree dassies (not to mention the imposing mountain overhead).
- Rain Forest: With the annual rainfall in this zone reaching 6ft, it’s not surprising that this lush forest teeming with exotic plant life accounts for 95% of Mount Kilimanjaro’s water.
- Heath: From the dense to the desolate, this semi-alpine zone lacks vegetation but makes up for it with an abundance of beautiful wildflowers and unique Senecio trees.
- The Alpine Desert: Welcome to Mars. This region receives no rainfall and strong sunlight so there is no plant life or wildlife. The views of both above and below are incredible by this point.
- Arctic: You’re on top of the world. Characterised by ice and rocks, this is the rooftop of Africa.
2. The highest sunrise you’ll probably ever see.
The tallest peak in Africa, Kilimanjaro has been a talking point since at least the second century AD when when Claudius Ptolemy, a well-respected Greco-Egyptian writer of Alexandria, specifically wrote of “a great snow mountain” in Africa. It would be another 1739 years until Hans Meyer was the first man to get to the top.
Unless you get completely hooked on climbing, this will be one of the very few opportunities you will get to watch the sunrise from 5895 meters above sea level. Do not miss the opportunity to capture the incredible sight with a panoramic shot.
3. The views on a lesser travelled route.
There are many ways to get to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, but the Lemosho route is known for being the most beautiful and the most unspoilt.
Departing from the West side, you’ll immediately see “the house of god” as Ernest Hemingway named Mount Kilimanjaro’s Western summit in his well-known novel The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1936).
Other spectacular sights you’ll be able to take in on this route include intimate views of vast gorges and the Shira plateau, one of the world’s largest high altitude plateaus.
4. Giving back to the local community.
Climbing Kili may be a personal challenge you set yourself, or like many others you could be raising funds with your climb for a charitable cause back home.
But there are local communities living in the shadow of the mountain who face their own set of challenges. You could go to Tanzania to simply climb Kilimanjaro. But you would be missing out if you didn’t take some time to visit these local communities.
Whilst they might have one of the most awe inspiring vistas in their back yards, very few of the children who live there have the luxury of a good education. Infrastructure and resources are severely lacking in these remote areas, making teachers reluctant to take up positions at rural schools.
When you climb Kilimanjaro with Inspired Escapes, you will fundraise to support the Empowering Local Schools project. On the trip you will spend a day meeting the students at the local Kilimanjaro school -- who can’t wait to have their picture taken with you.
5. Lighting a candle for Uhuru.
In 1959, shortly before the United Republic of Tanzania achieved independence, future president Julius Nyerere said:
“We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation.”
The summit is since known as Uhuru Peak, Uhuru being the Swahili word for “Freedom”.
When you get to the top, take a moment to light a candle and appreciate the immense privilege of freedom - to travel, to explore and to be able to capture it all on film.
This last picture is on you...send to us your best shot and we will publish it to our blog with your credits.