Below the arctic peak of Kilimanjaro, a misty jungle covers the mountain slopes. Moss-covered trees, seas of ferns and elusive monkeys abound in one of the Seven Summits’ only rainforests.
This is where every Kilimanjaro trek begins. Lemosho, Umbwe, Machame, Marangu, Rongai – your first step is always into a sprawling jungle filled with animals and plants found in few other places on Earth.
Unlike many of the world’s tallest mountains, with exclusively harsh, rocky landscapes, Kilimanjaro is covered in miles of forested land. In a way, it’s the perfect start to your trek – a warmup in dense jungle trails before emerging in the wide-open plains of the heath and mooreland climate zones.
What’s in Kilimanjaro’s Rainforest?
You’ll find thick blankets of moss, the region’s widest variety of flowering plants, a few different species of monkeys and lizards, a plethora of stunning birds and other creatures.
The lowlands and rainforest stretch from approximately 2,600 feet in elevation to 9,200 feet, and the area remains vibrant, warm and humid year-round.
As with many other parts of Tanzania, words simply don’t do the area justice. Here are some of our favorite pictures from the jungle.
A swallowtail butterfly perches on a flower – one of 18 species of swallowtail found on Kilimanjaro.
And you thought monkeys were the only animals swinging from the trees.
The impatiens kilimanjari is a deep red flower only found in the rainforests of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Kilimanjaro’s Rainforest Wildlife
While many animals in Kilimanjaro’s rainforest are like to stay hidden, you can find them if you carefully search the forest canopy.
Keep your head up for a glimpse of the blue monkey. They spend most of their lives in the trees above, rarely venturing to the ground. Don’t be fooled by its name; blue monkeys aren’t blue. Their fur is grayish-olive, but some think its short length gives it a subtle blue appearance.
With its distinct black and white coat and long, beautiful tail, it would be hard to mix up the colobus monkey and blue monkey. Similarly, the colobus spends most of its life in the trees.
Birds, Birds, Birds
You’ll likely hear the harsh caw of the silvery-cheeked cheeked hornbill and see sneaky white-necked ravens scouring the trails. There are dozens of bird species around Kilimanjaro. Here are just a few favorites.
The silvery-cheeked hornbill is easy to identify thanks to the large cream-colored casque on top of its bill and its silvery plumage around the eyes.
The purple crested turaco is a poor flier, relying on agility and short periods of gliding to move across the forest canopy.
Kilimanjaro’s forests contain other creatures but seeing them is rare. Consider yourself one of the lucky few if you spot bush babies, the tree hyrax or elephants and cape buffaloes near Shira Plateau.
The Genet is a nocturnal omnivore with retractable claws for climbing and catching prey. They grow to about 20 inches in length.
The southern tree hyrax spends most of its time in the trees. Oddly enough, its nearest relatives include the elephant and the dugong.
The Mount Kilimanjaro two-horned chameleon is endemic to Tanzania and nearby Kenya. Unfortunately, they are often captured and sold as exotic pets.