Kilimanjaro National Park

Kilimanjaro National Park comprises the area (756 sq. kms) above the 2,700m contour.  It includes the moorland and highland zones, Shira Plateau, Kibo and Mawenzi peaks.  In addition, the Park has six corridors or rights of way through the Kilimanjaro Forest Reserve.  The Forest Reserve, which is also a Game Reserve, was established in 1921; the Park was established in 1973 and officially opened in 1977.

The Park exists to preserve Mt. Kilimanjaro’s outstanding scenic and geological features and its flora and fauna for the use and enjoyment of all people, present and future.  This is also the aim of the Forest and Game Reserve below the Park itself, and these different agencies cooperative in the conservation of all the mountain’s resources.

Kilimanjaro Mountain

Kilimanjaro stands 330 kms south of the equator, on the northern boundary of Tanzania. Its location on an open plain close to the Indian Ocean, and its great size and height strongly influence the climate and thus its vegetation, animal life and the climbing conditions. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the African continental. It is composed of three extinct volcanoes: Kibo 5,895m (19,340 ft), Mawenzi 5,149m (16,896 ft.); and Shira 3,962m (13,000 ft.). It is also one of the world’s highest free standing mountains, its bulk looming 4,800m above an undulating plain that averages around 1,000m above sea level. Its long axis lies in a north-west to south-west line for 60 kms and at its widest part Kilimanjaro is 40 kms across.

How it came to be named Kilimanjaro

There is no consensus about how the mountain got its current name ‘Kilimanjaro’ although it probably evolved during the explorations of the last century.  The Wachagga people, traditional agriculturalists of the area, claim they had no name for the mountain itself, just the two peaks which they call Kipoo and Kimawenzi.

Most speculations assume the name comes from two root words kilima and njaro.  Kilima comes from the Kiswahili word for mountain, mlima.  The addition of ki is puzzling because in Kiswahili this is a diminutive and so kilima means small hill.  It has been suggested that the use of the diminutive is a gesture of affection towards the huge mountain.

The njaro part of the name is much more confusing.  It could come from a Kichagga word for caravan; referring to the possibility that caravan used the mountain as a landmark.  There is speculation that a word used on the coast, njaro, was the name of a demon that caused cold.  Presumably traders or porters used the name when they travelled inland or heard tales a high cold mountain.

Another possibility is that the travellers asked the Maasai living on the plains what they called the mountain and the Maasai may have answered that it was the source of water, using the word ngare which was corrupted to njare or njaro.