Kilimanjaro and Safari, Tanzania

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14655A, International


  • Trek to the highest point in Africa -- 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro
  • See the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa on a Tanzanian safari
  • Learn about Tanzania's local culture and sustainable lifestyle


  • Guides, cooks, porters, transportation, and all equipment for trek and safari
  • All meals, airport transfers, and hotel in Moshi
  • All gratuities, permits, and park fees


DatesJun 27–Jul 12, 2014
StaffDeirdre Butler

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Kilimanjaro holds many honors -- tallest volcano in the world, highest free-standing mountain, and highest point on the African continent at 19,340 feet. The best thing about it is that as a broad shield volcano, Kilimanjaro takes no technical skills to climb -- just excellent conditioning and a love of high places. Nowhere else on earth can you see as far as from the top of Kilimanjaro, and its famous snow cap is visible from over a hundred miles away. However, global warming is quickly shrinking Kilimanjaro's glaciers and experts believe the snows may be gone within 10 years. If it's been a dream of yours to climb this beautiful mountain, don't let this opportunity pass you by! While you hike with only a day pack, our staff of guides, cooks, and porters carries our gear, cooks our meals, and sets up and takes down our tents, leaving you free to contemplate and enjoy this magical place.

To insure the greatest success in summiting Kilimanjaro (locally referred to as just "Kili"), we will be trekking on the longest and most remote route, the Lemosho Route. Beginning at 6,500 feet, we will have six and a half days to gradually climb and acclimatize up to the top at Uhuru Peak. Our local guide has extensive training and experience in getting people acclimatized, and you will often hear shouts of 'pole, pole' or 'slowly, slowly' to keep you from ascending too quickly. You wouldn't want to hike too fast through all the vegetative zones on this scenic route. Starting in forest, where there may still be wild animals, we climb through lush jungle that displays flowers found only on Kilimanjaro. The giant heather moorland zone sports giant senecio trees, lobelia plants, and other odd species unique to this area. Climbing higher, we leave the vegetative zones and our privacy behind as we join with other routes and get closer to the glaciers streaming down the mountain. This should not be thought of as a wilderness experience since the higher camps will look more like small cities and the trail of headlamps snaking up the mountain in the wee hours of the morning on summit day will be unbroken. But it's all worth it to see the sun rise over Stella Point on the crater's rim and to know there's just a little more to go to reach the peak. A speed run down the last day and a half gets us back in time for a swim at our hotel before we prepare for the safari.

A quarter of Tanzania's land is set aside in national parks and preserves. Surrounding Kilimanjaro are a series of national parks that contain some of the densest concentrations of wild animals in Africa. It's here that one of the largest migrations in the world has been preserved -- it includes over a million wildebeests, hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles, and their accompanying predators. A safari to see all this wildlife is the perfect way to decompress from the hard climb up Kilimanjaro. Open-topped Land Cruisers make it easy to spot and photograph hundreds of species of birds at Lake Manyara; the wandering plains animals of the Serengeti; black rhino, prides of lion, leopard, cheetah, and various antelope in Ngorongoro Crater; and herds of wildebeest, zebra, and elephant along the permanent river through Tarangire National Park.

Swapping trekking for safari clothes, we can sit back and relax while driving through Tanzania's lush, subtropical plains. It will be difficult to know whether to photograph the baboon's playful antics, or watch through binoculars as lions devour a kill, or to list all the species we'll be seeing -- often at the same time! While spending each day at a different park, we will camp each night in tents where we can hear the sounds of the bush and be part of this wild world. During our travels, we will learn about the cultures of Tanzania's many ethnic groups and how they have historically co-existed with their environment. Tanzania's true treasure is the warmth and hospitality of its people. Indeed, this is the trip of a lifetime, but their joy and friendliness will beckon you to return again and again!


We will try to adhere to a daily itinerary. Please embrace any changes that may have to be made due to weather, trail conditions, ability of the group, or the serendipity of the unexpected. This is what makes adventure travel fun and enhances your experience.

Day 1: (Arrive Kilimanjaro International Airport) We will meet you at the airport and transfer to our hotel in Moshi. We'll have an orientation about the trip over a late snack.

Day 2: (Moshi) After breakfast, we'll take a guided jungle walk, first through rice fields, showing everyday farm life of the local Tanzanian people, and then in the adjacent jungle where, if lucky, we may see colobus monkeys. In the afternoon, take a swim, relax, and prepare for the trek tomorrow. All meals today are at our hotel.

Day 3: (Moshi-Lemosho Glades-Mkubwa Camp) We will board Land Cruisers for the drive to Londorossi Gate to check-in and meet our trekking staff and collect our gear. We'll join them in their truck for an exhilarating ride on a primitive road to Lemosho Glades at 6,500 feet, where we begin our trek. We will hike at a slow, steady pace up 2,500 feet in three hours through montane forest to our first camp at Mti Mkubwa (big tree) at 9,000 feet.

Day 4: (Mkubwa Camp-Shira Camp 1) In the morning, we will climb up out of the forest nearly 2,500 feet in five hours into the giant heather moorland at 11,500 feet to Shira Camp 1. This area is constantly in cloud and is therefore characterized by cool dampness. After a couple hours of rest in camp, we will take a short hike up a nearby ridge to aid in our acclimatization.

Day 5: (Shira Camp 1-Shira Camp 2) After breakfast, we will gradually climb 1,100 feet up the Shira Plateau along a moorland meadow to Shira Camp 2 at 12,600 feet. This will take about three hours. The giant senecio trees come into view today. We take another acclimatization hike before dinner -- when the clouds clear, Kili is in plain view and exhibits some fine evening alpenglow.

Day 6: (Shira Camp 2-Barranco Camp) Today is a long but extremely scenic hike up 2,600 feet to the base of the Western Breach and foot of the Lava Tower at 15,200 feet, a remnant of Kili's volcanic past. We will then descend 2,200 feet down the Barranco Valley through groves of Senecio trees and lobelias to Barranco Camp at 12,960 feet in about seven hours. This scenic camp is situated below the Western Breach and Great Barranco Wall, which we climb up tomorrow. Great views of glacier-draped Kili, Mt. Meru, and the possibility of a memorable sunset on the Breach and Barranco Wall await us today.

Day 7: (Barranco Camp-Karanga Camp) The excitement today begins with the two-hour hand-over-foot climb up the Barranco Wall with amazing views the whole way. We will top out just below the beautiful Heim Glacier before descending into a steep canyon. We then begin climbing up to Karanga Camp at 13,780 feet, a climb of about a thousand feet. This will take about four hours. Remnant jagged peaks of Mawenzi, an older, eroded volcano, jut into the African sky. After a couple hours of rest, another acclimatization hike up a nearby ridge gives us a view of our next camp.

Day 8: (Karanga Camp-Barafu Camp) We hike to our high camp in alpine desert terrain above tree line. Climbing over a couple of ridges, we join the exit trail going up 1,200 feet in three hours to Barafu at 14,930 feet. This camp consists of stony, narrow ledges where our tents will be strategically placed. Most of the mountain's trails converge at this large camp. The afternoon is spent preparing for our summit climb and getting some much needed sleep. It's off to bed after an early dinner.

Day 9: (Barafu Camp-Uhuru Peak-Millenium Camp) Summit Day! We get up around 11:30 p.m., bundle up in warm clothes, down some hot tea and cookies, then begin the climb to the top. Take it slowly and you'll make sunrise at Stella Point, the end of the steep climb on the crater's edge at 18,650 feet. After a short break and photo-taking, continue more gradually to the highest point at Uhuru Peak, 19,340 feet. After the obligatory summit photos, we head back down to Barafu Camp. Although the ascent may take 6-7 hours, you'll be able to glissade down fine scree in about three hours. After lunch and a short nap, continue down another 2,500 feet to Millenium Camp at 12,500 feet in three hours. Everybody descends the same route, but few stay at this camp, which is beautifully situated in the cloud forest.

Day 10: (Millenium Camp-Mweka Gate-Moshi) We descend 7,000 feet to Mweka Gate in five hours through cloud forest on sometimes slippery trail. From there, it's a short drive back to Moshi, where lunch and hot showers are waiting for us. The afternoon is free for swimming and preparing for the safari. Dinner will be served at the hotel.

Day 11: (Moshi-Lake Manyara National Park) We drive about four hours to Lake Manyara National Park in time for a picnic lunch. The large lake and wetlands backed by the forested escarpment of the Great Rift Valley are home to nearly 400 species of birds, including flamingo, stork, pelican, and many more. Elephant, zebra, blue and vervet monkeys, giraffe, impala, buffalo, and the famous tree-climbing lions are seen here, but the baboons steal the show with their child-like antics. Our camp is at a scenic spot just outside the park.

Day 12: (Lake Manyara National Park-Olduvai Gorge-Serengeti National Park) We visit the archaeologically important site of Olduvai Gorge, where some of the earliest human fossils have been found. Olduvai Gorge has an amazing landscape formed from the same tectonic forces that created the Great Rift Valley. We continue on to camp in Serengeti National Park.

Day 13: (Serengeti National Park) We'll spend the whole day exploring the park from our open-topped Land Cruisers. In the Serengeti, which means "endless plain" in the Maasai language, the earth's largest concentration of plains wildlife still roams free. We expect to see lion, cheetah, elephant, hippo, warthog, cape buffalo, and perhaps the elusive dik dik, one of the smallest antelope at 14 inches high. We return to the same camp in the evening.

Day 14: (Serengeti National Park-Ngorongoro Crater) Today we drive to Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is 2,000 feet deep and has the largest intact crater in the world, covering 100 square miles. On our game drive here, we are likely to see leopard, cheetah, hyena, jackal, black rhino, and prides of lion, featuring the magnificent black-maned males. Birds are also prolific, including pink flamingo, ostrich, Kori bustard, hornbill, and the beautiful grey-crowned crane with its unique headdress. You'll be surprised how close we can get to zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, and buffalo in our vehicles. We'll enjoy a spectacular sunset and sunrise from our camp on the crater's rim.

Day 15: (Ngorongoro Crater-Tarangire National Park-Moshi) We drive to Tarangire National Park, where migratory animals congregate at the permanent waters of the Tarangire River in the shade of baobab trees. Herds of gazelle, hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra, elephant, eland, and oryx crowd the lagoons. After our day here, we return to Moshi in the late-afternoon and enjoy our farewell dinner at the hotel.

Day 16: (Depart Kilimanjaro International Airport) We can relax, swim, and pack before transferring to the airport for our flights home with great memories of Kilimanjaro and incredible wildlife to cherish for the rest of our lives.



Getting There

The trip begins with pick-up at Kilimanjaro International Airport, located between Arusha and Moshi. The most convenient flight is on KLM from Amsterdam, but other connections may be made to Nairobi with a short flight from there to Kilimanjaro. The leader will provide guidance for travel plans once you are approved for the trip.

Accommodations and Food

While in Moshi, double-occupancy hotel rooms are included with the trip. Our hotel features rooms with private baths and hot showers. Its location just outside of Moshi and its lovely gardens make it a quiet, relaxing place to stay. Buffet-style meals are included while staying at the hotel.

On our trek, we will share large, two-person tents offering plenty of room for you and your duffel. Porters will carry the tents and they will be set up and taken down for us at each camp. Hot water is provided each morning for washing, and a toilet tent with a porta-potty will be set up at each camp for privacy. On our safari we will be staying in large, two-person tents. Western toilets and hot showers will be available at our campsites.

All trekking and safari meals will be prepared by a cooking staff. Meals will feature breakfasts of millet porridge, eggs, toast, and pancakes; lunches include sandwiches, soup, salad, and fruit; and dinners start off with a light soup, followed by rice or pasta, meat and vegetable stews, and dessert. Vegetarians are easy to accommodate but please let the leader know about any other food restrictions as far in advance as possible. The cooking staff is well trained in preparing meals according to western standards of hygiene. Hot drinks and boiled water will be available at all meals, and water purification will be provided for treating your drinking water.

Trip Difficulty

This trek is considered strenuous because of the large amount of elevation gained in just a few days. Although some of the hiking days are short, daily elevation gains and losses could be as much as 3,500 feet with as much as 7,000 feet of descent on the last two days. The highest altitude is 19,340 feet at the top of Kilimanjaro and the highest camp is 15,000 feet. Several camps will be above 10,000 feet. You should be in excellent physical condition to do this trek with recent hiking experience above 10,000 feet. Recommendations for an adequate conditioning routine will be provided in a future bulletin to approved trip members.

After the big rains in April-May the weather gets drier and somewhat colder through June-July. Rainfall in these months averages 1–1.5 inches. However, mountains create their own weather, and rain or snow can happen unexpectedly anytime. Daytime temperatures of 50-75 degrees can be expected, depending on elevation, and nighttime temperatures may go down to the teens at our high camp. Ultraviolet rays from the sun are especially strong above 10,000 feet, so long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and high-value SPF sunscreen and lip balm are essential.

Although porters will carry most of your gear, you will need to carry what you need for the day in a day pack weighing up to 15 pounds. You are encouraged to hike at your own pace, stopping when you wish for photography or other interests. You should be comfortable hiking 3-4 hours in the morning and 2-3 hours in the afternoon. Because of the rough nature and steepness of the trails, hiking poles are strongly recommended. Our local guide has been taking climbers up Kilimanjaro for ten years and has summitted more than 250 times.

As important as your physical conditioning is your mental preparation. The more you familiarize yourself with Tanzania before the trip, the more you will be able to absorb and enjoy once you get there. The books in the reference section would be a good starting point. Also, flexibility, patience, and a spirit of adventure are necessary. You should be comfortable traveling in close proximity with a group of people and be able to adapt easily to changing conditions. This trip will be especially enjoyable for those with an open mind to embrace new cultures and experiences.

Equipment and Clothing

A detailed equipment list will be sent to approved trip participants. Your personal gear should be packed in a soft duffel bag -- no external-frame packs. Duffel weight can be as high as 30 pounds. What you carry in your day pack is not counted in your duffel weight. Tents and other trekking equipment and food is carried separately and not counted in your allotment. For the safari, you will want good binoculars; for both the trek and safari you will want a camera, and extra batteries and memory cards for the wildlife and incredible scenery.

You must have a passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of entry into Tanzania. A Tanzania visa is also required, and details on how you apply for that will be provided once you are approved for the trip.



The following books should give you a feel for what the trip will be like. Your local library is also a good resource.

  • Stedman, Henry, Kilimanjaro, the Trekking Guide to Africa's Highest Mountain, 2nd edition, Trailblazer Publications.
  • Ridgeway, Rick, The Shadow of Kilimanjaro, On Foot Across East Africa, Henry Holt Publishers.
  • Salkeld, Audrey and David Breashears, Kilimanjaro: Mountain at the Crossroads, National Geographic Society.
  • Withers, Martin B., and David Hosking, Wildlife of East Africa, Princeton University Press.


Maps of our trekking area will be distributed in Tanzania.


Photos that the leader took on her 2012 Kilimanjaro and Safari trip may be found here:


The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, and encourages grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad. This trip will touch on several important conservation and sustainability issues.

As a free-standing mountain and highest point in Africa, Kilimanjaro is particularly affected by global warming. Water from the rains wrung from the clouds irrigate the volcanically rich soil lower down the mountain and in the surrounding area. Changing weather patterns and melting glaciers will have serious consequences on the viability and productivity of the land most people depend on for sustainability. We will discuss the pros and cons of trekking on the mountain and the impact tourism has on its resources.

Twenty-five percent of Tanzania's land (over 95,000 square miles) has been set aside for wildlife parks, reserves, and game areas. This is probably more than any other country on earth. However, Tanzania's economic resources for rangers, roads, research, and administration of these lands is meager, and illegal poaching and hunting still take their toll on wildlife. The integrity of national parks and wildlife reserves is also being threatened as the need for land and food increases.

There are many projects going on in Tanzania today to help solve these problems. Ngorongoro Crater is part of the extensive Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a pioneering effort in multi-purpose land, allowing for the protection of animals and the continuation of tribal lifestyles at the same time. Also, there are several animal research projects in the field, including the world's longest-running research project, the Serengeti Lion Project, which began in the 1960s.

One of our conservation objectives will be to try to understand the challenges that Tanzania faces in continuing to support such a large national park system. Tourist dollars are a major source of revenue, so by coming to see these magnificent animals and their habitats we are helping to ensure their future. That said, we will become aware of both the positive and negative consequences of tourism in a country like Tanzania.



Deirdre Butler, a Brit by birth, lives in Colorado where she enjoys leading backpack trips for Sierra Club. She has traveled extensively throughout Asia and the Far East and has led trips in Nepal, England, Tanzania, and Greece. Deirdre is keen to share with you the thrill of summiting “Kili” and excitement of seeing an abundance of wildlife in their natural environment. Her passion for the outdoors and wildlife are enthusiastically shared with all around her. At home, Deirdre barters her labor for fresh organic veggies on a local CSA farm, enjoys her menagerie of chickens, cats and a very tolerant dog and makes soaps and lotions. Deirdre is a certified Wilderness First Responder and looks forward to helping you manifest your dream of a lifetime.

Assistant Leader:

Melinda Goodwater has led over 60 trips for Sierra Club Outings over the last 18 years from Alaska, the Sierra and Rockies, to the desert Southwest. She has also led treks in Nepal with her Nepalese husband since 1992. Melinda enjoys learning about and experiencing new cultures and comparing their similarities and differences. She has successfully summitted Kilimanjaro and is eager to share the thrill with others. Along with years of experience leading trips in remote and high-altitude situations, Melinda is also a Wilderness First Responder with 80 hours of first aid training. She welcomes you to join her on this grand adventure.

Associate Leader:

Lesley Kao

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