What you need to know before climbing Kilimanjaro – Africa’s tallest mountain

Successfully climbing Kilimanjaro is considered the ultimate accomplishment for many hikers and athletes across the world. But, climbing Africa’s tallest mountain is no mean feat in fact, it has a 50% fail rate! So, it takes a lot of knowledge and a high level of fitness to climb Kilimanjaro!

In this blog post I detail the height of Mount Kilimanjaro, explain all the different climbing routes as well as providing detailed information for your ascent up Africa’s tallest mountain. 

Is Mt Kilimanjaro the tallest mountain in the World?

The official height of Mount Kilimanjaro has in fact changed several times over the years, the most recent measurement states that Mount Kilimanjaro stands at 5893 meters (19,334 feet) and that is according to the United Nations Environment Programme/World Conservation Monitoring Center.

Mount Kilimanjaro is also known as the “roof of Africa”. It is located in North Eastern Tanzania, near the town of Moshi on the continent of Africa. It is the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. That is because it is not part of a mountain range like Mount Everest, which is part of the Himalaya mountain range.

Mount Kilimanjaro is not just a mountain but is in fact a stratovolcano ( a large volcano made of volcano, ash and rock). It has three cones – Kiba, Mawenzi and Shira. 

This 5-night 6-day guided climb via the Marangu Route is one of the best guided tours available up Kilimanjaro!

How hard is it to climb Kilimanjaro?

dawn landscape sunset hill, kilimanjaro
Sunset falls on Mt Kilimanjaro! Photo by Kureng Workx on Pexels.com

As mentioned, Mount Kilimanjaro is a freestanding mountain and the tallest of its kind not only in Africa but in the world. 

Mount Kilimanjaro is estimated to have been formed over 1 million years ago, it was formed as a result of active continental rifting in the Eastern African Rift Valley. In the valley the thinning lithosphere (otherwise known as the rocky outer layer of the earth) created fractures and molten lava began to burst through these fractures. In the beginning the lava was thin allowing a gently sloping base to be formed. Over time the lava became thicker and stronger and first formed Shira cone, followed by Mawenzi and finally Kibo.

Mount Kilimanjaro is widely considered the easiest of the Seven Summits to climb and as a result it has been nicknamed “Everyman’s Everest”. To climb Mount Kilimanjaro you don’t need climbing ropes or specialist mountain gear. You don’t even need previous mountain climbing experience. 

Mount Kilimanjaro is easier to access than the majority of the other Seven Summits. Firstly, regular flights from Europe and elsewhere operate frequently into Kilimanjaro Airport. As well as that, there are great hotels and equipment hire stores surrounding Kilimanjaro. 

BOOK your stay near Mt Kilimanjaro here!

Climbing Kilimanjaro’s Highest peak (Kibo)

Snow-covered Kibo Peak on Mt Kilimanjaro
Snow-covered Kibo Peak on Mt Kilimanjaro

Kibo is the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with a height of 5893 meters (19,334 feet). It is classed as a dormant volcano, with scientists estimating it last erupted approximately 360,000 years ago. The last volcanic activity on Kibo was recorded just over 200 years ago. 

Kilimanjaro has six climbing routes to the summit: Marangu Route; Machame Route; Rongai Route; Lemosho Route; Mweka Route and the new Northern Circuit route.

Marangu route – 

The Marangu route is considered the easiest route to the summit and as a result is the most popular. It is so popular that it has been nicknamed the “Coca Cola route” or “tourist route”. Marangu is accessed from the South Eastern side of the mountain. 

It is considered easy due to its gradual uphill climb. Its popularity can also be owed to the fact it offers sleeping huts with dorm-style beds instead of camping. There are three camps on this route – Mandara at 2700 meters; Kibo at 4730 meters and the largest Horombo at 4703 meters. 

If you’re limited on time you can do a one-day guided hike to Mandara Hut, the tour departs from Arusha.

The short duration of the Marangu route – it can be completed in five or six days, means that acclimatization can be a problem for many hikers of this route. On Mount Kilimanjaro oxygen depletes significantly after 10,000 feet thus, you need to give your body extra time to adapt to the oxygen deprivation it is experiencing. The longer you spend in high altitude areas – the more red blood cells your body can create. As a result, most itineraries allow an extra day on the Marangu route for your body to acclimatize. The extra day extends the duration to six days.

Another negative is that Marangu is not as scenic as the other routes because the ascent and descent are on the same track. 

This 5-night 6-day guided climb via the Marangu Route, includes absolutely everything and is a highly-recommended and safe tour!

Machame route – 

If reaching the summit is your main objective then, the Machame route offers the highest success rate. It is a seven day trek, meaning it’s great for acclimatization because you walk high and sleep low daily. Another bonus is the scenery on this route is stunning. 

Camps on this route include – Machame (2580 meters); Shira (3840 meters); Barranco (3950 meters); Karanga Valley (3995 meters); Barafu (4550 meters) and Millenium (2800 meters). 

The Machame route is accessed from the South, a short drive from Moshi will bring you to the Machame gate. 

This 6-day climbing tour via the Machame Route is very reasonably priced and includes an experienced guide and all transport but you do need to have your own climbing gear.

Rongai route – 

The Rongai route offers a more wild climbing experience as it is a less-traveled route to the summit. It is unique because it offers a different perspective of Mount Kilimanjaro by approaching it from the North. This route is in fact the shortest route to the summit, but a seven day trek is still advised to allow for acclimatization. 

Camps on this route include – Rongai Cave (2620 meters); Kikelewa (3600 meters); Mawenzi Tarn (4300 meters); Kibo Hut (4700 meters) and Horombo Hut (3720 meters). 

Access to the Rongai route is on the North Eastern side, along the border of Tanzania and Kenya. 

This 6-day guided climbing tour via the Rongai Route has an 86% success rate – which is pretty high!

uhuru peak kilimanjaro
Uhura Peak!

Lemosho route – 

It is advisable to allow eight days to complete this route to allow for acclimatization. The Lemosho route is considered the most beautiful with gorgeous views of the western breach of the mountain. 

Camps on this route include – Mti Mkubwa (2820 meters); Shira 1 (3500 meters); Moir Hut (4200 meters); Barranco (3900 meters); Karanga (3960 meters); Barafu (4680 meters) and Mweka (3100 meters). 

This 8-day Lemosho climb is very popular with beginners and because it’s longer than the others it allows for better acclimatization!

Umbwe route – 

This is a descent only route and is used when descending from Lemosho, Machame, Umbwe or Shira ascent routes. These routes are linked to the Umbwe Route by the high-level traverse beneath the Southern Icefields, the Kibo South Circuit.

Northern Circuit – 

The longest and the newest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, Northern circuit allows the most acclimatization time. Currently, a very limited number of travelers have set foot on this trail. 

The route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the west, beginning with a long drive from Moshi to Londorossi Gate. It follows the Lemosho route for the first few days. 

Camps on this route include – Mti Mkubwa (2820 meters); Shira 1 (3500 meters); Shira 2 (399 meters); Lava Tower (4640 meters); Moir Hut (4200 meters); Buffalo Camp (4000 meters); Third Cave (3930 meters); School Hut (4800 meters) and Mweka Camp ( 3110 meters).

Book this 8-day guided climb via the Northern Circuit, the newest and longest route on Kilimanjaro.

Climbing Kilimanjaro’s Mawenzi peak

Mawenzi is classed as an extinct volcano. It is the third highest peak in Africa (after Kibo and Mount Kenya), it stands at 5149 meters or 16,890 feet.

The rugged terrain of Mawenzi peak means that most of its seven peaks can only be reached by technical roped ascents.

There are three routes to climb Mawenzi peak, these are listed as follows: 

  1. Rongai route down Marangu gate 
  2. Marangu route via Zebra rock down Marangu gate 
  3. Machame, Lemosho and Londorosi routes via Northern circuit down Mweka gate.

Climbing Kilimanjaro’s Shira peak

Like Mawenzi, Shira is classed as extinct. It is the smallest of Mount Kilimanjaro’s three cones, measuring 3962 meters or 13,000 feet. 

Between Shira and Kibo is the Shira Plateau, this is a 6200 hectare collapsed crater, which was formed by lava eruptions which overtime solidified and turned to the rock you see there today.

Some of the main summits on Shira include Johnsell Point at 3962 meters, Klute¨Peak on Shira Ridge at 3920 meters, the Cone at 3840 meters and Shira Cathedral at 3720 meters.

Climbing Elevation Gain on each route on Kilimanjaro

The below table shows the maximum and minimum ascent you will climb each day; the elevation gain per day as well as the total distance covers. It also highlight the height above sea level that each trk begins. 

Route nameMax./min. ascent distance per dayElevation gain max./min. per dayDistance covered in total Height above sea level at which trek begins
Marangu route8km – 12km 878 – 1192 meters70km1870 meters
Machame route5km – 30km701 – 1189 meters62km1490 meters
Rongai route6km – 9km400 – 1194 meters72km1950 meters
Lemosho route4.3km – 18.1km 450 – 1244 meters67km2360 meters
Umbwe route4km – 11km1075 – 1299 meters53km2940 meters
Northern Circuit route5km – 14km340 – 1000 meters79km2360 meters

Start Level of all routes on Mt Kilimanjaro

The height at which all routes begin are as follows: 

  • Marangu Route begins at Marangu Gate which is 1,870 meters above sea level 
  • Machame Route starts at Machame Gate (1490 meters)
  • Rongai Route begins 70km from Marangu Gate at the Rongai Start Point (1,950 meters)
  • Lemosho Route starts at Londorossi Gate at an altitude of 2360 metres
  • Mweka Route begins at Umbwe Camp at 2940 meters
  • Northern Circuit route follows the Lemosho route for the first few days, so, it begins at Londorossi Gate (2360 meters)

What other mountains can you climb in Africa?

Five of  Africa’s highest mountains include Mount Kenya; Mount Stanley; Mount Meru; Ras Deshen and Mount Toubkal.  They too are popular with climbers, but not to the same extent as Africa’s tallest mountain. 

1. Mount Kenya, Kenya

Elevation: 5199 meters/ 17057 ft

There are three main summits on Mount Kenya – Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana. Batian is suitable only for advanced rock climbing and mountaineering, it is rated IV+. Nelion is also considered a challenging climb and is rated IV-. Point Lenana at 4985 meters tall is popular with hikers as no technical climbing skills are required.  

You can climb Mt Kenya on this 4-day guided tour via the Sirimon Route.

2. Mount Stanley, Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda

Elevation: 5109 meters/ 16,763 feet

A popular hiking option up Mount Stanley takes you to Margherita Peak, this is considered a difficult climb due to the rainforest and muddy areas you must trek through. It is advised to allow 5 days to ascend to the summit.

3. Mount Meru, Tanzania

Elevation: 4562meters/ 15,262 feet

Mount Meru is an active volcano and is just 70 km west of Mount Kilimanjaro. The ascent is quite steep to the summit and many climbers consider it more challenging than Kilimanjaro. 

This 4-day guided climb up Mount Meru comes highly recommended.

4. Ras Dashen (Dejen), Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Elevation: 4546meters/14,930 feet

Ras Dashen is Ethiopia’s highest mountain, it is a five day ascent to the summit climbing to smaller peaks and across the Bwahit Pass to Ambiko, It is from Ambiko you will start your ascent to the summit. There are numerous different routes to the summit of Ras Dashen and it may take you anywhere from three days to two weeks to complete.

5. Mount Toubkal, Morocco 

Elevation: 4167meters

Located in the High Atlas Mountains in North Africa – a mountainous region close to Marrakech. It is often praised as a great introduction to high altitude mountaineering. The climb to the summit of Mt Toubkal is challenging, but requires no prior mountaineering experience.

Is Kilimanjaro the Tallest mountain in the World?

african elephant walks in front of mt kilimanjaro
An African elephant walks in front of Mt Kilimanjaro! Photo by Marri Shyam on Pexels.com

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak on the continent of Africa and is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. 

The title of world’s highest mountain goes to Mount Everest at 8848 meters (24,032 feet). The second tallest mountain in the world is K2 located on the border of Pakistan and China at 8611 meters Whilst the third highest is Kangchenjungo on the Nepal/India border at 8586 meters. All three highest mountains in the world are part of a group of mountains called the eight-thousanders. 

Thanks for reading my blog, Aimee

P.S I’ve loads of other Africa blog posts including Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Uganda, our experience doing a safari in Serengeti,  Amboseli National Parkdining at The Rock Restaurant on Zanzibar and much more!

Thanks for reading!

Is a Safari in Amboseli National Park worth it?

Is an Amboseli National Park safari worth visiting – the answer is yes of course. But let me explain in more detail why this less-crowded National Park is worth adding to your Kenya itinerary. We added a safari in Amboseli National Park to our Africa Honeymoon Itinerary. And man, are we glad we did! A safari in Amboseli is less-popular and less-crowded than Kenya’s other National Park, the Masai Mara. Plus, it has an abundance of elephants (we saw over 100 in one day!!)

Where is Amboseli National Park?

Being set against Africa’s highest mountain – Mt Kilimanjaro makes for a spectacular backdrop for Amboseli National Park. Covering almost 400 sqm, Amboseli is one of the best National Parks in Africa for wildlife viewing. This is due to its low rainfall & high concentration of animals.

Amboseli National Park is situated about 240km South East of Nairobi. It is easily reached by car from Nairobi – taking approximately 3 hours door to door. Or why not catch the very clean & very safe train from Nairobi to nearby Emali for a lot cheaper. Ask your accomodation in Amboseli to pick you up from Emali train station. FYI – most accomodation in Amboseli will do this for a fee.

You can also book a number of guided tours from Nairobi to Amboseli National Park. This two-day one-night tour to Amboseli from Nairobi includes all entrance fees and one night full board accommodation. If you’re short on time you can book a day-trip to Amboseli from Nairobi. This includes transport in a van with a pop-up roof, lunch at a lodge and all entrance fees. Keep in mind this is a 10 hour day, so may be tiring!

This 4-day Safari to Amboseli and Tsavo East and West Park’s is probably the best value for money as you’re going to do a safari in 3 of Kenya’s best National Parks. The price includes 3 nights accommodation, all meals, all entrance fees and a professional guide.

African elephants in Amboseli at sunset

What is the best place to stay in Amboseli National Park?

We spent two nights in total at Amboseli, we stayed at the very unique Maasai Simba Camp. Located on the outskirts of the National Park. Maasai Simba Camp is run by the local Maasai people. It was one of the best & most authentic experiences of our entire month-long tour of Africa.

Your accomodation here is a basic wooden cabin but very clean & comfortable. Featuring your own private bathroom & hot shower. All of your meals are included but the best part for us was that staying here offered us a unique glimpse into life as a Maasai. The package we booked with Simba Camp included a sunset walking Safari; a full day in Amboseli National Park with a driver/guide & a packed lunch; a jewellery making session with the Masai women and a sunrise walking Safari.

All of the profits from Simba Camp go towards helping the local community, and you can see the positive effect of the Camp when you drive through the village. We highly highly recommend staying at Maasai Simba Camp to anyone who wants to experience something a little different.

If you want luxury whilst staying in Amboseli National Park – then you need to book the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge. This large 4-star Lodge is just meters from the Park’s entrance gate and features an outdoor pool, bra and restaurant. If you’re on a budget the Amboseli Eco Camp is cheap and highly recommended by past guests.

You can search and book all available accommodation options in Amboseli National Park here. There are just 13 properties in Amboseli National Park so be sure to book early!

Maasai warrior on a sunrise walk
Maasai warrior on our sunrise walk

Amboseli National Park has the largest polulation of African Elephants of any place on earth

In fact it is estimated that over 1600 African elephants live in Amboseli. Not only this but some of the biggest elephants live here too, both in body and tusk size. This fact alone was what piqued my interest in Amboseli in the first place as elephants are my favourite animal. So, if you love elephants (like me) then you must add a safari in Amboseli National Park to your Africa bucketlist.

African elephant herd in Amboseli kenya

What can you expect to see on an average day on safari in Amboseli

From our personal experience, spending just one full day on safari in Amboseli we saw countless African elephants (easily 100 or more). We also saw numerous buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, impala and warthog. Never far away from their prey were hyenas, jackals and serval cats. Towards the end of our tour our driver spotted three lion cubs without their mother. This was clearly a rarity, the excitement was evident as dozens of cars pulled up to watch these babies.

We broke our long day up nicely with a stop at Observation Hill for a picnic. Observation Hill has a fantastic vantage point of the swam. From here you can watch huge African elephants wading through the grassy green water cooling down and eating the surrounding plants.

How many days do you need in Amboseli?

My best advice is to book a 3-day 2-night tour to Amboseli. The National Park is pretty small (just 400 square meters) in comparison to much larger Park’s like Serengeti and Masai Mara, therefore you are likely to see everything you planned in three days. It’s also not too far of a drive to Nairobi from Amboseli, so you don’t need to spend longer here to recover from a long travel journey.

Telegraph Hill Amboseli National park
Enjoying the views from Telegraph Hill

How much does a safari to Amboseli cost?

For a 2-day 1-night tour expect to pay from $450 USD total per person. For a longer 3-day 2-night tour expect to pay from $650 USD per person. For a day-trip to Amboseli from Nairobi you will likely pay $280 USD per person.

How does Amboseli compare to more popular parks like Serengeti

We were lucky enough to experience our honeymoon in Serengeti and Amboseli on this trip. Honestly, it’s very difficult to compare them as they are two very different safari experiences.

Firstly, Serengeti is huge – there is no way you could spend just a day in the Serengeti. The area is so large and each part of the park is very different with different animals to see in each part. We actually did 3 full days of Safari in Serengeti as this is what all the safari company’s recommended. We’re so glad we listened to their advice. We could have spent longer in the Serengeti if I’m honest. So, if you’re short on time and still want a fantastic wildlife viewing experience then Amboseli will be better suited to you.

Secondly, if you came to Africa to see the big cats like lions, cheetah’s & leopards then Serengeti is the place for you as we saw these in abundance here. Whereas on safari in Amboseli we saw but a few lion and the three cubs I mentioned earlier.

Maasai giraffes Amboseli National Park

Our honest summary of Amboseli National Park

Back to my first question in this piece – is a safari in Amboseli National Park worth it? Yes it definitely is, especially if you’re after a safari experience away from the crowds that Serenegti & Maasai Mara attract. If you love elephants – you will easily see, as I did over 100 in a day. From huge bull elephants to the cutest baby elephants. Are you after a National Park that’s not too difficult to get to? Perfect – Amboseli is just over 3 hours in a car from Kenya’s capital city Nairobi. You can book a professional guide and driver to take you from Nairobi to Amboseli, which is surprisingly reasonably priced!

There’s a lot more positive reasons than the above to add a safari in Amboseli to your Africa itinerary. But, I’ll stop here in order to to keep this piece short & sweet.

Thanks for reading my blog, Aimee x

We also did gorilla trekking in Uganda and visited the stunning island of Zanzibar on our honeymoon. We visited the famed Rock Restaurant on Zanzibar – be sure to read about our experience there! You can also read about how to climb Kilimanjaro! It was honestly the best travel experience of our lives to date!

Tell me have you visited Amboseli National Park? I would love to hear your thoughts on it in the comment section below.

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A safari in Amboseli National Park should be added to your bucket list, let me explain why this less-crowded National Park is worth visiting.
A safari in Amboseli National Park should be added to your bucket list, let me explain why this less-crowded National Park is worth visiting.

What we thought of The Rock Restaurant in Zanzibar

How to successfully book at table at the famous Rock Restaurant in Zanzibar. As well as our review of the menu, the views and how to get there!

This past August, we were lucky enough to spend part of our honeymoon in Zanzibar, a gorgeous tropical island off the coast of Tanzania. This honeymoon trip through Africa was what bucket-list dreams are made of. Our trip included exploring the beaches of Zanzibar, Gorilla-trekking in Uganda, climbing Kilimanjaro, an unforgettable safari in Serengeti National Park as well as a safari in Amboseli in Kenya. To be honest, we will never forget this trip for as long as we live.

Anyway, enough bragging about how lucky we are to experience all of the above. And let’s get back to the main point of this piece how to book a table at The Rock Restaurant, Zanzibar and what the dining experience was really like.

How to book a table at The Rock Restaurant in Zanzibar

We recommend booking your table at The Rock Restaurant, Zanzibar at least two weeks in advance. Especially for the popular dinner seatings. You can book directly on their website. If you are celebrating a special occasion be sure to mention it in the comments when you make the booking. Also, if you would like a table outside on their balcony or by the window then be sure to mention this is in the comment section of your booking too. I believe they cannot guarantee specific tables, it is more of a first-come-first-served basis. But, it is certainly worth mentioning it as it will give you a better chance of securing the best table.

The closest hotels to the Rock Restaurant are located on Michamvi Beach. It may be worth booking a hotel here if you plan on dining at The Rock, like I know a lot of other tourists do.

Sunset at the rock restaurant zanzibar
Enjoying sunset hour

Where is The Rock Restaurant located?

It is located at Michamvi beach on the southeast corner of Zanzibar. (Here’s the exact google maps location) It is 1 hour & 20 minutes from Stonetown and just 20 minutes from Paje. The best way to get to The Rock is to hire a private driver to pick you up from your hotel, as he/she will wait for you and return you to your hotel when you are finishes. Our private driver cost us $40 from Paje, it will cost a lot more from Stonetown.

How do you get to The Rock Restaurant?

There are local buses that pass through Michamvi but the timings can be unreliable and it is likely when the bus does pass you they will already be full. Depending on where you’re staying, your accommodation will be able to suggest the best bus to take if that is what you’d prefer.

The most popular way to get to The Rock Restauran is to hire a private driver to pick you up from your hotel. If you really want to splurge (and make an entrance) you can book a private speedboat to the Rock Restaurant. This private boat departs from Zanzibar Extreme Water Sports in Pwani Mchangani.

Should you visit The Rock Restaurant at high tide or low tide

This is completely a personal preference, we ended up going at low tide as we didn’t check in advance. And to be honest we would have preferred high tide as the ocean surrounds the restaurant and a staff member needs to come collect you from the shore in a little wooden boat. Worth remembering: low tide means you can walk to the restaurant across the sand and high tide means the ocean completely surrounds the restaurant. Here are the tide times for Michamvi beach (where The Rock is located) .

We personally think the best time to visit The Rock Restaurant is at high tide and for the dinner service, preferably in time for sunset.

The rock restaurant at low tide
Low tide at The Rock, Zanzibar

What is the menu like at The Rock Restaurant

The best summary of the menu is fresh seafood with an Italian twist. The seafood at the restaurant is so fresh (as in caught that day fresh). And I’m not the biggest seafood fan but I knew at The Rock Restaurant in particular I had to try their seafood dishes. We ordered the homemade ravioli filled with aubergines, the grilled fish fillet with creamy coconut spinach and to start we had the fish carpaccio served with coconut sauce. All were excellent choices and very filling dishes.

For drinks, we ordered their house bottle of white wine which comes beautifully labelled with a photo of the restaurant. We actually peeled this off the bottle and took it home for our memory box.

What was the overall dining experience like at The Rock Restaurant

We were greeted warmly upon arrival and the server checked we had a reservation and then ticked our name off a list. Just a note, it is highly unlikely you will be able to walk in without a reservation and get a table, you can do this for drinks only and sit on the balcony at the front. However, space is very limited so come early to ensure a seat.

We mentioned to the greeter that we were celebrating our honeymoon and he gave us a lovely table next to the window on the left side of the restaurant. Try to avoid the tables in the middle of the restaurant if possible, as there is a lot of foot traffic through that area with people coming in and out of the front balcony to order drinks.

Drinks at The Rock Restaurant

The majority of the servers are from the local area and so, have an abundance of local knowledge. It was quite nice to see that such a well-known restaurant encourages employment from the local area. All of the staff we interacted with were very knowledgeable and friendly.

Is The Rock Restaurant worth it?

Overall, we would highly recommend to book a table at The Rock Restaurant it was a wonderfully unique experience in one of the most recognisable restaurants in the world. The food is of high-quality, although a lot more expensive than other restaurants on Zanzibar. To ensure the best experience we recommend going at high tide, try to get a seat on the balcony or near a window to admire the spectacular view. Oh and take lots of photos.

Have you visited The Rock Restaurant? We would love to hear about your experience in the comment section!

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How to successfully book a table at the famous Rock Restaurant in Zanzibar in peak season and what the dining experience was really like.

The Ultimate Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Uganda

Our honest review of Gorilla-trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. With detailed advice on how to book a tour, where to stay and what to wear on your trek.

For our honeymoon this past August, we were lucky enough to tick off a major bucket-list item. Gorilla-trekking in Bwindi impenetrable forest, Uganda was something I’d wanted to do for a very long time. And to be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to expect! From our research it seems everyone has a different experience. Gorilla-trekking in Uganda is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

We combined the gorilla trek in Bwindi with a safari in Serengeti (as well as other amazing stops) and I have to admit it was the best honeymoon I could imagine for myself!

As promised, in this piece, I will give you all the details about Gorilla-trekking in Uganda. As well as answer all the burning questions you have been asking us since our return.

If you plan on spending more time in Uganda, this guide to visiting Uganda is so detailed and I found it really helpful!

silverback gorilla bwindi
A female gorilla in Bwindi!

Why add Gorilla-trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to your bucket list

The sad fact is that there are only two populations of mountain Gorillas left in the world. One population lives in the Virunga mountains of Central Africa. The second population (and the one we visited) lives deep in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

According to results released in May 2018, the number of mountain Gorillas is estimated to be just 1,000 individuals. This puts them on the critically endangered list, which is just two classifications away from completely extinct!

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Our honest review of Gorilla-trekking in Bwindi Imepenetrable Forest, Uganda. With detailed advice on how to book a tour, where to stay and what to wear.

Why we chose Bwindi Impenetrable Forest over other area’s in Africa

Gorilla-trekking in Uganda is only done in two national parks – Bwindi & Mgahinga. At the last count, there were found to be 17 mountain Gorilla families living in Bwindi and just one family in Mgahinga. Bwindi has almost 500 individual mountain gorilla’s – which makes your chances of seeing these majestic creatures all the more likely. The range of accommodation options in Bwindi were far greater too.

Why didn’t we choose to do gorilla-trekking in Rwanda you may ask? The cost of a gorilla-trekking permit in Rwanda is significantly higher at $1500USD per permit versus Uganda’s $600USD. So, a primary reasoning in choosing Uganda over Rwanda was the cost. Trekking for gorillas in Rwanda is supposedly easier and a less-strenuous hike – this day trip from Kigali is highly recommended.

Why not read next our Serengeti Safari experience

Paul posing with the gorilla family in the background!

Our experience Gorilla-trekking in Bwindi impenetrable forest

We started planning our Gorilla-trek in Uganda at least six months in advance. Advance planning is essential as the permits sell out quickly – there is a limited number available daily. We researched all the gorilla-trekking companies in depth and finally decided on Adventure in the Wild. Adventure in the Wild are fairly priced are quick and honest in their responses to our questions over email. We also liked the accommodation options they offered for our two nights in Bwindi impenetrable forest. This particular tour is very similar to the option we chose.

At the start of our 4-day tour, our guide – Elias (who was fantastic by the way) collected us from our accommodation in Kigali, Rwanda. We planned a more unique route and spent a night in Akagera National Park. Before making the long journey into Uganda and finally to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Be prepared for long periods in the car, the journey from Kigali & Entebbe to Bwindi is at least 4 hours each way.

We arrived in the late evening to our accommodation at Gorilla Mist Camp and quickly dropped our bags at our cabin before going straight to the buffet dinner. We were told that it would be a fairly early start the next day (breakfast at 7am) so we headed to bed early and found hot water bottles in our bed which was a cute touch as it does get pretty chilly in the evenings.

The day of the trek in Bwindi

We had breakfast before our departure to the meeting point at Bwindi National Park headquarters, there we were given a briefing and treated to a welcome dance by the local women! You are then split into smaller groups and they try to match you with others of similar fitness levels – most of the other trekkers were over 50 so we weren’t expecting an overly strenuous hike. You can choose to hire a porter to carry your bag and help you on the hike – which I highly recommend doing as it’s giving more income back to the locals. And even though I’m fit I definitely used my porters help more than I expected to. I think it costs from $10 USD for a porter.

It took us less than an hour to reach our gorilla family. It was a steep downhill climb through dense forest but we suddenly stumbled upon a family of 8 gorillas eating near a tree. You have only an hour in their presence to observe and take photos.

I can’t recommend this experience enough and honestly it was one of the best things I’ve done in my life! You can book a tour to Bwindi from Kampala; from Kigali in Rwanda. Or you can include it as part of a 10-day Uganda Safari!

silverback gorilla in bwindi
The silverback gorilla!

Where to stay near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

For our two nights in Bwindi, we stayed at Gorilla Mist Camp. It’s rustic-chic and we had our own cottage with a large balcony and fantastic views. Dinner and breakfast are included with your room and is served at set times. Also, because of it’s remote location electricity and hot water are only available at certain times. It gets cold at night but the staff place a hot water bottle in your bed at turndown service, which is a wonderful touch.

Some other great hotel options near Bwindi include,

  • Bwindi Forest Farm and Campsite – at this basic campsite you can choose a double room with a shared bathroom or pitch a tent. It’s a great budget option and offers breakfast.
  • Bwindi Forest Lodge – with lovely garden views this Lodge also has a restaurant and children’s playground. The rooms are cabin-style and comfortable.
  • Bwindi Guest House – set in a gorgeous location and with a garden and a terrace to enjoy the views. The rooms are larger than most in the area. There’s also an on-site restaurant and 24-hour reception.
  • Rushaga Gorilla Lodge – one of the only hotels in the area with an outdoor pool – this is certainly one of the more luxurious options.
baby gorilla bwindi impenetrable forest
A baby gorilla in Bwindi!

Is Gorilla-trekking in Uganda safe?

In short yes, our experience felt completely safe and we didn’t have any problems. Before even venturing into the national park, you are given a detailed briefing at the park headquarters. Some of the most important things to note from this are that:

  • You must remain 7 metres away from the Gorillas at all times, don’t eat or drink in their presence
  • Don’t make any loud noises
  • Refrain from using flash photography
  • Do not may eye contact with the Silverback Gorilla
  • If a Gorilla gets too close to you then you are told to act submissively and bend or crouch down – do not run away!

Our gorilla family were very habituated and unaffected when a large branch broke off from a nearby tree making a loud noise. At one point, our Ranger even took me right up close to a large female Gorilla sleeping on the ground. She wasn’t affected by my presence, even though she knew I was standing just a metre away.

Gorillas are notoriously clever. We had an hour in their presence, and when the time was up the Gorillas knew before we did and began moving into the thick forest away from our prying eyes.

In short, follow all the guidelines outlined in your briefing and also your rangers recommendations while in the Gorilla’s presence and you will have no issues.

Why not read next, why a honeymoon in Zanzibar is a good idea

local guide gorilla trekking uganda
Posing with my porter on the hike!

How much does it cost to go Gorilla-trekking in Uganda?

The permit alone costs $600USD per person, which is significantly lower than Rwanda but higher than the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can also choose to have a local guide accompany you on the trek, to help you with your backpack and assist you down the steep hills and narrow paths to your gorilla family. This costs $15USD per guide.

In my opinion, it is definitely worth it. And even though I consider myself fit, my guide was incredibly helpful whilst going down the very steep muddy hill to our gorilla family. In hiring a guide you are also contributing to the local community.

Besides the permit and the local guide, you will still need to pay for transportation to and from Bwindi as well as accommodation here. This is why we chose to book with Adventure in the Wild as they gave us a 4 night package which included everything.

You can book a tour to Bwindi from Kampala; from Kigali in Rwanda. Or you can include it as part of a 10-day Uganda Safari!

mountain gorillas uganda
Photo credit: Shadows of Africa

Why is Gorilla-trekking so expensive?

Conservation of the mountain Gorillas is not as cheap as you may think. Up until mid-2018 they were classed as ‘endangered species’. A lot of the money from the Gorilla permits is invested in trying to increase their population. And thankfully it has helped, as their numbers now surpass 1,000.

About 75% of the funds from the permits are channeled back to support the growth of these Gorillas. The local community takes about 10% and the government retains the remaining 15%.

What to wear on your trek

  • A good pair of hiking boots with ankle support, synthetic material as opposed to leather is best. And a sole with a good grip. These are the newer version of the hiking boots I had and I found them brilliant! My husband had these ones!
  • A rain poncho as opposed to a rain jacket as it is lighter and easier to pack in your backpack. This is a great all-round rain poncho!
  • Long pants and a long sleeve top – ideally with built in insect repellant. I had this pair of ladies waterproof trousers and they were so comfortable. These mens waterproof trousers are the pair my husband had!
  • Thick wool socks, preferably merino wool so you feet don’t get too sweaty. These are a great pair of merino wool socks! We also recommend tucking your pants into your socks to limit insect bites
female gorilla yawning bwindi uganda
A female gorilla yawning!

With all of the above tips, we hope you have all the information you need for your Gorilla-trekking experience in Uganda. It is trully an amazing experience. One you will undoubtedly remember for the rest of your life!

If you have any further questions about Gorilla-trekking in Bwindi – feel free to ask us in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading my blog, I also have heaps of other articles on Africa including Amboseli National Parkdining at The Rock Restaurant on Zanzibar, climbing Kilimanjaro and more!

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Our tips for the best honeymoon in Zanzibar

Spending your honeymoon in Zanzibar – it sounds dreamy doesn’t it? Here’s why we think this stunning African island with white beaches, glittering oceans and a unique history should be at the top of your honeymoon bucket list.

This past August we spent an epic 27 days in Africa for our honeymoon. We started with 7 days in Zanzibar & then continued on to other amazing destinations like Serengeti National Park in Tanzania; Amboseli Safari in Kenya, climbing Kilimanjaro and Gorilla-trekking in Uganda.

Out of all the places we visited on our honeymoon – Zanzibar has sparked the most interest from our readers. With lots of questions coming through on our emails and social media about the beautiful island of Zanzibar. In this piece, we will aim to answer all those questions and give you lots of advice for your honeymoon in Zanzibar.

Tip #1 – Divide your time between the beaches and Stonetown

We spent 4 nights on Jambiani beach, which is one of the best beaches in Zanzibar – on the Southeast of the island and 3 nights in Stonetown. This itinerary worked out perfectly for us, because it meant we spent our first few days relaxing on the white sand beaches of Paje. We wanted to de-stress after our wedding in Italy and so doing nothing more than swimming, eating & drinking cocktails was just what the doctor ordered.

Stonetown on the other hand was pretty jam-packed as there’s lots to see. We recommend visiting the Old Slave Market, doing a boat tour to Prison Island to see the giant tortoises and visiting the Darajani market. In the evening make sure you head to the beach to watch the sunset preferably at one of the many bars and restaurants dotted along the beach. We liked The Beach House.

Some of the other awesome activities availabe from throughout Zanzibar include a guided quad-biking tour to a local village; a visit to Jozani Forest that also includes the chance to see dolphins and finally the chance to swim with wild dophins. All the above tours include pick-up from most hotels on Zanzibar.

jetty spice island resort jambiani

Tip #2 – Book a table at the Rock Restaurant

We hugely recommend booking the Rock Restaurant in advance as it is extremely popular. We advise booking your table at least 2 weeks prior, especially, if you want a dinner sitting. The Rock Restaurant is pricey, but in our opinion it’s worth the price tag. The cuisine is best described as fresh Zanzibar seafood with an Italian twist. You can order non-fish items on the menu too. In fact, I ordered the vegetarian ravioli and it was yummy! We also ordered the house wine which has a beautiful label featuring the restaurant at sunset (we peeled this off and took it home for our memory box).

Depending on the tides you may be able to walk to the Rock restaurant or the restaurant will collect you on their boat if the tide is in. Your hotel will need to organize a taxi for you as the Rock restaurant is quite far from most places. Your driver will wait for you in the carpark until your finished. Our taxi cost $40 return from Jambiani.

the rock restaurant zanzibar

Tip #3 – Splurge on a nice hotel

It is your honeymoon after all, so treat yourself to a ‘fancy’ hotel – ideally on the beach. We chose the Spice Island Resort in Jambiani. The unique selling point for the Spice Island Resort is the jetty extending into the bright blue Indian ocean. You can sunbathe on the jetty, swim off its wooden steps or enjoy a cocktail at sundown. The hotel also has a large swimming pool, a Spa and a large restaurant. They were also nice enough to organize a private dinner on the beach for our honeymoon. A very special touch.

You can search all available accommodation options in Jambiani here.

In Stonetown we stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton. And we’re so glad we did – we were upgraded to a Suite and even got a warm chocolate chip cookie on check-in. The Doubletree is centrally located and has an excellent view from the rooftop restaurant Taarab. Here are some of the best accomodation available in Stonetown.

swimming at jambiani beach

Tip #4 – Make sure you watch sunset every night in Zanzibar

We’re so glad we made the effort to watch the sunset every night of our honeymoon in Zanzibar. Some of the sunset highlights for our honeymoon were at the jetty at Spice Island in Jambiani or as previously mentioned the Beach House in Stonetown.

One of the best ways to watch the magnificent Zanzibar sunset is on a traditional Dhow sunset tour from Stonetown. A dhow is a popular boat type used in Zanzibar and is from the Arabian region – it’s very photogenic with its two large unusual masts.

sunset on jambiani beach

Can you swim in the ocean in Zanzibar?

You can definitely swim in the ocean in Zanzibar – in fact we made sure to swim a few times a day. In the Southeast where we stayed the water is gorgeously turquoise but it can be windy and so the water tends to be choppier. Keep in mind that Paje & Jambiani beach are very popular windsurfing destinations. When the tide goes out you can walk over the rock pools for quite a while and spot crabs and small fish. Pretty cool!

If you’re a confident swimmer you can book a private snorkelling tour to Mnemba island, which also includes the chance to swim with wild dolphins!

Our honeymoon in Zanzibar

Is Zanzibar safe?

We never felt unsafe during our honeymoon in Zanzibar and found the locals to be incredibly friendly and accommodating. However, as with everywhere we recommend having ‘your wits about you’ when walking the streets of Stonetown or the beach of Jambiani. Locals will approach you often but they are usually just trying to sell you a tour or get you to visit to their restaurant or bar. Be polite, smile and tell them firmly “No, thank you” and they tend to leave you alone.

Don’t display flashy jewelry or cameras. Lock your valuables in the safe in your room. If your room doesn’t have one ask reception to store your valuables securely for you. Above all be respectful – Zanzibar is a predominantly Muslim nation and so respecting their culture is important. Dressing appropriately, especially for women is recommended.

dhow in zanzibar

How easy is it to get to Zanzibar?

I will admit, I thought it would be a lot more difficult to reach Zanzibar than it actually was. We saved money by flying from London Gatwick via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. You can also fly with Emirates via Dubai and British Airways via Doha. As always, we recommend using google flights to find the best flight deal!

From Zanzibar airport it’s best to book a transfer to your hotel in advance as it can be very expensive if you get a taxi when you get there.

Is Zanzibar a good honeymoon destination?

Zanzibar is a fantastic honeymoon destination. From white beaches, a unique history and plenty of luxury resorts. Zanzibar is the ultimate honeymoon destination! You will be spoiled with romantic things to do on Zanzibar too – think a sunset cruise in a traditional boat and a traditional cooking class in a beautiful setting. If you’re looking for the most romantic area in Zanzibar the East Coast beaches like Jambiani and Paje have Zanzibar’s prettiest beaches!

As always, if you have any questions – please comment in the comment section below and we will get back to you.

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Is Zanzibar a good honeymoon destination? From white beaches, a unique history and plenty of luxury resorts. Zanzibar is the ultimate honeymoon destination.