By Shagun Bhandari, Guest Post
Imagine standing at the highest point of the African continent; looking out over sprawling wilderness. Surrounded by the formidable lands of the Amboseli National Park, the great Rift Valley and the Maasi Steppe, Mount Kilimanjaro stands tall, beckoning travelers from around the world. It’s surrounded by what is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kilimanjaro National Park, and the sight of the mountain standing tall amidst 291 acres of grassland is truly breathtaking.
With a height of 5,896 meters, Kilimanjaro the tallest mountain in Africa. It’s also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, rising dramatically in isolation from the surrounding coastal shrubland. It has three main volcanic peaks — Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira — and they are truly a sight to behold, if for no reason other than that this is one of the few places in Africa with a permanent ice cover, despite its proximity to the equator.
One can truly experience a range of Africa’s climatic conditions on a trip to Kilimanjaro. From the savannahs that it looks over to its snow covered peaks, you get the whole package. If the volcanic nature of the mountain worries you, breath easy; the last eruption was over 100,000 years ago and Kilimanjaro is now considered inactive.
While the mountain is definitely the highlight of most trips — and with good reason — there are several places around the area that offer some interesting experiences as well. Here are some of the places you visit in and around Kilimanjaro:
1. Lake Chala
Also known Dschalla, Lake Chala is a crater lake that was formed in a caldera. Located on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, on the eastern slope of Mount Kilimanjaro, it’s about an hour’s drive from Moshi (one of the access points to the surrounding National Park).
This lake is a popular spot for visitors as the view is magnificent; the blues of the lake set dramatically against the background of Kilimanjaro. Waters transition through different hues of blue depending on the time of the year, home to several species of marine life like the critically endangered Lake Chala Tilapia. If you fancy a stay at the lake there are several options, from luxury safari camp sites to lodges. Activities include kayaking, hiking around the area and swimming in the azure waters!
2. Materuni Waterfalls
Nestled in the lush foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Materuni Waterfalls are a spectacular sight to behold. It is an ideal option for people who are short on time, but want to experience nature nonetheless. The waterfalls are over 70 meters in height, with clear glacier water thundering over the edge.
The waterfall can be accessed via a hiking path. Note: it’s difficult in some places, so wear appropriate gear if you’re heading there.
3. Mount Kilimanjaro Trek
The jewel in a much studded crown, the trek to the “roof of Africa” is truly the experience of a lifetime.
While trekking to the top requires limited technical expertise, do not underestimate the challenges that the mountain will throw your way. There are seven main trekking routes that vary in intensity, facilities offered and scenery, so you should do your research before you head out to conquer its slopes. For example, while the Marangu Route is the easiest route, many note it’s one of the least scenic. On the other hand, the Machame Route is more beautiful but also more intense. Think about what kind of experience you want before choosing.
4. Kilimanjaro National Park
If you’re heading to Kilimanjaro, do not miss the chance to check out the surrounding National Park. Accessible from the city of Moshi and covering an area of 291 square kilometers, it’s home to herds of elephants, giraffe, zebra, leopards, buffalo and several small primates.
You can book a safari tour. Or if you’re just looking to relax, opt for a room at one of the many luxury lodges in the area and enjoy the imposing landscape and lush wilderness. Either way, this is one stop you should definitely get off at!
5. Rundugai Hot Springs
An unlikely place for a hot spring, but a definite must visit if you’re looking to try something new. With crystal clear waters surrounded by palm trees, Rundugai Hot Springs is an unexpected paradise located outside the town of Boma, 35 kilometers from Moshi. This is a great spot for a swim and a picnic, tyre swing included!
Locally, Rundugai Hot Springs is referred to as “Chemka,” meaning “boiling,” as the waters appear to do just this when they rush up from the ground. Even though it’s a hot spring, the water is a pleasant temperature to swim in so pack a swimsuit!
6. Rebmann Glacier
Located near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Rebmann glacier is a small remnant of the giant icecap that once covered the summit of the mountain. It has reduced significantly in size over the past century: by over 82% since 1912! Make sure to visit while you still can and admire this seriously astounding piece of nature.
7. Victoria Falls
The sight of the water roaring over the cliffs that form the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe is nothing short of spectacular; the mighty Zambezi river thunders over the cliffs from a height of 108 meters!
The waterfall is also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, the “smoke that thunders.” While it is neither the highest nor the widest, it is often considered the largest waterfall in the world due to its combined size of 1708 meters.
The sprays of water can been seen from miles away and the sheer force of nature that is on display here is a sight that should not be missed.
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