Trek to top of Africa’s highest peak with the summiting experts, followed by a classic Tanzanian safari
Our trek to the “roof of Africa” combines smart scheduling with spectacular beauty, following a famous but rarely used variation route that offers maximum acclimatization time. MTS was the first U.S. company to lead commercial treks up Kilimanjaro nearly 40 years ago. Our highly experienced guides and well-paced itinerary have given us the highest summiting success rate in the business—nearly 98%!
Beginning in the rainforest at 6,400 feet, we’ll climb through magnificent alpine scenery, gazing at the mountain’s southern glaciers from the hauntingly beautiful Great Barranco Valley, made famous by the IMAX film Kilimanjaro (but not featured on any other operator’s itinerary). We’ll get an extra day to acclimatize and spend a night in the inner crater, giving us a chance to explore Kili's glaciers. Then it’s on to the summit at 19,340 feet—every adventurer’s dream come true. And since no trip to Africa is complete without seeing its celebrated wildlife, we include a classic safari to Eden-like Ngorongoro Crater and the legendary plains of Serengeti National Park. We'll also meet the fascinating Maasai, pastoralists who have lived in harmony with nature for centuries.
9 days strenuous hiking at high elevation (maximum 19,340'); game viewing by 4-wheel-drive vehicle
- Climb Kilimanjaro with the summiting experts—we have a 98% summiting rate, the highest on the mountain
- Take our exclusive trek along the little-used Great Barranco Valley/Western Breach, the most scenic route on the mountain, made famous by the IMAX film Kilimanjaro
- Get an extra full day to acclimatize at the mountain’s highest-elevation camp at Arrow Glacier
- After the climb, celebrate your efforts with a classic luxury camping safari in the iconic Ngorongoro Crater and the legendary Serengeti plains
- Visit an authentic Maasai boma (homestead), and experience their traditional way of life
Duration: 15 days Start Location: Arusha, Tanzania End Location: Arusha, TanzaniaDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport – Arusha National Park
Your trip leader (or a Mountain Travel Sobek representative) will meet you outside the customs and immigration area at the airport. Transfer 1½ hours to Arusha National Park, and then another 30 minutes through the park to our deluxe camp situated at the base of Mount Meru, a 14,900-foot volcano. Along the way we’ll spotlight for nocturnal wildlife. The camp is at an elevation of about 6,000 feet, which aids in acclimatization for the Kilimanjaro climb and is a major advantage over staying at an Arusha hotel. Hot showers, cold drinks, and a buffet dinner await us!
Day 2 : Mount Meru
Today we’ll have a chance to recuperate from the long flight, check our equipment, and have a thorough trip briefing on what to expect on the climb. There will also be time to hike along the forested slopes of Mount Meru, which has a history similar to that of Mount St. Helens in Washington, in that half the mountain was blown away by a violent volcanic explosion. Meru’s eruption occurred some 250,000 years ago, though, and great forests of African cedar and podocarpus have since grown up to cover its crater and slopes. On our hike, we have the chance to see colobus monkeys, bushbuck and duiker, buffalo, giraffe, and perhaps elephant or even the elusive leopard. The forest bird life is excellent and includes touracos, hornbills, and parrots. Weather permitting, we can enjoy the sunset from a small hill beside camp and watch the alpenglow descend on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.
Day 3 : Begin trek on Kilimanjaro
In the morning, we'll drive 2½ hours to the starting point of the Machame Route, four miles past the village of Machame on the southeast side of Kilimanjaro (the trailhead varies from season to season with weather conditions). We begin hiking at about 6,400 feet and follow a winding trail up through montane cloud forest and into stands of giant heather, to camp near the Machame Hut at 10,000'. The forest can be wet at any time of the year, so we can expect a real tropical experience as we climb over roots and through giant fern forests with tangled vines and creepers. We'll stop for a buffet lunch en route to our first camp. (6-7 hours hiking, 8 miles)
Day 4 : Shira Camp
Today we climb up to our destination above the Shira Plateau at 12,650'. A steep trail leads out of the giant heather and onto a ridge that commands wide vistas of both the Shira Plateau and the plains to the west. From our camp we are treated to our first breathtaking views of the Western Breach of Kibo. (5 hours hiking, 3 miles)
Day 5 : Barranco Camp
Trekking east toward the Kibo Massif, we follow a ridge and climb toward the large rock outcrop of Lava Tower (15,100') before veering off and down toward camp. Our destination is the base of the Great Barranco, a steep canyon emerging from Kilimanjaro’s Great Breach Wall, which is filled with hundreds of outlandish giant senecio and lobelia plants. The afro-alpine scenery here is fantastic and the views of the Breach Wall and Kili’s southern glaciers are better than from any other point on the mountain. (The Barranco Valley and its stunning views were a main focus of the Kilimanjaro IMAX© film.) Our camp is at 13,000'. (6 hours hiking, 6 miles)
Day 6 : Arrow Glacier Camp
Today we leave the normal Machame Route and begin the climb toward the Western Breach ascent route. Rather than traversing farther around the southern slopes of the mountain we ascend up and slightly westward, climbing easy terrain through scree and rocky ridges. The ascent is about 2,300 feet and gives us stunning views of the Western Breach wall and the Breach Icicle. As we near Arrow Glacier and our campsite, the views open toward the west and the entire Shira Plateau lies below us. Camp is near the glacier at about 15,300'. (6 hours hiking, 3 miles)
Day 7 : Arrow Glacier Camp
Today will be spent mostly resting and rebuilding our strength for the rest of the climb, but there will also be an acclimatization hike along a portion of the next day's ascent route. This will not only get us to a higher elevation for better acclimatization but also give us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the beginning of the longest and most arduous hiking day of the entire climb.
Day 8 : Crater Camp
All the preparation, acclimatization, and hiking we’ve done to prepare for the Kilimanjaro climb will be put to the test today as we ascend the Great Western Breach, an imposing, steep wall of rock leading to the edge of Kibo’s crater. Shortly after reaching the top of the breach wall, we'll arrive at our camp within the crater at an altitude of 18,300'. The high altitude of Crater Camp makes it a physically demanding experience, but the reward is a radical scene of towering glaciers rising from the harsh rock landscape. (6-8 hours hiking, 2½ miles)
Day 9 : Summit day!
Rise with the sun for our 1,000-foot summit bid (we should be at the summit by 9:00 a.m.). The rewards of seeing the summit crater glaciers and surreal views of the African plains nearly three miles below you are well worth the effort. After a short stop for summit photos and mutual congratulations, we descend on the Mweka Route past Barafu, a direct descent of the mountain. After lunch and a short rest at Barafu, we continue to our camp at Mweka (10,200') where a delicious dinner of fresh vegetables, bread, fish or chicken, and dessert await us. (8+ hours hiking; 8 miles)
Day 10 : End trek – “Climb Only” participants depart
We hike 5½ miles back through the rainforest to the Mweka Gate and transfer to the Moivaro Lodge for a celebratory dinner and overnight. For participants doing the “climb only” option, dayrooms will be available for use until the early evening transfer to the airport for departure on homeward-bound flight, arriving home the following day.*
Day 11 : Ngorongoro Crater Highlands
Morning drive into the highlands above Ngorongoro Crater (approximately 4 hours) where we'll make a steep but relatively easy ascent of about an hour through montane forest for fantastic views of the surrounding Crater Highlands. Here we'll also meet the fascinating Maasai, pastoralists who have lived in harmony with the northern Tanzanian ecosystem for centuries. Maasai men tend herds of cattle and goats that graze and drink from the area’s year-round springs, while the women bear responsibility for the manyatta (village), building their round homes made of cut branches, ash, and cow dung, as well as the cattle corral that is central to the manyatta. A large number of the Maasai have managed to keep their traditions intact despite the onslaught of modern African culture: polygamy is practiced (a man will average three to four wives), and there are intricate rituals and rites of passage, including circumcision for both males and females.
We’ll be welcomed into their boma (homestead), and greeted with traditional welcome dances, noted for athletic leaps and earth-shaking stomping. We’ll also have the opportunity to ask extensive questions about this traditional culture. Our hosts will also have the chance to ask questions about our own culture as we visit their homes. Continue to our private camp in the crater highlands for overnight.
Day 12 : Ngorongoro Crater
After an early breakfast, we board our Land Cruisers for the descent into Ngorongoro Crater—truly one of the great natural wonders of the world—for a fabulous day of wildlife observation on the Eden-like crater floor. A spectacular setting for wildlife is presented within its 102-square-mile crater framed by steep green walls. It is almost entirely open country, so wildlife is in full visibility, a wonderful opportunity for photography and meaningful observations.
If you had only one day in your life to see African wildlife, Ngorongoro Crater would be “the place.” Envision a pride of lions, bellies flat to the ground, closing in on a group of unsuspecting zebra, or a black rhino gazing across the grassy plains, casually unaware that his species teeters on the brink of extinction. Herds of zebra, white-bearded wildebeest, and gazelle mingle and circulate together, while buffalo graze the long grass areas. Bull elephants feed in green marshes and there are plenty of hyenas and huge prides of lions (we may be fortunate to witness predation in action). Our guides use their bush skills to locate wildlife, both large and small. You may be watching an elephant browsing in the acacia forest, but look closer and you can see a jackal mother teaching her pups how to catch grass mice, while behind you a martial eagle swoops to carry off a helpless young gazelle fawn. And if that isn’t enough, we can enjoy clusters of flamingos gathered around the caldera’s soda lakes, raptors such as the auger buzzard, bateleur, or long-crested eagle perched for the hunt, or the colorful mosaic of brilliant birds, including the jacana, little bee-eater, Hildebrandt’s starling, and the red bishop. We’ll have six hours of wildlife viewing in the crater.
Opportunities for a sunset ridge hike and participation in an Ol Pul (meat feast) festival with our new Maasai friends are highlights of this visit. You certainly won’t find any tourist trinkets for sale here! Return to our private camp for dinner and overnight.
NOTE—Up until now, we have always spent a full day in the Crater, but new park regulations now limit game drives to a maximum of six hours.
Day 13 : Oldupai Gorge – Serengeti
We descend from the Crater Highlands into the Serengeti Plains. En route we pass through Oldupai Gorge, where Louis and Mary Leakey made some of the most important discoveries in the search for early man. (The government has decreed that the official name is now Oldupai.) We’ll visit the simple Oldupai Museum, which documents the Rift Valley’s paleoanthropological history.
We continue northwards into Serengeti’s kopje country. Outcroppings of the earth’s original crust (2.7–4 billion years old), kopjes are rounded piles of boulders formed into their distinctive shape by eons of wind. They occur as archipelagos, artistic islands of stone punctuating the Serengeti’s sea of grass, and each has a very different character. Also common here is the beautiful chestnut-colored topi antelope, with delicate reedbuck often encountered in the vegetation that surrounds the rock outcrops. Lions greatly favor kopjes as daytime resting places as well. Arrive at camp in time for lunch and an afternoon game drive.
Day 14 : In the Serengeti
Our camps in the Serengeti will be situated in areas where there are good concentrations of animals; exact locations will depend on the time of year and on local weather conditions.
Generally, from December to May the great herds of the Serengeti migration (mostly wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle) are on the grassy plains of the southern Serengeti. More than a million prehistoric-looking wildebeest inhabit the plains—the largest herd of mammals on earth—and during this period, hundreds of thousands of young calves are born. (The wildebeest has adapted to the immediate threat of predation—labor can be retracted when there is a threat!) The co-mingling of wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelles, and zebra makes perfect ecological sense and acts as a huge organic lawnmower. The wildebeest munch the taller, tougher grasses, followed by the zebra that eat the shorter, more tender grasses. Bringing up the rear are the gazelles, who nibble on the new sprouts that spring up after the heavy fertilization of the migrating predecessors. We’ll probably spend some time around Lake Ndutu or Naabi Hill, which are at the center of migration during this period. From here we explore the vast treeless Serengeti Plain and the woodlands that encircle Lake Ndutu. We may see stupendous numbers of wild animals as the big herds wander back and forth over the plain. Lion, cheetah, hyena, and jackal are all very abundant here.
Depending on local game viewing conditions, we may move our explorations to Seronera, where the woodlands of the northern Serengeti meet the edge of the treeless plain, and Mbuze Mawe, great cheetah country among the acacia shrublands. The savanna woodlands of the Serengeti are a mosaic of habitats: small grassy plains mix with tree savannas and areas of dense bush. The variety of vegetation makes for a much greater diversity of animals: buffalo, giraffe, dik-dik, reedbuck, impala, waterbuck, baboons, and vervet monkeys are all common resident species, as are lion, cheetah, leopard, and hyena. The birdlife is also extremely varied and prolific, ranging from colorful weaverbirds to imposing Martial eagles. Several permanent rivers drain the woodlands of the north, and these are the habitat of hippos and crocodiles.
In the Seronera area itself are the beautiful Maasai kopjes and the Seronera River—one of the finest areas in Africa for encounters with the elusive leopard. Seronera always has resident game, including several resident prides of lion, and may well be thronged with zebra herds. Just to the north is the game-rich area around the Retima Hippo Pool. During these days we’ll search for small animals: aardwolf, African wildcat, bat-eared fox, dik-dik, rockclimbing klipspringer antelope, porcupine, and more.
Day 15 : Arusha – Depart
Return drive* to Arusha (5 hours) and transfer to the Moivaro Lodge, where we have dayrooms and dinner before evening departure on homeward-bound flights.You should schedule your departure flight out of Arusha no earlier than 8:00 p.m.
NOTE—Passengers transferring to Nairobi will need an extra night at the Moivaro Lodgel, and transfer to Nairobi the following day. We are happy to make these arrangements for you—please call for details.
DATES: Best time to go: January - March, June - December Departures: Dec 21, 2014 - Jan 4, 2015 Jan 17 - 31, 2015 Feb 14 - 28, 2015 Mar 14 - 28, 2015 Jun 20, 2015 - Jul 4, 2015 Jul 12 - 26, 2015 Aug 22, 2015 - Sep 5, 2015 Sep 19, 2015 - Oct 3, 2015 Dec 25, 2015 - Jan 8, 2016
You will find a charming atmosphere together with every comfort: an ideal spot to enjoy the impressive flora and fauna of East Africa. Moivaro Lodge is situated right in the heart of beautiful, natural scenery and yet is only 7 km from the town of Arusha.
At Moivaro Lodge the staff will ensure that you are looked after in a unique, friendly and peaceful environment, helping you to prepare for your safaris and cosseting you on your return in the evening. Relax and enjoy the beautiful vista of Mount Meru from the comfortable veranda, or perhaps to laze at the pool nestling in the midst of tropical trees and coffee plants.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way. Some of our top Kilimanjaro guides include:
Elias Msemo is a keen outdoorsman who fell in love with the natural beauty of Tanzania at an early age. In addition to being an accomplished climber, he is also a graduate of wildlife studies at the College of African Wildlife Management in Tanzania. Upon his graduation, he decided to pursue a career as a mountain guide and has now led countless climbs up Kilimanjaro. Elias currently resides in Arusha with his family and is very much looking forward to hosting you in Tanzania.
Samia was born and raised on the south west slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. He now lives in Arusha with his wife and three children. Samia is extensively trained in mountaineering with over 15 years of experience, summiting Mt Kilimanjaro over 200 times via all routes. In 1999, he won the first prize in the Mt Kilimanjaro race- 18 hours running from the trail head at Lemosho at 7,500ft to the summit at 19,340ft and down to the Mweka gate at 5,600ft . Samia has taken various Wilderness First Responder courses and two NOLS-sponsored (National Outdoor Leadership School) Advanced Mountaineering courses conducted on Mount Kenya, which included instruction in rock climbing, ice climbing, advanced navigation skills, and crisis management. Since 2000, he has been participating in a program teaching first aid skills to Tanzania National Parks Rangers and other companies’ guides.