Looking back (and up) at Mount Kilimanjaro

Continuing on with my retrospective series, I thought I’d recap the second part of my first trip to Tanzania. After a few days in Zanzibar and a two week volunteer mission, I finished off my Tanzanian adventure with a day hike to base camp of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa, reaching an altitude of 4900 metres (16,076 feet) from its base. It’s actually a dormant volcano with three volcanic cones named Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. It is located in Kilimanjaro National Park and is a major climbing destination among international mountaineers.

You will encounter five major climate zones along the ascent up Kilimanjaro. There are a number of routes that take you up to the peak and most people need about 7 days to complete the full climb and descent. I doubt that I will ever have much interest in scaling to the peak of any mountain, so I’ll stick with my day hikes!

My friends and I ended up completing part of the Marangu route up to Mandara hut, which sits at an elevation of 2720 metres (8923 feet), so we just touched the moorland zone.

Once we reached Mandara hut, we stopped for a packed lunch and then hiked over to an outlook point to admire this impressive view toward the border of Tanzania and Kenya.

Then our guides walked us down into a volcanic crater for some exploration.

In the end, it took us about 3 hours to get up to Mandara hut. The final trip back down was a bit quicker, about 2-2.5 hours if my memory serves me well.

Top tips

Level of fitness. This day hike probably rates as easy to moderate in difficulty. There are some steep portions but worked out fine for me in my low-medium fitness state. Watch your knees coming down though – I always find that going downhill is rougher on the joints.

Altitude sickness. This tends to occur above altitudes of 2500 metres (8202 feet) and the day hike just about reaches this level. Luckily I didn’t have any issues, but I did bring along a prescription for Diamox (which I didn’t end up using).

Bring a good camera. There is potential to see some critters and flora along the way, especially in the forest zone, so bring a camera with good zoom and low light capability if you want to capture the best images. I wish I’d had something a bit better than my phone camera!