Mt. Kilimanjaro

Destination Introduction

Hikers climbing Kilimanjaro
Hikers journey towards Kilimanjaro’s
summit

At 5895m, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest point in Africa and the tallest free standing mountain in the world. It lies on the Tanzania - Kenya border but the most accessible routes all start in Tanzania. The mountain can only be ascended on foot and with a qualified guide. There are many international organisations who can arrange the climb for you including guides, porters and suppliers. There are many routes you can take up Kilimanjaro all with their own unique qualities. The Machame route is a great route to start with as it boasts a wide range of stunning scenic spots. The climb takes six days (4.5 up, 1.5 down) and is by no means easy! You need to be fit and prepared but remember you are not guaranteed to reach the top – there is no preparation you can do against altitude sickness. If you do make it to the top the view is well worth it!

Photographic Subjects

Kilimanjaro’s Plants
Kilimanjaro’s Plant life makes unique
subject matter

On a six day climb up Kilimanjaro you will never be short of subject matter. As you climb, you go through five distinct climate zones each presenting their own unique photographic opportunities. First you go through the gloomy, muddy and wet Rainforest Zone with it huge trees, creepers and the occasional monkey. You then go into the Heath Zone where you find shrub like trees covered in air plants and thousands of different flowers. The Moorland Zone has forests of giant prehistoric-looking lobelia, unique to Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. You will never have seen anything like these forests which make you feel like you are on the set of a science fiction film! In the Alpine Desert Zone the temperature begins to drop and there is little rainfall, there are only a few hardy shrubs here but the views of Kilimanjaro’s summit are stunning. The peaks of Mwenzi and Mt. Meru in the distance are also visible. The final zone is the Artic Zone around Kili’s crater, the glaciers are beautiful but they are melting at such a rate that they will be gone within 15 years. On the way up you will also find that other hikers and porters make good subjects. Humans often help add a sense of scale to the landscape and the porters are incredible as they skip up cliff-faces with 25kg bags on their heads! Don’t forget to get a photo of yourself by the 5895m Summit Sign!

Photography Tips

Kilimanjaro Glacier
View from the crater towards Mwenzi

As the atmosphere thins, the sunlight becomes incredibly harsh. This means that you must have a filter on your lens to prevent your photos from appearing washed out; a UV or Sky Light filter is perfect. You might also consider a polarizing filter which can help darken the sky and improve contrast. Climbing Kili is not easy, so you won’t want to be carrying more than you have to! If you can, take a light camera. If you have an SLR you will probably want to take it, because it would be a shame to compromise the quality of your photos, but think very carefully about the lenses you take. A wide angle is essential, but do you really need a telephoto zoom? If you can find one general purpose lens with a good zoom range (20 – 70mm) then just take the one. Also, remember that you won’t want to change lenses when you are cold, exhausted and covered in dust! At the summit you will find that you are absolutely shattered, you won’t even feel like lifting your camera to your face! Therefore you need to make things as easy as possible for yourself before you start the summit climb; put your camera at the top of your bag and make sure it is all ready to shoot. When you get to the top, take your time and force yourself to take some photos – you will be thankful when you get back down! Finally, remember that you are going to be away for 6 days. It may sound obvious, but make sure you have adequate storage and battery power. A portable hard drive for digital users is very handy. Also note that when it is cold, batteries drain much faster, so make sure you have plenty of power in reserve for the summit day.