Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Kilimanjaro National Park

Situated at: 3° 4′ 0 S 37° 22′ 0 E

Kilimanjaro National Park was established as a Forest Reserve in 1921, but it was not until 1973 that the area was officially declared a National Park, and not until 1977 that it was opened under the terms of official protection. Mount Kilimanjaro was first brought within the scope of European geographic knowledge after its discovery by German missionaries early in the 19th century. Reports emanating from deep within Africa of snow capped peaks at the equator were initially dismissed by experts of the Royal Geographic Society, but later accepted as fact as evidence became indisputable.

Climbing infrastructure began in 1932 with the construction of Kibo Hut, the first of its kind, followed by name plates and direction signs. This was mostly done by the Mountain Club of East Africa. In 1961 a torch was placed at the summit to commemorate the independence of Tanganyika from Britain after which the summit was renamed Uhuru in place of the older Kaiser Wilhelm Peak. Uhuru is loosely translated as Freedom in Swahili.

The area encompassed by Kilimanjaro National Park is 1668 square kilometers, or 641 square miles. It is situated in northern Tanzania close to the town of Moshi. Moshi is in fact the main jumping off point for most Kilimanjaro expeditions and is the main point of access for Kilimanjaro National Park.

Most visitors to Kilimanjaro National Park arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport which is about an hour drive from Moshi, and about the same distance from Arusha, the regional capital and also the home of many Kilimanjaro National Park climb outfitters and safari companies.


Kilimanjaro National Park protects the three peaks of Kibo, Shira and Mawenzi. These are the three principal craters that comprise Mount Kilimanjaro itself. Kilimanjaro is a product of the great geologic permutations that created the Great Rift Valley. Some three quarters of a million years ago the three craters broke through the surface to ultimately reach a height of 16000ft. The oldest crater was Shira, which collapsed to form a caldera and is easily recognizable as the most degraded of the three main peaks of Kilimanjaro National Park. Mawenzi and Kibo grew to about 18000ft before Mawenzi too collapsed, leaving the principal crater of Kibo to continue rising to ultimately settled at its present height and configuration.

Vegetation Zones

There is a great deal more to see and do in Kilimanjaro National Park that simply toil towards the summit. At varying altitudes the National Park experiences radically different vegetation zones that each have a unique aspect and differing plant communities. The most noticeable is probably the Forest belt that begins below the entry gates and offers a very gentle and pleasant introduction to a summit ascent. This is followed by heather-like moorlands that open up the surrounding views and give perspective to the increasing altitude. Classic high desert follows with small and hardy shrubs and flowers cling close to the ground and behind the shelter of rocks. The summit belt is stark, bleak and lifeless. It is always a relief to begin the downward descent and reclaim the lower altitudes where life once again flourishes and there air is thicker.

Search & Rescue

Search and rescue facilities in Kilimanjaro National Park are surprising good. Trained rescue personnel are situated in all the camps above 10000ft and response time is reasonably good. There is rarely a need for rescue, since individual navigation on Kilimanjaro is strictly controlled, and evacuation is normally for issues related to altitude.

Air evacuation from Kilimanjaro National Park is reserved for extreme emergencies only. There has been talk of a helicopter being permanently available but this is unlikely in the short term. Aircraft are usually sourced from the local commercial tour operators fraternity if they are needed.

If you are evacuated off the mountain it will likely be in a suspended single wheeled gurney that is as much incentive to avoid injury as you will need.

Kilimanjaro National Park Fees and Terms & Conditions

Porters: US$10 per day
Cooks: US$15 per day
Guides: US$20 per day

Fees are not refundable after payment.

‘It is an express condition of your visit to this Park that the Board of Trustees shall not be responsible for any bodily injury to any visitor arising from an cause: or for or damage to the property of any visitor brought into the park arising from fire, theft or otherwise by whomsoever caused or arising from negligent or wrongful act of any person in the employment of the Board. All visitors are deemed to have contracted with the Board on this basis.’