Although Mt Kilimanjaro tops the list as Africa’s most famous and highest mountain, Tanzania boasts many other mountain ranges and attractive peaks. Most of the country’s mountains and volcanoes are located in the north and east of the country. They vary from the dramatic crater of Mt Meru and the active volcano of Ol Donyo Lengai to tamer options like the Usambara Mountains and the comparatively gentle slopes of the Crater Highlands. Hiking trips and mountain climbing in Tanzania are becoming popular options for visitors not content with merely observing the country from the back of a game viewing vehicle. Instead, adventurous types are taking advantage of the many trails and peaks Tanzania has to offer.
High Altitude ADVENTURE
Above the gently rolling hills and plateaux of northern Tanzania rise the snowy peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro, its slopes and glaciers shimmering above the rising clouds. Kilimanjaro is located near the town of Moshi and is a protected area, carefully regulated for climbers to enjoy without leaving a trace of their presence. The mountain’s ecosystems are as strikingly beautiful as they are varied and diverse. On the lowland slopes, much of the mountain is farmland, with coffee, banana, cassava, and maize crops grown for subsistence and cash sale. A few larger coffee farms still exist on the lower slopes, but much of the area outside the national park has been subdivided into small plots. Once inside the park, thick lowland forest cover the lower altitudes and breaks into alpine meadows once the air begins to thin. Near the peak, the landscape is harsh and barren, with rocks and ice being the predominant features above a breathtaking African view.
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is the highlight of many visitors’ experiences in Tanzania. Few mountains can claim the grandeur and the views of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the Rift Valley, and the Masai Steppe that belong to Kilimanjaro. Hiking on the ‘rooftop of Africa’ is the adventure of a lifetime, and anyone from a seasoned trekker to a reasonably fit first time enthusiast can scale the snowy peak.
The dramatic crater of Mt Meru is often neglected in favour of its famous neighbour to the east, but a visit to this spectacular mountain, located within Arusha National Park, is an unforgettable experience. Its lower slopes are covered in dense highland forest, where
colobus monkeys play and buffalo graze concealed beneath the thick foliage. The extinct volcano’s extensive base gives way to a perfectly formed crater, and another internal crater with sharp, sheer cliffs. An ash cone forms a subsidiary peak and the Momela Lakes and Ngurdoto Crater are visible from the slopes of the Mountain.
Rising up from the floors of the Rift Valley, the Crater Highlands form a lush chain of mountains and volcanoes that includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the surrounding Masai tribal lands. Hiking safaris take visitors from Ngorongoro Crater to the foot of Ol Donyo Lengai and offer a chance to see some of the most spectacular and stunning scenery in Tanzania.
Exploring this little-visited wilderness is the hiking adventure of a lifetime. Within the crater rim, large herds of zebra and wildebeest graze nearby while sleeping lions laze in the sun. At dawn, the endangered black rhino return to the thick cover of the crater forests after roaming the dew-laden grasslands in the morning mist. Just outside the crater’s ridge, Masai herd their cattle and goats over green pastures through the highland slopes, living alongside the wildlife as they have for centuries.
OL DONYO LENGAI
Overlooking Lake Natron and the bushland of Kenya to the north, Ol Donyo Lengai, which means ‘the home of God’ in Maasai, is an active volcano and one of Tanzania’s most spectacular and undiscovered climbs. The volcano erupts sporadically, sending streams of grey lava down the crater rim and spitting hot ash high into the air. The climb, undertaken overnight so hikers can experience sunrise over the Rift Valley escarpment, is highly challenging.