Tanzania Climbing Safari Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Marangu Gate (1860 m/6100 ft) - Mandara Huts (2700m/8860 ft)
Walking distance: 8 km/5 miles
Walking time: 3-4 hours
Altitude gain: 840 m/2760 ft
Your first day on Kilimanjaro starts with the transfer from your hotel to Marangu gate, the registration formalities, an introduction to your guides, the packing of all equipment and distributing it among the porters. Expect to linger at the gate for an hour or two before you get going.The first day on the Marangu Route leads through rain forest. (You know why it's called rain forest, right? ALWAYS carry your rain gear in your day pack!) Actually, montane forest is the correct name for this climate zone and vegetation. The wide and well formed gravel path is fairly steep and leads steadily uphill, but the forest is so pretty that you don't mind. For a while the path follows a little stream and it passes a couple of picturesque little waterfalls. You'll probably have lunch at the Kisamboni picnic area, which marks half way. It should take about an hour and a half to get there. And it is about another hour and a half from here to the Mandara Huts. As you near the huts you will notice the vegetation change. You are about to enter the next climate and vegetation zone—the alpine heath and moorland. The first heathers appear, but most noticeable is the lichen dangling from all the trees and shrubs, leading to the name "bearded forest" that you may have seen under some Kilimanjaro pictures. Soon you'll arrive at the Mandara Huts, a group of wooden huts in a forest clearing. If you do have time and energy left you can take a little side trip to the Maundi Crater. It takes about 15 minutes and, weather permitting, you will be rewarded with good views to Mawenzi. You may also spot blue monkeys (they have become very used to people), and with a bit of luck even black and white colobus monkeys.
Day 2: Mandara Huts - Horombo Huts (3700 m/12140 ft)
Walking distance: 12 km/7.2 miles
Walking time: 5-7 hours
Altitude gain: 1000 m/3280 ft
First thing in the morning you will walk through a patch of forest. If you did not make the detour to Maundi Crater yesterday you now have another chance of spotting colobus monkeys. However, soon you will leave the last trees behind. You are now walking through moorland and the dominating plant is heather. That means that, weather permitting, you should get good views of Kibo and Mawenzi. Some people describe the vegetation as bleak or boring as compared to the forest, but I actually prefer the more open views. The most noticeable features, apart from the Kilimanjaro peaks of course, are the first giant senecios and loblelias that you can see growing among the ubiquitous heather. The path meanders through the hills with some ups and downs and across a few dry creeks. This is a long day. You will be covering quite some distance and altitude and you may start to feel the latter. Remember to drink plenty, and try to eat well, even if you don't feel like it.The Horombo Huts are in a scenic location with good views to Mawenzi. On clear days you may even be able to see Moshi way below you, as well as the Pare mountain range.People who climb Kilimanjaro via the Marangu route stay here on the way up, on the way down, and if they take an extra acclimatization day they will spend another night at Horombo, and as if that wasn't enough, climbers ascending via the Rongai route also descend via Marangu and will also spend a night at Horombo. (At least they have their own camping equipment and won't eat or sleep in the village of huts.)
Day 3: Horombo Huts - Kibo Huts (4700 m/15420 ft)
Walking distance: 9.5 km/5.7 miles
Walking time: 5-7 hours
Altitude gain: 1000 m/3280 ft
Whether you took the acclimatization day or not, hopefully you wake up without any symptoms of altitude sickness and feeling refreshed. Because another big day lies ahead of you.As you keep trudging uphill the vegetation is gradually thinning out. You will be passing several water streams and they do not necessarily look inviting. Nevertheless, soon you'll reach the signposted "Last Water Point" at 4200 m/13780 ft. It is indeed the last chance to collect water, and your porters will. You might sit down at the picnic tables here and have a break.Eventually—after having crossed a ridge and another ridge and another ridge to get here—the path leads uphill onto the "Saddle". This is the barren plain of alpine desert between the two main peaks of Kilimanjaro: Mawenzi and Kibo. The only living things left are some hardy grasses and the occasional everlasting flower. (How DO they do it? Blooming in this environment.)
Day 4: Summit attempt via Gilman's Point (5700 m/18700 ft) to Uhuru Peak (5895 m/19340 ft) and descent to Horombo Huts (3700 m/12200 ft)
Walking distance: 5.5 km/3.5 miles ascent + 15 km/9.5 miles descent
Walking time: 5-6 hrs + 1-2 hours up, 5-6 hours down (the overall walking time may vary from 10 - 16 hours)
Altitude gain: 1000 m/ 3280 ft (Gilman's Point) or 1195 m/3920 ft (Uhuru Peak)
Descent: 2195 m/7200 ft
You arrived at Kibo Huts early enough to get plenty of rest. (Rongai route climbers will have, Marangu route climbers may not.)Your day pack should be ready with everything you will need tonight: rain gear if you aren't wearing it anyway, enough water, hand warmers, balaclava... You should have fresh batteries in your head torch and camera and you should already be wearing the right clothes. Make sure everything you are wearing is bone dry!
Your guides will wake you up some time between 11.00 and 11.30 pm. There will be some hot drinks and maybe some food, but mostly it's a matter of crawling out of your sleeping bag, putting on a few more layers of clothes, your boots and your head torch. Grab your day pack and off you go... Around midnight or not long after.As you emerge from between the Kibo Huts you will see strings of little lights. They are the head torches of the climbers ahead of you, and as you continue through the night they will also appear behind you.All those groups of little lights are moving in slow motion, following the path snaking back and forth, back and forth, up the steep scree slope that is the side of Kibo Peak. It's actually rather pretty. Whether you'll be able to appreciate it is a different question.
Day 5: Horombo Huts - Marangu Gate
Walking distance: 20 km/12.5 miles
Walking time: 5 hours
Descent: 1840 m/6040 ft
It's your last day on the mountain and there isn't much to say about it.After beakfast you set off, down, down, down, past Mandara Huts (lunch stop) to Marangu Gate. If you climbed on the Marangu route you already know the path.If you came up via the Rongai route then it's new territory and you will enjoy the last day in the lush rainforest. (Though some climbers can muster only a very moderate interest...) Once you get to the gate you'll have to endure some more formalities, but eventually you will say good bye to your guides (a sad and emotional moment), climb into the vehicle waiting for you and be whisked away to your hotel for hot showers and cold beers.