One of the most frequented attractions in Tanzania; Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is home to Africa’s highest mountain peak. Unlike other parks in northern Tanzania, this one is not visited for the wildlife but for the chance to stand in awe of this majestic snow-capped mountain and, for many, to climb to the summit. Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time, although the best period is from late June to October, during the dry season.
Kilimanjaro, a World Heritage Sites, was formed over 1 million years ago by volcanic movement along the Rift Valley. Three points – Shira, Kibo, and Mawenzi came to be about 750,000 years ago. The highest point is Uhuru Peak on Kibo, which is one of the Seven Summits of the world.
The mountain rises from farmland on the lower level to rain forest and alpine meadow and then barren lunar landscape at the peaks. The slopes of the rain forest are home to buffaloes, leopards, monkeys, elephants and eland. The alpine zone is where bird watchers will find an abundance of birds of prey.
The best time to visit the western Kilimanjaro park plains on your northern safari of Tanzania with African Mecca will vary according to your interests. Because of the vulnerability of the Amboseli ecosystem to changes in rainfall and temperature and of the varied climate zones as you ascend Kilimanjaro, there is a great variation in conditions, not only from month to month but from area to area.
In general, animals are easier to spot when foliage is sparse and dry from July to October, especially in the vicinity of the camps, where there are often attractive waterholes. There is minimal rainfall, low humidity, mosquitoes are not generally a problem, and if you feel chilly in the morning or at night, there is always a cheerful campfire or a welcome hot-water bottle and plenty of blankets. Bring long trousers and a light fleece for an early trip to Kilimanjaro or an evening drive. Seasonal monthly temperatures on the plains of the national park range comfortably from the lows of 60 F (15 C) to the high of 90 F (32 C) degrees.
Temperature on the mountain during your climb has a ultra-higher drop. The Amboseli Plains in western Kilimanjaro undergo a dramatic change in the rains, although these are relatively sparse beginning in November and December. It is warmest in January and February in East Africa when there is some respite from the rain and the grass begins to green, but the altitude keeps the heat from becoming oppressive on the foothills.
Later when the heavier rains arrive around mid-March, April and May, and when a shallow salt lake forms over the veldt, conditions are best for bird-watching. Waders gather in the shallow salty water and on the wooded hillsides, lush new foliage shelters the nests of jewel-like weaver birds. Temperatures rise to the 75 F (24 C) in the day and rarely drop below 50 F (10 C) at night, but humidity is not a problem at this elevation. The main disadvantage is that skies are cloudy; affecting the views, and also the soil is damp. There is rarely rain all day, but it can adversely affect both driving and walking. From early July to late October, the dried out salt pan is arid and bedevilled by dust spirals, but other areas in Kilimanjaro are at their best.
Fortunately, not many visitors make this western Kilimanjaro tour in the wilds of Tanzania, so it is never crowded. It could be seriously damaged by a large influx of tourists, but remains a secret destination for the privileged few. For those who want to hike Kilimanjaro Mountain on a full or half day, the dry period is also the best time to consider climbing it as adverse weather conditions at increased altitudes can make mountain trek very uncomfortable and there is always a risk of rock slides during the wet period. On the lower slopes, the ground can be slippery and trekking in the wet is not the best decision as ascent terrain can be discomforting for a leisurely or serious hike. Expect fog, rain, gray clouds, wind, muddy soil and also freak lighting.