Kilimanjaro, Meru & Arusha
Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro, is a bucket list item for many and not for the faint-hearted. Nearby Mount Meru within Arusha National Park is a less gruelling but also not to be underestimated. Go on, challenge yourself!
It’s an incredible feeling to finally have made it to the top, especially after the long, hard slog up, the headaches and dizziness. But wow, it has been completely worth it in every way.
If you want to summit the highest mountain in Africa make sure you train. It’s a challenge to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro at 5,895m, but those who have done it (about 30,000 people a year do it) say it’s well worth the effort. For some it’s enough to simply enjoy the views of the mountain whilst enjoying the African wilderness, for others it’s an important personal challenge. Tracy from the Tribes office has climbed Kilimanjaro, so if you’ve any questions, she’s the one to ask!
Mount Meru is nearby in Arusha National Park. Climbing this mountain can be done in four days, the initial part of the climb takes you through the park. Whilst perhaps not seen as quite as difficult as a Kilimanjaro summit, you need to be fit - at 4,566m it’s still a big challenge.
You might spend a night or two before or after your climb in Arusha. There are some good hotels and restaurants in this bustling town. It’s also the starting and ending point of the northern safari circuit.
- Kilimanjaro routes:
Lemosho – one of the quieter routes. Similar to Machame in many ways. 6 or 7 nights. Recommended.
Machame – some consider it the most scenic route. Steeper than Marangu. Our most highly recommended route for most people. 5 or 6 nights.
Marangu – the oldest and usually the busiest route. The only route with huts to sleep in. 5 or 6 nights.
Rongai – coming in from the north, this is considered one of the easier routes. Usually the quietest route. 6 to 7 nights.
Shira – a popular longer route which eventually joins the Machame route, but it starts higher so acclimatisation can be an issue. 6 or 7 nights.
Umbwe – a route sometimes used for descents.
Western Breach – Closed.
- Climbing Mount Meru: The summit of this active volcano is at 4566m. It is in the middle of Arusha National Park, so the start of the climb can be excellent for wildlife. It’s much quieter than Kilimanjaro and yet still presents a significant challenge. Usually tackled in 3 to 4 days.
- When to climb Kilimanjaro or Meru: Avoiding the rains (long rains from mid-March-early June, and short rains around late November to early December) tends to be a good idea. Mid-June to August are the coldest months.
- Arusha National Park: This small, quiet reserve works well for a day safari – perhaps at the start of a longer safari itinerary or maybe at the start or end of a climb? It’s a really excellent park for birders, with over 400 species recorded, as Momella Lake attracts lots of waterbirds and the raptors like the Ngurdoto Crater – a kind of little Ngorongoro. You can walk the crater rim, but not descend into the caldera.
You’ll almost certainly see black and white colobus monkeys in the forest, and buffalo, zebras, various antelopes and giraffes are common here along with many smaller mammal species. There are no lions, and indeed big cats or large predators are rarely seen. It’s a gentle safari in beautiful surroundings.
- Beach add-on: Why not take yourself off to the beach for a well-earned rest at the end of your hard climb? There are flights from Arusha to Zanzibar.
- Combine with a safari: Arusha is the main hub for the northern safari circuit, so if you have the time and budget, why not add on a safari to your Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru climb?