Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the seven highest summits in the world and the highest in Africa at 19,341 feet above sea level. It is located in Tanzania near the Kenyan border in East Africa. It forms part of the Kilimanjaro National Park and an important destination in Tanzania. The first European explorer to discover was mountain was Johannes Rebman in 1848. Several theories have suggested the origin of the name “Kilimanjaro.” One of the theories from the Chagga people of Tanzania explains “Kilima” to mean mountain and “Njaro” to denote whiteness. The other theory was from the Europeans who attempted to summit the peak but failed hence adopted the phrase from the Chagga to mean their failure to climb the mountain.
Formation and Physical Characteristics
Traditionally, Mt. Kilimanjaro is not a mountain but a stratovolcano that began forming over 3 million years ago alongside the Great Rift Valley. It resulted from a fault movement where the oceanic crust descended below the continental crust. Through a repetitive process of explosive eruption, several layers of fragmental fallouts comprising of hardened volcanic ash, magma, lava pumice, and tephra created what is known as the Kilimanjaro Mountain. Mt. Kilimanjaro is a stratovolcano with three distinct volcano cones. The highest of the three is Kibo, followed by Mawenzi at 16,893 feet and Shira at 13,140 feet. Two of the cones, Mawenzi and Shira are extinct, while Kibo is predicted to be dormant and is likely to erupt. The Mountain is usually covered by an ice dome gully of snow. In recent years, the ice cap believed to have been formed 11,000 years ago has retreated with possibilities of vanishing by the second half on the 21st Century.
Fauna and Flora
Kilimanjaro encompasses a large variety of ecosystems comprising of tropical, jungle, savannah, desert montane, subalpine, and alpine vegetation. The forests in the mountain are home to over 1,200 vascular plants. One interesting fact about Mt Kilimanjaro is the lack of a bamboo forest, which is a common feature in all mountains across East Africa. Because there is no bamboo, rainfall is limited and so is the food supply for animals. Nevertheless, there are a number of animal species like the blue monkey, mongoose, olive baboons and leopards that survive in the mountain forests.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is a major tourist attraction site in Tanzania. It forms part of the Kilimanjaro National Park which is home to the largest elephant breeds in the world. Around 30,000 people come to Tanzania every year with the aim of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. There are five major climbing routes to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro; Marangu, Machame, Rongai, Lemosho, and Mweka routes. The frequented routes, Machame and Lemosho, are easy and scenic giving a breathtaking view of the mountain flora and fauna. The most used Marangu route is the easiest but gets difficult during the final ascent near the brim of the crater.
Mt. Kilimanjaro stands in isolation above the surrounding plains with its ice-capped peak looming over the savannah. The ice cap, which gives the scenic beauty of the mountain, faces a threat due to human activity, which has resulted in climatic change forcing superfluous aggressive glaciers. Tourism also poses a great threat to the mountain resulting in deforestation in order to build infrastructure for tourists. Encroachment into the nearby national parks has blocked major animal migration routes creating a human-wildlife conflict, which is a threat to the flora and fauna of the mountain.