Mount Kilimanjaro is a currently inactive strato-volcano in northern Tanzania, near the border with Kenya. At 5,895 metres (19,340 feet) above sea level, Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest peak and the world's highest free-standing mountain. As such - and aided by its relatively easy ascent - Kilimanjaro has become a major destination for mountaineers and trekkers from around the world.
Although positioned close to the Equator (330 km south), Mount Kilimanjaro is famous as Africa's snow-capped mountain looming over the plains of the savannah. In recent years, however, the snows have been fast disappearing. Kilimanjaro National Park  protects the area above 2,700 metres (8,850 ft), on the mountain and includes the moorland and highland zones, Shira Plateau, Kibo and Mawenzi peaks. The Park also has six corridors or rights of way through the Kilimanjaro Forest Reserve. The Forest Reserve, which is also a Game Reserve, was established in 1921; the Park was established in 1973 and officially opened in 1977.
It is commonly perceived that Queen Victoria of England gave her grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, Mount Kilimanjaro as a birthday present. However, this is not the case. In fact, Karl Peters, a German traveller in Africa and one of the founders of today's Tanzania, snuck into Tanganyika and persuaded various Chagga chieftains to sign treaties in which they agreed to cede their territories to his Society for German Colonization.
The landscape on Kilimanjaro is very beautiful. The mountain can be divided into 5 climatic zones, each with its own fauna and flora. The lower reaches of the mountain are dominated by evergreen forests. At approx. 3,000m the landscape starts to change into a shrub land setting. At around 4,000m the landscape becomes very arid and rocky, similar to a lunar landscape. The fourth zone consists of a very fine glacial scree / silt dessert setting. The top of Kilimanjaro is partially snow-capped with large glaciers interspersed between the volcanic craters. The glaciers have been receding over the past 40 years, though.
Flora and fauna
The mountain is rich in flora and fauna. You get to see the various climatic conditions starting from the bushland on the bottom of the mountain to the arctic ice region on top of the mountain. You have the tropical rain forests, the evergreen forests, the moorlands and the alpine desert regions in between. It is something like walking from the equator to the arctic pole in a matter of days. You get to see some unique plants and flowers on the mountain which is specific to Mt Kilimanjaro. Though there is not much of wildlife on the mountain, you can see some wild buffaloes, elephants and leopards while traversing through the Lemosho Route. You are accompanied by armed rangers in the initial day of the trek while going via the Lemosho route.
Due to Mount Kilimanjaro's proximity to the equator, this region does not experience the extremes of winter and summer weather, but rather dry and wet seasons. January and February are the warmest months, April and May are the wettest months, June and July are the coolest months, and August and September are the driest months. January, February, and September are considered to be the best months to climb Kilimanjaro in terms of weather.
The journey from the gate to the peak is like traveling from the equator to Antarctica in a matter of days. This is because the routes to the Uruhu peak cross different ecological zones. Throughout the climb, temperatures vary considerably with the altitude and time of day. Mount Kilimanjaro has five major ecological zones, each approximately 3,280 feet (1,000 m) in altitude. Each zone is subject to a corresponding decrease in rainfall, temperature and life as the altitude increases. At the beginning of the climb, at the base of the mountain, the average temperature is around 70°F to 80°F (27°C to 32°C). From there, the temperatures will decrease as you move through Mount Kilimanjaro's ecological zones. At the summit, Uruhu Peak, the night time temperatures can range between 0°F to -15F (-18°C to -26°C). Due to Mount Kilimanjaro's great height, the mountain creates its own weather. It is extremely variable and impossible to predict. Therefore, regardless of when you climb, you should always be prepared for wet days and cold nights.
The closest International Airport is Kilimanjaro (IATA: JRO) , and if coming from Europe, KLM (Delta Air Lines)  has a daily non-stop flight from Amsterdam to JRO. Air Viva offers connections between Kilimanjaro and several domestic airports, such as Arusha ($75).
Year 2012 several International Airlines launched direct flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport, these are Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways. These are in addition to other International Airlines like Ethiopian Airways, Condor Air and Kenya Airways.
If you are coming from Nairobi, Kenya, you can fly with Kenya Airways , which works with Precision Air , and that would cost you about $400/person for a roundtrip ticket. Alternatively, you can schedule shuttle buses, which are at 8am and 2 pm daily, for about $35/person, one way, and its a 5-6hrs bus ride. Shuttle buses can be booked in advance by visiting BusAfrica.net.
The costs outlined below are only indicative and exclude flights to and from Kilimanjaro International Airport. They also exclude all inclusive trips which typically include flights, hotels before and after your climb, park fees, guide team and optional extras.
Before getting to Kilimanjaro
The cost of equipment, visas, vaccinations and medications are often forgotten by prospective climbers. In general you will spend anywhere between $500-$1,500 on equipment as most climbers need to buy an extreme weather sleeping bag, a duffle bag, suitable clothing and other climbing accessories.
You will also need to get a Yellow Fever vaccination as this is a mandatory requirement to enter Tanzania. You might want to get booster injections for Hepatitis A and other related diseases. Seek medical advice from your travel clinic but budget at least $100-$200. Tanzania is a malaria zone; however mosquitoes do not occur at altitude (over 1,800 meters). You will be spending most of your trip above this altitude but will be exposed before and after the climb. If you decide to take malaria tablets budget at least $50
Finally you will be required to get a Tanzanian visa. In 2013 the cost was $50. You can get the visa before departing or on arrival in Tanzania.
Organised Tour (incl. Park Fees)
To climb Kilimanjaro you have to use a licenced guide. If you are not well-versed in the logistics of Kilimanjaro climbs then the only realistic way to trek Kilimanjaro is through a tour operator. A no-frills 5 day, 4 night trek up the Marangu will set you back between $900 -$1,200. However, if you are not accustomed to altitude it is highly recommended you take a 6 or 7 day trip which start at over $1,200, depending on the route.
Remember fees for all inclusive packages vary due to factors of route choice and length of climb, but also depend on the quality of the tour operator and service delivery. Do your research and ask as many questions as possible before you decide on a tour operator. Better operators who treat their staff more ethically and employ professional guides who are trained to look after your well-being tend to be more expensive.
Tipping for Guides and Porters
Tipping for guides and porters is standard. A single climber will have on average one guide, three porters and a cook. As a group size increases the climbing support team increase at a similar ratio. The ratio is set by the Kilimanjaro National Park (KINIPA) and tour operators are meant to comply with this standard. In general, you should budget $20-$25 a day for guides, $15-$20 a day for assistant guides, £15 a day for your cook and $10 a day for each porter. Depending on the size of the group your total tip budget should be $250-$300. It is recommended that you calculate how much you will be tipping your support team before arriving on the mountain and prepare individual envelopes for each climbing support member which you distribute at the end of the climb.. The gear used by the porters is mostly substandard and is often not at all fit for the trek. If you can spare some of your gear it would be greatly received by your porters or guides.
Apart from usual known adventure Kilimanjaro climbing, there are a lot more to see in Mount Kilimanjaro. On western side of Kilimanjaro on lemosho route travelers can do 2 days or day trip for wildlife tours and game drives.
In mount Kilimanjaro there are natural waterfalls to see like Materuni waterfalls and Kinukamori waterfalls. Near or at these Kilimanjaro waterfalls, there are birds, monkeys and lots of wild animals. At slopes of mount Kilimanjaro there are volcanic lakes like lake Chala and culture tour to explore Chagga tribe at slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro
There are six routes officially sanctioned for climbing Kilimanjaro and two routes used for descent. These are:
Marangu Route Commonly called the Coca-Cola Route, because it is considered the easiest route and vendors sell Coca-Cola at some of the huts. Marangu is by far the most popular route to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Typical duration is either 5 or 6 days depending upon whether you elect to spend an extra day for acclimatization to the altitude. This is the only route that offers huts versus tents. In spite of these, do be aware that 1) a faster ascent means less time for acclimatization and a lower chance of reaching the summit and 2) it is actually colder to stay in huts compared to staying in tents.
Machame Route Some call this the most beautiful route up Kilimanjaro. Where accommodation on the Marangu route is in huts, the Machame route offers strictly tents only. This makes Machame (also referred to as the "Whiskey route") better suited to the slightly more adventurous hiker, however rewarding him/her with a scenic splendor such as not seen on the Marangu route.
Lemosho Route Little used and more remote than other routes. The route is one of the few where groups may be accompanied on the first day by an armed ranger, as the forests around the Lemosho Glades are rich in buffalo, elephant and other big game animals.
' A variation on the Lemosho Route inserts two extra days in the itinerary for acclimatization and also to avoid having to climb up to the summit in the dark.
Rongai Route The Rongai route provides ascent up Kilimanjaro from the northeastern side of the mountain, along the border between Tanzania and Kenya.
The various food requirements are met by the porters and cooks who come along with you on the mountain. However, the quality of the food depends on the reputation of the tour operator you are climbing with. The quality of the food tends to go down towards the end of the trek due to reduction in rations carried by the porters and also due to the food becoming stale by the end of the trek. It is recommended to carry along some high energy food like chocolates and nuts for surviving and successful completion of the trek. It would be worthwhile to carry along some ready made noodle packets and like items for cooking them at the end of the trek.
Staying hydrated on the mountain is very important. A key reason why people suffer from Acute Mountain Sickness is because they become dehydrated. You should aim to drink at least 3L of water a day. Your guides will provide you with water on Day 1 of the hike and from then on porters collect water from streams on the mountain. It is important that you purify this water using water purification tablets. Also recommended is adding high energy powders to improve the taste and give you an added boost. Also, a lot of oral rehydration salts (ORS) are recommended for preventing dehydration while trekking on the mountain.
Lodging on the mountain is limited to designated campsites. Cave sleeping is now prohibited. A number of huts are available, but generally not advisable. Pre-climb lodging is generally found in Moshi or Arusha.
GSM mobile phone coverage is available on the summit of the mountain. Various networks like Vodacom, Zaintel and Tigo operate in the region and can be accessed from various high points on the mountain. However, with no electric supply on the mountain, it is advised to carry portable mobile travel chargers along for accessing the mobile services atop the mountain.
Several immunizations are recommended for yellow fever, tetanus, typhoid, polio, Havrix (Hepatitis A Vaccine), and an anti-malaria prophylactic.
Air at the summit of Kilimanjaro contains only about half the amount of oxygen that it does at sea level. Altitude sickness is caused by the failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to this reduced level of oxygen as one gains altitude. It is likely that you will experience some form of altitude sickness at some point while climbing Kilimanjaro.
During a trek on Kilimanjaro it is likely that more than 75% of trekkers will experience at least some form of mild altitude sickness caused by a failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced level of oxygen in the air at an increased altitude.
This type of altitude sickness is known as altoxia, a term which is used almost exclusively on Kilimanjaro, since this is the only commonly trekked mountain where these extreme altitudes are encountered so quickly.
LIFESAVING TIPS: This can be a life or health saving resource site: http://www.africatravelresource.com/. This organization provides essential free tips and referrals re: high altitude hiking, as well as some tours that are often funded mostly by lodges. This site offers a free preparation and gear list: http://www.ultimatekilimanjaro.com/preparation.htm .
Most high altitude medical experts recommend against using the ALTOX Personal Oxygen System. Please consult your physician prior to considering this product that is sold at an additional expense by some agents.
Preparing for kilimanjaro trekking adventures need update current information about nature of Kilimanjaro formation, weather at Kilimanjaro,volcanic rocks, kilimanjaro elevation on particular route of choice, Kilimanjaro climbing routes details, safety and security, forest and wildlife, acclimatization and even price cost to climb kilimanjaro. These information can be found online for free and through inquire online contacts. More go here Mount Kilimanjaro blog:- About Mount Kilimanjaro and Tanzanite
Always be prepared and use a tried and tested kit list. Make sure that you do your homework and that you have all the essentials. Keep up to date on the weather on Kilimanjaro. Conditions can be unfavorable and dangerous to favorable and pleasant, and a well planned trip has to take the weather patterns into consideration.