The word Kilimanjaro is derived from the words “Kilima” and the word “Njaro”. Kilima is a Swahili word meaning “Little Mountain” (which is ironic as it is not little at all). There are different theories regarding the origin of the word Njaro. Some say it is a Swahili word meaning ‘shinning’ and some say it is a Chagga (native tribe in the Kilimanjaro region) word meaning ‘caravan’.
Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo 5,895 m; Mawenzi 5,149 m; and Shira 3,962 m (13,000 ft). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim.
Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo, its highest peak, is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption has been dated to between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago.
But there is so much more to Kilimanjaro than her summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Arctic.
Even before you cross the national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated footslopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with otherworldly giant lobelias.
Above 4,000m, a surreal alpine desert supports little life other than a few hardy mosses and lichen. Then, finally, the last vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and snow – and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent.