Today is an arrival day. If you choose to fly into Kilimanjaro Airport we recommend a private transfer to Arusha. We stay at the Ilboru Safari Lodge which has spacious rooms, a pool, and restaurant. In the late afternoon you will meet the rest of the group and your guide for a trip briefing at 15:00hrs at the hotel. The evening is spent at your leisure.
This morning you will be collected to depart for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We drive across the floor of the rift valley then on the only route up the Rift Valley Escarpment to the Ngorongoro Highlands. We then take the steep road down to the crater floor for some incredible game viewing in the Ngorongoro Crater. There is little to no movement of animals to and from the crater due to the steep, forested walls of the extinct volcano. This is one of the last refuges for the endangered black rhino in northern Tanzania and with a permanent water supply also provides habitat for a rich diversity and high density of other wildlife species. Overnight at lodge (or similar).
After an early breakfast we depart for the Serengeti National Park. On the way we may spot some wildlife and also visit Olduvai Gorge, an ancient archaeological site where some of the earliest human remains were discovered. At certain times of the year (December to April) the wildebeest migration is usually found in the south west of the park, near the border with the Crater Highlands. Of course wildlife is unpredictable, so a guarantee of this is not possible. However, we can keep our fingers crossed that we might be in the right place at the right time! The Serengeti is an amazing wildlife sanctuary and at all times of the year game viewing is incredible. Overnight Serengeti Sopa Lodge (or similar).
Today we explore the Serengeti in search of wildlife. We make the most of early morning and evening game drives when the animals are most active so will begin and end the day as the sun rises and sets. The day will be long but the thrill of seeking and finding wildlife is exhilarating. After dark, the sounds of the African night may be heard outside our window, making the whole wilderness experience truly memorable. Overnight Serengeti Sopa Lodge (or similar).
This morning we may do another short game drive if time permits before transferring to the airstrip for our late morning flight to Arusha. The flight is about an hour and we will be transferred to our hotel on arrival where we will have time to prepare our gear for our climbs on Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro. (Note: flight schedules from the Serengeti to Arusha are subject to change without notice so you need to remain flexible on the timings today.) Overnight hotel.
We pick you up from your Arusha Hotel at 8.00am and transfer to Momella Gate (1500m), the start point of Mt Meru climb. The track soon passes open grassland, where there is a good chance of seeing buffalo and warthogs, and then continues as a steady climb through montane forest. We have lunch near the Fig Tree Arch, which is big enough to drive a car through! After lunch, the route continues through less dense forest, where there is an abundance of birds and monkeys. The black and white colobus monkeys are particularly fascinating to watch. By mid-afternoon, we see our first views of the towering cliffs and the Ash Cone. We reach Miriakamba Hut (2514m), situated in an idyllic grassy glade, in time to enjoy the last of the afternoon sun and beautiful views over the surrounding plains towards Kilimanjaro. Overnight mountain hut.
(Approx. 5-6 hours walking)
The walk from Miriakamba Hut to the saddle below Little Meru is a short but steep climb. We walk through beautiful, lush montane forest to reach Elephant Ridge, the halfway point. This has excellent views of the summit ridge and across most of the crater floor. During a break, you might spot elephants or other animals from our vantage point. The path continues uphill through giant heather and other moorland vegetation to reach Saddle Hut (3570m), where lunch is waiting. The afternoon is free to rest and enjoy the views. Those with more energy can make the short climb to the nearby summit of Little Meru (3820m) for superb views just before sunset. Overnight mountain hut.
We begin with an early start at around 2.00am to climb steeply to Rhino Point (3800m), and then continue along an undulating ridge of ash and rock to reach Cobra Point (4350m) arriving at around sunrise. The views are stunning: the cliffs of the Crater rim, the Ash Cone rising from the Crater floor, Kilimanjaro floating on the morning clouds and west towards the Rift Valley if the weather is clear. The summit of Socialist Peak (4566m) is another hour further along a steep but spectacular path. On a clear day, the views are absolutely rewarding. The route back to Rhino Point along a narrow ridge between the sloping outer wall of the crater and the sheer cliffs of the inner wall is one of the most dramatic and exhilarating walks in Africa. We rest, and have brunch at Saddle Hut before continuing the descent to Miriakamba Hut (2514m). Overnight mountain hut.
We take the direct route down towards Momella through open grassland and mixed forest, with good chances of seeing wildlife once again. This trail has excellent views back towards the crater and over the plains of the National Park. We should reach Momella Gate by late morning and from here will be transferred to Marangu for overnight in a lodge.
After completing the necessary registration formalities at Marangu National Park gate, we transfer for 2.5 hours to Rongai. The climb begins from the attractive wooden village of Nale Moru (1950m) on a small path that winds through fields of maize and potats before entering pine forest. The track then starts to climb gently through pretty forest that shelters a variety of wildlife, including the beautiful Kilimanjaro Colobus monkey. These monkeys are black with a long 'cape' of white hair and a flowing white tail. The forest begins to thin out and our first camp, Rongai One, is at the edge of the moorland zone (2600m) with extensive views over the Kenyan plains.
The morning walk is a steady ascent up to the 'Second Cave' (3450m) with superb views of Kibo and the Eastern ice fields on the crater of Kilimanjaro. After lunch, we leave the main trail and strike out across the moorland on a smaller path towards the jagged peaks of Mawenzi. Our campsite is in a sheltered valley with giant senecios near Kikelewa Caves.
A short but steep climb up grassy slopes is rewarded by superb all-round views and a tangible sense of wilderness. We leave vegetation behind shortly before reaching the next camp at Mawenzi Tarn (4330m), spectacularly situated in a cirque directly beneath the towering spires of Mawenzi. The afternoon will be free to rest or explore the surrounding area as an aid to acclimatisation.
We cross the lunar desert of the 'Saddle' between Mawenzi and Kibo to reach Kibo campsite (4700m) situated at the bottom of the Kibo crater wall. The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent before a very early night.
We will start the final, and by far the steepest and most demanding, part of the climb by torchlight around midnight. We walk very slowly in the darkness on a switchback trail through loose volcanic scree to reach the crater rim at Gillman's Point (5685m). We will rest here for a short time to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who are still feeling strong can make the three hour round trip to Uhuru Peak (5895m); passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area. The descent to Kibo (4700m) is surprisingly fast and, after some refreshment, we continue descending to reach our final campsite at Horombo (3720m).
The trekking today involves 11 to 15 hours of walking, made more strenuous by the effects of altitude and extreme cold. This section of the trek is the steepest and most demanding part of the climb and should not be taken lightly. It is a good idea to bring your own head torch so that your hands are free for balance. Most people are surprised by the extreme cold and the best advice is to follow the clothing list and pack your warm clothes.
A steady descent from Horombo takes us down through moorland to Mandara Hut (2700m); we then continue descending through lush rainforest to the National Park gate at Marangu (1830 m) where we will pick up our vehicle and drive the 2.5 hours to our hotel in Arusha.
After breakfast, the trip concludes.