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, sneaked 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 mountain has snowy peaks, which are well renowned, although they are quickly disappearing.
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 Kilimajaro'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.
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 $25/person, one way, and its a 5-6hrs bus ride.
It is required to have a licensed guide to climb Kilimanjaro. Current park entry and camping/hut fees are over $100 per day. Most climbers are accompanied with porters. All inclusive trips range from about $1200 to $5,500. Over and above the amount you pay to the tour operator, it is obligatory on the part of the trekkers to pay tips to the guides, cooks and porters who accompany you on the mountain. though there is no set guidelines as to how much you should pay, it is sufficient if you can pay around 10% of the amount you pay to the tour operators with the guide getting the major share and equal distribution of the remaining amount to the porters. since the porters are the least paid by the tour operators and the ones who take the maximum load during the trek, your generosity would be of much help to them. But, it is not advisable to give the whole amount to one person and expect him to distribute it among the others. Chances are high that he may pocket the whole amount. It would be wise to personally hand over the amount to the individual in person. Also, the gear used by the porters is mostly substandard and infact not at all fit for the trek. It would be generous if you could spare some of your gear if you think you can do it.
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 acclimatisation to the altitude. This is the only route that offers huts versus tents. In spite of these, do be aware that 1) a faster accent means less time for acclimitisation 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 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 ascents 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 worthy enough to carry along some readymade noodle packets etc for cooking them at the end of the trek.
A lot of water. 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 desginated 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, 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 whilst 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.
There are seven main factors that affect the incidence and severity of Kilimanjaro altitude sickness:
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 very serious and a well planned trip has to take the average weather patterns into consideration.