Kilimanjaro – a dream destination for many. Also for us, but in the end, we were happy with just a glimpse half way up; includingon lunch at the Kilimanjaro Shira Plateau and a nice walk trough a volcanic landscape beyond the trees.
|Destination||Tanzania, Northern National Parks (Arusha, Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara) and Zanzibar|
|How and when I got there||Flights with Turkish Airlines from Cologne via Istanbul and Zanzibar to Kilimanjaro Airport; return flight from Zanzibar via Kilimanjaro and Istanbul to Cologne; January – February 2019|
|Where I stayed||Lake Duluti Lodge (near Arusha, https://www.lakedulutilodge.com/)
Highview Hotel (Karatu, http://www.highviewhotel.com/)
Meru View Lodge (close to southern Arusha Nat. Park Gate, http://www.meru-view-lodge.com/meru/en/)
Shu’Mata Camp (2 hours north of Moshi/Asursha, http://www.shumatacamp.de/index.php)
Hatari Lodge (close to nothern Arusha Nat. Park Gate, http://www.hatarilodge.de/en/contact.php)
Le Parlour Apartments (Boma La Ngombe, close to JRO airport, no own website)
Melia Zanzibar Hotel (Kiwengwa, Zanzibar, https://www.melia.com/en/hotels/tanzania/zanzibar/melia-zanzibar/index.html)
Dhow Palace Hotel (Stone Town, Zanzibar, http://www.dhowpalace-hotel.com/)
|Restaurants||we tried only the Restaurants of the above mentioned hotels / lodges. And we liked best:
Hatari Lodge, Shu’Mata Camp and Lake Duluti Lodge: outstanding!
Meru View Lodge and Melia Zanzibar: very good
|Things to do||Game drives in the National Parks – the obvious thing
Hiking at Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru: not exactly the relaxing type of vacation
Walking Safaris and relaxing (e.g. at the Hatari Lodge or a tented camp like Shu’Mata): more solitude to “feel Africa”
|Recommendations in a nutshell||see the post regarding “things to consider for travelling in Tanzania”!
Use a renowned travel agency for organising the safari trip (like Chamaeleon)
get some rest between the bumpy rides
Further Reading: Lonely Planet Tanzania Travel Guide
On the way to Kilimanjaro
Today we were scheduled to get a close encounter with Mount Kilimanjaro. A trip that we were particularly curious about, as we had had lots of discussions whether to climb the Kilimanjaro or not. In the end, we decided not to do the climb this time, but try to get a feeling for it. And decide, whether this should get onto our future “bucket list” or not. Read about the outcome later!
The day started early, as we were not really used to sleeping in a tent, and the noise of the tarpaulin in the wind woke us up in the dark. I decided to watch the sunrise over Mount Kilimanjaro, with moon and stars abore, and that was a great decision:
The day tour itself started at seven at the Shu’Mata Camp, and we had been advised to wear “warm clothes”. It would have been better if our guide Mokili had mentioned “very warm clothes including a winter hat”, as the wind in the open car was pretty cold in these early morning hours. The ride took us two and a half hour, and on our way we were quite lucky and met a Gerenuk, also known as the giraffe gazelle. That’s a long-necked antelope found in the drier parts of East Africa, and in the Arusha area it is quite rare.
During the ride we had many great views of the beautiful landscape and the Kilimanjaro, almost invisible in the back:
And great pictures of the approaching Kilimanjaro:
And we arrived just in time to see the Kilimanjaro summit still without clouds. We entered the National Park at the “Londorosi Gate”:
Behind the gate, we moved through dense jungle and met a few black and white colobus monkeys:
However, the jungle part was smaller than expected. Most parts of the Kilimanjaro foot are used for forestry – it almost feels like being in the Black Forest in Germany rather than at the Kilimanjaro.
From there we went by car up to a lookout. And from there it was a nice hike to the Shira Camp 1 – forth and back in approx. 3 hours. Just as we drove up the mountainside, the inevitable clouds moved in:
On the Shira Plateau
We left the car at the Morum picnic site and walked from there over the plain to the Shira I campsite.
From the Morum picnic site you get a nice view over nothern Tanzania, up to the Mount Meru far away:
The Shira Plateau is a vast plain above the tree zone at approx. 3500 m. Our today’s hike basically features the first part of the old “Shira route” to the top of the Kilimanjaro.
Routes to the Kili summit
Altogether, there are steven established routes to climb the Kilimanjaro – here you’ll find a good overview: https://www.ultimatekilimanjaro.com/routes.htm . There are seven established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Marangu (also called “Coca Cola Route – the eastiest one), Machame (more difficult, also called “Whiskey Route” to differentiate versus the “Coca Cola Route”), and Umbwe (the most difficult one) – all three approaching from the South. Then Lemosho and Shira and Northern Circuit (approaching from the west), Rongai (approaching from the North), and finally the descent route Mweka.
The Shira Route, our todays hike, is a nowadays little used trail, starting at the Shira Ridge. It is almost identical to the Lemosho route – only the first part differs. The Lemosho Route starts lower than the Shira route and offers a nice hike through rain forest area, whereas the Shira route starts at a comparably high altitude (around 3.500 m) and thus leaves the rainforest behind.
The path meandered a little up and down, traversing three small canyons on the way. The vegetation consisted mainly of small bush, some nice flowers like orchids in between, like Aloe species and others.
The landscape was mainly volcanic rocks and some vegetation in between. We had to pass three canyons with small streams.
The Shira I Camp
The arrival at the Shira Camp was a bit chastening. At 11:30, the usual clouds developed and manteled the Kilimanjaro. A cold wind came up – really not very cosy. In addition, the camp area did not look very inviting: a bare landscape, a wooden hut in the middle, some old wooden toilet huts:
Groups of porters were busy in building up the tents for the hikers that would arrive later.
We stayed for a short rest and took the “traditional” picture at the camp sign,…
…while the first hikers arrived at the site.
My Conclusions regarding the Kilimanjaro Hike
For me personally, this experience had a very healing effect: We had been considering the hike to the top of Kilimanjaro for quite some time. After having seen the reality, I’m pretty sure it’s off my list now. Even on the not so popular Shira route, the number of hikers is huge. The idea of passing many different vegetation zones is quite attractive – but the beautiful rainforest zone is left behind on the first day. And then it’s just walking in pretty bare landscapes and pretty cool temperatures, higher up even in the clouds.
With these impressions of the Shira I Camp, we walked back to the car, had a nice lunch (the sun came back out) with a view:
The way to Hatari
And from there we went to the Hatari lodge, passing some smaller villages:
Finally, we reached the Hatari lodge, just in time for the “sundowner” on the wooden terrace of the lodge:
But more about the Hatari lodge in the next post!
See more of our Tanzania Safari and Zanzibar Beach Trip here:
And find more information about Travelling in Tanzania here:
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