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Discover The Fauna and Flora of Kilimanjaro

Refundable, Rebookable, Authentic Kilimanjaro Safari

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The Fauna and Flora of Mount Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is not primarily a wildlife destination, but the national park supports four different vegetation zones, each with its own distinct flora and fauna that are determined by the altitude.

climbing mount kilimanjaro machame route

Montane Forest Zone

The most biodiverse vegetation zone is the lush evergreen rainforest that dominates from altitudes of 1,800m up to 3,000m. This is the wettest part of the mountain, with the southern slopes receiving up to 2,000mm of rain annually, and it looks and feels like the archetypal tropical jungle - hot, humid, coloured in infinite shades of green, and alive with bird song. More than 1,200 vascular plant species have been recorded in these forests, many of them endemic to this one mountain.

Common forest trees include the towering East African camphorwood Ocotea usambarensis, Yellowwood Podocarpus latifolius and various wild figs Ficus spp as well as the wild olive Olea africana, macaranga Macaranga kilimandscharica and at higher altitudes fragrant Hagenia Hagenia abyssinica draped atmospherically in old-man’s beard lichens, and African pencil-cedar Juniperus procera. Seasonal flowers include the stunning tuba-shaped red-and-yellow Impatiens kilimanjari and various violets and epiphytic orchids. Another feature of the higher forest zone are large stands of towering bamboo forest.

mount kilimanjaro's impatiens kilimanjari

The most frequently seen forest mammals are monkeys. Troops of black-and-white colobus leap acrobatically between the trees, long white tails in tow, while a habituated troop of the lovely blue monkey frequents some of the overnight huts. Buffalo and elephant are present but seldom seen, though you might well notice their fresh spoor on the forest trails. Predators such as leopard and serval are even more elusive, but you might catch a glimpse of the beautifully marked bushbuck or one of three recorded species of duiker. The largest of these, the elusive Abbott’s duiker, is an Endangered species now regarded to be endemic to a quintet of montane forests in eastern Tanzania due to environmental loss and poaching elsewhere in its natural range. After dark, the night air is frequently shattered by the banshee wail of the otherwise unobtrusive tree hyrax.

The forest birdlife is sensational. You’re almost certain to see silvery-cheeked hornbill, a massive and rather comical bird that reveals its presence with a raucous nasal call and heavy wingbeats. There’s also the stellar Hartlaub’s turaco, a green and purple bird with deep red underwings, the vociferous but elusive emerald cuckoo, and a host of colourful robin-chats, drab but cheerful greenbuls, and nectar-loving sunbirds.

hautlab's turaco in the rainforests of mount kilimanjaro

Other wildlife includes plentiful butterflies (including at least four endemic species), the hulking foot-long Jackson’s three-horned chameleon and slightly smaller Kilimanjaro two-horned chameleon, and numerous small but colourful tree frogs.

Semi-Alpine Moorland Zone

The dominant vegetation zone between the 3,000m and 4,000m contours is a heath-like cover studded with abundant wild flowers, including the exquisite yellow-flowered alpine sugarbush Protea kilimandscharica and alpine red-hot poker Kniphofia thomsonii. Though less biodiverse than the forest zone, the pastel-shaded moorland has an ethereal beauty all its own, particularly in the morning when it often swathed in mist. This zone notable for the presence of two most distinctive plants: the giant lobelia Lobelia deckenii, which grows to 3m high and is capped by a massive whorled rosette, and the giant groundsel Dendrosenecio kilimanjari, which grows up to 5m high and is capped by a spike of yellow flowers.

the moorlands of kilimanjaro

Aside from small rodents such as the ubiquitous four-striped grass mouse, mammal densities are low on the moorland zone. But look out for the endearing rock hyrax, and for the pairs of klipspringer that sometimes stand sentinel on rocky outcrops. Birdlife is limited to a few species adapted to high altitude environments. The star among these is undoubtedly the scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird, a beautiful iridescent green bird often seen feeding on proteas and red-hot pokers, but it is run a close second by spectacular but scarce lammergeyer (bearded vulture). Other birds of the moorland zone include Augur buzzard, Mountain buzzard, Alpine swift, Alpine chat and Streaky seedeater.

Alpine Zone

Classified as a semi-desert on account if its low rainfall, the alpine zone - roughly between 4,000m and 5,000m - also experience dramatic daily temperature contrasts. Plant life is restricted to around 55 hardy species of grass, lichen and moss. The common eland - Africa’s largest antelope - occasionally strays up into this zone, and elephants have been recorded upon occasion, but essentially there is no wildlife up this high.

Arctic Zone

Above the 5,000m contour, rainfall is practically non-existent, and permanent life forms are restricted to a few masochistic lichens. As for large wildlife, a pack of African wild dog was observed here in 1962, and a frozen leopard was discovered in 1926, and - well, that’s about it.

Outside the Park

It is worth noting that the Tanzania/Kenya border region occupied by Kilimanjaro supports some of the world’s finest ‘Big Five’ reserves, including the world-famous Serengeti National Park and abutting Masai Mara National Reserve. Furthermore, two superb game-viewing destinations lie in the shadow of the great mountain itself. Kenya’s popular Amboseli National Park is where most of those iconic photographs of elephants crossing the dusty plain, or giraffes nibbling on an acacia, below the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro, were captured. Rather more obscure is Tanzania’s West Kilimanjaro, a wedge of dry savanna protected as a wildlife management area in collaboration with local Masai pastoralists, and notable not only for offering superb in-your-face views of Kilimanjaro, but also for its plentiful wildlife, which includes elephant, lion, cheetah and typical dry-country antelope.


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When is the best time to travel to Kilimanjaro National Park?

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Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Climbing Kilimanjaro in January

Extreme weather conditions are a likelihood at all times of year, especially at higher altitudes, where subzero nocturnal temperatures are often exacerbated by wind. But January is usually a good month to climb Kilimanjaro in climatic terms. It is quite dry and relatively cool, which reduces the impact of humidity on the lower slope and improves the likelihood of extensive snow on the peaks. There is a slight risk of late rains extending into the first week or two of January, and this…

Climbing Kilimanjaro in January

snow caps on mount kilimanjaro

Extreme weather conditions are a likelihood at all times of year, especially at higher altitudes, where subzero nocturnal temperatures are often exacerbated by wind. But January is usually a good month to climb Kilimanjaro in climatic terms. It is quite dry and relatively cool, which reduces the impact of humidity on the lower slope and improves the likelihood of extensive snow on the peaks. There is a slight risk of late rains extending into the first week or two of January, and this fortnight is also an extension of the secondary peak season associated with Christmas and New Year, so it can be relatively busy. The second half of January is quieter.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in February

February is an optimum month for climbing Kilimanjaro. Tourist volumes are lower than during the main hiking season of August to September, and the weather is quite dry and relatively cool, which improves the likelihood of extensive snow on the peaks. That said, it gets extremely cold at higher altitudes throughout the year, and hikers should be prepared for subzero temperatures and high winds.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in February

kilimanjaro to mount meru climb

February is an optimum month for climbing Kilimanjaro. Tourist volumes are lower than during the main hiking season of August to September, and the weather is quite dry and relatively cool, which improves the likelihood of extensive snow on the peaks. That said, it gets extremely cold at higher altitudes throughout the year, and hikers should be prepared for subzero temperatures and high winds.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in March

Early March, like February, is a great time to climb Kilimanjaro the weather is quite dry, relatively cool, and very quiet. Nocturnal temperatures drop below freezing at higher altitudes, as is the case all year though, and the risk of rain increases as the month progresses.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in March

lengai landscape

Early March, like February, is a great time to climb Kilimanjaro the weather is quite dry, relatively cool, and very quiet. Nocturnal temperatures drop below freezing at higher altitudes, as is the case all year though, and the risk of rain increases as the month progresses.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in April

April is by far the wettest month on Kilimanjaro and should be avoided at all costs. If that isn’t possible, use the Rongai Route on the dryer northern slopes. Whichever route you use, extreme weather - temperatures way below freezing and high winds - is likely at higher altitudes.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in April

uhuru peak summit

April is by far the wettest month on Kilimanjaro and should be avoided at all costs. If that isn’t possible, use the Rongai Route on the dryer northern slopes. Whichever route you use, extreme weather - temperatures way below freezing and high winds - is likely at higher altitudes.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in May

Credit: Modern Day Marco May is very wet and although rainfall is lower than April, the ground may be waterlogged and forest trails will still be very slippery. Climbing Kilimanjaro is best avoided in May, though it does have the advantage of being very uncrowded. If you do hike at this time of year, best to choose the Rongai Route, which ascends the dryer northern slopes. Even then, arctic temperatures exacerbated by wind are normal at night on the upper slopes.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in May

mount kilimanjaro in april credit modern day marco Credit: Modern Day Marco

May is very wet and although rainfall is lower than April, the ground may be waterlogged and forest trails will still be very slippery. Climbing Kilimanjaro is best avoided in May, though it does have the advantage of being very uncrowded. If you do hike at this time of year, best to choose the Rongai Route, which ascends the dryer northern slopes. Even then, arctic temperatures exacerbated by wind are normal at night on the upper slopes.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in June

Credit: andBeyond Early June is the tail end of the wet season and even though rainfall is unlikely to be too high, post-rain conditions on Kilimanjaro may be slippery and waterlogged underfoot. It gets dryer towards the end of the month, which is usually a pretty good time to climb Kilimanjaro, before the main high season tourist influx. As is the case throughout the year, be prepared for extreme cold and possibly high winds at night in the alpine and arctic zones.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in June

sunset mount kenya credit andbeyond Credit: andBeyond

Early June is the tail end of the wet season and even though rainfall is unlikely to be too high, post-rain conditions on Kilimanjaro may be slippery and waterlogged underfoot. It gets dryer towards the end of the month, which is usually a pretty good time to climb Kilimanjaro, before the main high season tourist influx. As is the case throughout the year, be prepared for extreme cold and possibly high winds at night in the alpine and arctic zones.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in July

Although extreme weather conditions - subzero nocturnal temperatures and chill winds - are a likelihood at higher altitudes, July is a relatively dry and warm month, and a very good time to climb Kilimanjaro. It also marks the start of summer holidays in the northern hemisphere, and of the busiest tourist season. Avoid the crowds by using the less popular Shira, Rongai or Mweka Route.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in July

shira route kilimanjaro

Although extreme weather conditions - subzero nocturnal temperatures and chill winds - are a likelihood at higher altitudes, July is a relatively dry and warm month, and a very good time to climb Kilimanjaro. It also marks the start of summer holidays in the northern hemisphere, and of the busiest tourist season. Avoid the crowds by using the less popular Shira, Rongai or Mweka Route.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in August

As is the case at all times of year, it will be freezing cold at night in the alpine and arctic zones, but assuming climatic conditions are your main consideration, August is probably the driest and warmest month, and ideal for climbing Kilimanjaro. However, as summer holidays in the northern hemisphere are in full flow, it is also usually one of the two busiest months. The Shira, Rongai or Mweka Routes will be less crowded than Marangu or Machame.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in August

dawn on the mweka route

As is the case at all times of year, it will be freezing cold at night in the alpine and arctic zones, but assuming climatic conditions are your main consideration, August is probably the driest and warmest month, and ideal for climbing Kilimanjaro. However, as summer holidays in the northern hemisphere are in full flow, it is also usually one of the two busiest months. The Shira, Rongai or Mweka Routes will be less crowded than Marangu or Machame.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in September

Credit: Bookmundi Dry and relatively warm weather can be expected, making September ideal for climbing Kilimanjaro in climatic terms, though extreme cold and possibly high winds are normal in the alpine and arctic zones. September coincides with summer holidays in Europe and North America, so the mountain tends to be very busy. Avoid the Marangu or Machame Routes in preference for the quieter Shira, Rongai or Mweka Routes.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in September

climbing mount kilimanjaro credit bookmundi Credit: Bookmundi

Dry and relatively warm weather can be expected, making September ideal for climbing Kilimanjaro in climatic terms, though extreme cold and possibly high winds are normal in the alpine and arctic zones. September coincides with summer holidays in Europe and North America, so the mountain tends to be very busy. Avoid the Marangu or Machame Routes in preference for the quieter Shira, Rongai or Mweka Routes.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in October

Subzero nocturnal temperatures are normal throughout the year at higher altitudes, often exacerbated by wind. Nevertheless, October is a very good month to climb, with relatively dry and warm weather, and it is generally less busy than August or September. The short rains may start to kick in towards the end of the month, but after four months of dry weather, this shouldn’t be a major concern.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in October

kibo climbing mount kilimanjaro

Subzero nocturnal temperatures are normal throughout the year at higher altitudes, often exacerbated by wind. Nevertheless, October is a very good month to climb, with relatively dry and warm weather, and it is generally less busy than August or September. The short rains may start to kick in towards the end of the month, but after four months of dry weather, this shouldn’t be a major concern.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in November

November is a wet month, even by Kilimanjaro’s soggy standards, so it isn’t an optimum time for climbing. As is the case throughout the year, ground temperatures drop below freezing at night at higher altitudes, but November is colder and windier than average. Avoid if possible.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in November

mount kilimanjaro clouds

November is a wet month, even by Kilimanjaro’s soggy standards, so it isn’t an optimum time for climbing. As is the case throughout the year, ground temperatures drop below freezing at night at higher altitudes, but November is colder and windier than average. Avoid if possible.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in December

Credit: Nuvo Magazine December tends to be wet and very cold. Expect slippery trails at lower altitudes and, as you approach the summit, subzero temperatures and howling winds at night. Towards the end of the month, the mountain experiences a secondary high season associated with the Christmas and New Year holidays. Best avoided.

Climbing Kilimanjaro in December

mount kilimanjaro credit nuvo magazine Credit: Nuvo Magazine

December tends to be wet and very cold. Expect slippery trails at lower altitudes and, as you approach the summit, subzero temperatures and howling winds at night. Towards the end of the month, the mountain experiences a secondary high season associated with the Christmas and New Year holidays. Best avoided.

Our Recommended

Tours in Kilimanjaro

These recommended tours for Kilimanjaro can be tailor-made to match your budget.

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Alice Lombard

Alice is Discover Africa’s Sales & Product Manager, responsible for managing the Discover Africa Sales Consultants as well as all the products and itineraries that we promote.

About Alice

What does Alice love about African travel?

The people, the culture, the diverse scenery, the wildlife and of course the food & wine.

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Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), Botswana (Okavango Delta, Linyanti, Chobe), Namibia (Southern), Zanzibar, Kenya (Mombasa and Malindi), Mauritius and South Africa.

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Victoria Falls and Cape Town.

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Megan is an Africa Concierge Expert at Discover Africa, she is responsible for compiling travel programs for people in search of their dream safari in Africa.

About Megan

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There is always a new adventure around the next corner.

What African countries have you travelled to?

South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Tanzania.

What is Megan’s favourite place in Africa?

Namibia

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard Alice Lombard

Meet the Team

Alice Lombard

Alice is Discover Africa’s Sales & Product Manager, responsible for managing the Discover Africa Sales Consultants as well as all the products and itineraries that we promote.

About Alice

What does Alice love about African travel?

The people, the culture, the diverse scenery, the wildlife and of course the food & wine.

What African countries have you travelled to?

Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), Botswana (Okavango Delta, Linyanti, Chobe), Namibia (Southern), Zanzibar, Kenya (Mombasa and Malindi), Mauritius and South Africa.

What is Alice’s favourite place in Africa?

Victoria Falls and Cape Town.

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

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Matthys is Discover Africa’s Senior Travel Consultant, with over 13 years experience in the travel industry and a keen eye for photography.

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Diversity and abundance of landscapes, cultures, wildlife, beaches, food and everything you can think of.

What African countries have you travelled to?

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mauritius and Tanzania.

What is Matthys’s favourite place in Africa?

Cape Town

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Adelle Bell

Adelle is Discover Africa’s Senior Travel Consultant and has been in the travel industry for the past 10 years. She is a FIT specialist and has extensive experience in planning and executing dream itineraries in luxury travel.

About Adelle

What does Adelle love about African travel?

You have not lived if you have not experienced an African Safari - the early morning safari drives with the African sun rising in the distance, the smell of morning freshness, coffee in the Bush. You have got to experience a morning in Africa!

What African countries have you travelled to?

South Africa (Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands and Phinda Game Reserve), Botswana and Mozambique.

What is Adelle’s favourite place in Africa?

Kruger National Park

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Antoinette Van Heerden

Antionette is a Travel Consultant at Discover Africa, with 5 + years experience in the travel and tourism industry. She specializes in luxury safari packages.

About Antoinette

What does Antoinette love about African travel?

Adventure combined leisure travel makes for the best trip!

What African countries have you travelled to?

South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

What is Antoinette’s favourite place in Africa?

South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

Contact Discover Africa

Send us a message, to ask any questions, or request a tailor-made safari or experience.

Call Discover Africa on +27 (0)21 422 3498

Get in touch to find out more about the tours on offer or request a personalized no-obligations quote.

Amazingly diverse safaris in Botswana - first by boat then by jeep - doesn't get any better!

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20 Sep 2016

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27 May 2015

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14 Jan 2019

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11 Nov 2019

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02 Oct 2019

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19 Jun 2018

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16 Mar 2018

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