June-September (cooler, drier weather).
OK: December to January (may be some rain).
Worst: March-May (long rains on the coast)
to hike in Tanzania:
- Many Wildlife Parks and Game Reserves offer protected walks where a visitor/group hires a rifle-toting guide to accompany them on an informative and down-to-earth stroll among the beasties. Arusha town is especially well set up for these hikes.
- Tanzania's richly endowed northern highlands offer spectacular hikes particularly in the gorgeous Usambara and Pare mountains and can be organised via one of the excellent cultural tourism programmes.
Moshi or lovely Lushoto are both good bases for highland treks.
- There are superb rain forest hikes in Udzungwa, though it is not easy to overnight there.
- Mt Meru, near Arusha offers fine hikes with stunning views, wildlife encounters such as monkeys and giraffe and is an excellent way to acclimatize before taking on the heights of Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain.
A climb to Meru's summit of 4,500m will take two or three days with another day for the descent.
This trek starts at Momela Gate where guides and porters can be hired if you haven't already arranged them in Arusha or signed up with a tour operator.
Mt Meru, useful as a training ground for the more serious Kili trek, or simply as an easier, pleasant alternative.
- Mt. Kilimanjaro: this beautifully shaped volcano is an African icon, its snowy peak visible for hundreds of kilometres around (though the best view is from Kenya) and a natural climbing target for many fit hikers to East Africa; this will require at least six to eight days to accomplish, preferably including time to acclimatise.
- Kilimanjaro's name is something of a mystery as kilima means little mountain (maybe a Swahili joke?) while njaro means white or shining in old Swahili.
- The main hiking routes up Kili to the Uhuru peak take 6 - 8 days.
Marangu (64 kms), Rongai (65 kms), Machame (49 kms), Lemosho (56 kms), Shira and Umbwe (37 kms). The first three are the least challenging routes; Machame is the most picturesque though steeper; Rongai is the easiest for camping; Marangu offers hut accommodation, though the route is much busier as a result.
- about 15,000 - 20,000 hikers try to reach a peak every year but less than half succeed.
- the final section to the summit is normally climbed at night when the scree (loose stones) is frozen over and easier to scramble over.
At 5,896m (19,343ft) Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest peak and climbed - without mountaineering gear - by thousands of visitors every year, though careful preparation is vital, including hiring a good guide and warm clothes. Hiking around the lower levels of the volcano is also popular with the less ambitious.
Most hikers get to Kili (as it is casually known) via Moshi and Marangu village.
Beware: the high altitude and relative ease of ascent encourages hikers to climb too fast, inducing altitude-inspired headaches and early fatigue at the least, AMS (acute altitude sickness) or even death in the worst cases. Don't be over-ambitious or plan a fast hike, you may simply not make the grade, like two thirds of Kili climbers, or perhaps come down in a black bag, which doesn't look good on most people.
Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones/peaks, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. This view is of Kibo from the Karanga camp. Mawenzi peak requires rock and/or ice-climbing skills.
Tourists wishing to climb Kilimanjaro are obliged to hire an accredited guide or travel with a hiking company - generally considered to be the easiest way to deal with lunatic bureaucrats and endless, necessary bookings, equipment acquisition and so on.
Efficient hiking companies can be found in both Moshi and Marangu. Moshi has some boisterous, low cost night spots.
As a bare minimum you'll need to take good, waterproof trekking boots, layers of of warm, loose clothing, a light waterproof jacket, a fleece, scarf, hat, gloves, sunglasses and sleeping bag, though these can be bought or rented locally if you're not fussy about the condition.
And of course camera, water bottle, torch, toilet paper, snacks and basic medicines. This is just a hint of the complexity of this trek, so take Kili seriously and check with tour operators for suggestions and a full list of requirements that if you have any sense a porter will be carrying anyway!
Best time to climb Kilimanjaro: December to February (normally dry and clear) or June to August. Try to time the ascent to arrive at the top when the moon is full, so torches are less necessary and ambient light lends drama to the scene.
On the way back from a Kilimanjaro hike, Tanzania
Getting to Tanzania:
Apart from planes to Tanzania's capital, Dar es Salaam, there are plenty of regular African buses lurching from Kenya to Tanzania. Nairobi - Arusha or Dar es Salaam, Mombasa - Dar es Salaam, Voi - Moshi, for example.
More adventurous visitors might try for a dhow sailing from Mombasa - Zanzibar (Pemba).
From Zambia's Kapiri Mposhi trains run erratically on the Tazara line to Dar es Salaam.
Getting around Tanzania:
- Domestic airlines perform respectably and prices are acceptable.
- Buses, both full size and mini-buses known as dalla-dalla are the transport norm and get just about everywhere though roads are in bad shape and accident rates high, especially on the Arusha to Moshi route. Buses are not permitted to travel at night.
- Car rental costs are high, particularly since most tourists will require a 4WD vehicle hired from Dar es Salaam.
- Ferries are an interesting option and can be found on Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Nyasa and on the sea coast, but sadly the lovely, tranquil and traditional dhow as serious transport is now rare in Tanzania after a couple of bad accidents with tourists.
Tanzania Travel Guide
Tours | Zanzibar
Beaches | Zanzibar
Guide | Tanzania Map