Kilimanjaro National park
Kilimanjaro is a volcanic massif which last showed signs of major activity in the Pleistocene. It is not only the highest mountain in Africa, rising 4,877 m above the surrounding plains to 5,895 m, but also one of the largest volcanoes in the world, covering an area of some 388,500 ha.
Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is located in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, is an enticing destination. While for most people the name conjures images of a vast mountain encased by clouds, there’s far more to this area than just the summit. This may be Africa’s highest peak, but what can be found along the way will certainly interest those who want to explore this amazing location. The rainforest areas found in the lower regions are home to monkeys and leopards, among other exotic creatures. The moorland zone is covered in massive heather and giant lobelias, and once you reach above 4,000m, you’ll be met with a bizarre alpine desert.
The national park and forest reserve occupy the whole of Mount Kilimanjaro and its surrounding montane forests. They lie in the north of Tanzania, between Moshi and the Kenyan border. The national park comprises the whole of the mountain above the tree line, and six forest corridors which stretch down through the montane forest belt. The area is of 75,353 ha, surrounded by a forest reserve of 92,906 ha
There are three main volcanic peaks of varying ages lying on an east-south-east axis, and a number of smaller parasitic cones.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is a critical water catchment for both Tanzania and Kenya. High rainfall and extensive forests give Mt. Kilimanjaro its high catchment value. About 96% of the water flowing from Mt. Kilimanjaro originates from the forest belt.
The forest belt is the most important habitat of Mt. Kilimanjaro in terms of ecosystem and species diversity. On the southern slopes, nearly 740 plant species have been recorded in the forest alone, accounting for about 50 per cent of all recorded plant species in the vegetation zones of the southern slopes. In total there may be over 900 species in the forest belt and 2,500 species for the whole mountain.
The diversity of the flora in the Forest Reserve is greatest at 1900 m on the southern slope, where one can find nearly 300 species, whereas the highest diversity of vascular plants on the southern slopes of the mountain occurs at 1,300 m, with about 750 species
The Chagga people inhabit the lower southern slopes of Kilimanjaro. The Chagga cultivate banana gardens in the former forest zone with coffee as a cash crop. They often cultivate two kinds of land. High up on the mountain slope is the kihamba land, where they build homes, plant bananas and coffee, and keep cattle. On the lower slopes, immediately above the savanna-covered plain, there are fields where annual crops, including maize, beans and millet, are grown, and cattle pastured.
The park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.