The best mountain climbing experiences in East Africa

On 20th August 2019, I found my self on top of the world at Uhuru peak after climbing the mighty Kilimanjaro mountain 8km-12km each day for 8 days. This was the most challenging tour I have ever experienced but it is the challenge that kept me going. Uhuru peak, which is the highest peak of Mt Kilimanjaro and also the highest peak in the whole of Africa stands at 19,341 ft with the most beautiful sunrise and a million-dollar view. This is the third mountain experience I have had in East Africa. If you love mountains half as much as I do, you must already have Africa on your bucket list. And if you love getting to the top, then you must narrow it down to East Africa because three of the highest mountain peaks in Africa are located in East Africa. A mountain climbing expedition will take you to Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

This is the world's tallest and free-standing massif in the whole world. It is the most challenging and yet highly coveted hiking experience with an estimated 35,000 - 50,000 hiking attempts per year and about 65% of hikers make it to the peak. Using this success rate as my motivation, I booked my hike with Materuni tours via Viator HERE. Before the Hike, I spent two months going to the gym exercising and jogging around my neighbourhood for 3 hours a day in hopes of mentally and physically preparing myself for this challenge but this didn't matter. I quickly learnt that this experience was a mind game. Contrary to popular belief that Mt Kilimanjaro is only for seasoned hikers, it can also be conquered by an amateur. The trick is not to let your mind give up. In my group of 12 hikers, 9 of us made it to the top while 2 hikers opted to take a helicopter to the top because they were more interested in getting to the peak than the hike itself. This is a good option to be aware of as the rangers might not let you know about it. Luckily they had anticipated failure and pre-booked their helicopter ride before the start of the tour. You can book your helicopter shortcut HERE. There are many routes to the top but I chose the Lemosho route because of its quite ascent, beautiful landscapes, the highest chances of encountering wildlife and spotting many bird species. It is also the longest route of them all! We hiked 3 to 6 hours per day but the time went by fast as our guides were very entertaining and alert to wildlife, nature and birds. The whole experience incomparable to anything else I have ever done and nothing beats the feeling of getting to Uhuru peak at 5,895m.

Uhuru Peak, Mt Kilimanjaro

Mount Kenya in Kenya

This beautiful extinct volcano was my first ever mountain climbing experience. I was inspired to hike this mountain after discovering that Kenya adopted its name from the Moutain. At 5,199m, Mt Kenya is the second-highest mountain in Africa after Mt Kilimanjaro. The mountain is greatly respected as a holy place, in fact, the word Kenya means God's resting place in all three indigenous Kenyan languages. Some tribes believe that when God came down from the sky, he chose to live on Mt Kenya which is why you will notice that houses in this area are built facing towards the mountain. This mountain was named a world heritage site in 1997 and receives an estimated 15,000 visitors per year. My 5 days HIKE brought me to the Majestic peaks of Batian and Nelion on Day 4 in time to watch the sun rising over the equator reflecting its beautiful glow over the peaks. There is a rock climbing experience involved if you choose to climb to Batian and Nelion peaks so rock climbing equipment is a must bring although you can also purchase it in nearby markets. I chose the Naro Moru route because I was advised that it was the easiest ascend and descend and since this was my first time to go mountain climbing, my fear chose for me. This hike is beginner-friendly although it got a little bit challenging when it came to the rock climbing part and you can opt to go for a shorter hike or a longer hike depending on your desired experience. The most rewarding part of this experience was getting a glimpse of Mt Kilimanjaro standing proudly hundreds of Miles away.

Snow-covered peaks of Mt Kenya

The Mountains of the Moon in Uganda (Rwenzori Mountains)

Even though I grew up only 50km away from this mountain, I did not get a chance to hike it til 2018. Growing up, we studied a lot about the infamous Kilembe copper mines that lay at the mountain base and how for a few decades, the British through colonization had taken ownership, dug deep tunnels into the mountains, quickly depleted the mines and then abandoned them. The Rwenzori ranges aka the mountains of the moon as christened by Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150, lie in South Western Uganda have the third highest peak in Africa called Mt Stanley at 5109m. They are home to so much wildlife including my personal favorite, the African elephant and are also one of the sources of the Nile. I booked my 8 days tour HERE. I noticed immediately that Rwenzori was much wetter and muddier than Mt Kenya. It also had a lot more flora and fauna hosting over 70 mammals and 220 bird species which makes it a good choice for wildlife and nature lovers. We reached the snow-peaked summit, Mt Stanley on day six at 03:00 am and then it was a 2 days descent. We then had a cultural experience with the indigenous tribe that make a home of the Rwenzori mountains called The Bakonzo which I found very enlightening. They love to eat fish and women do almost all the heavy lifting. I saw many women carrying 2 or 3 bunches of matooke (each typically weighs 12 kg) on their heads all at once. Right next to Mt Rwenzori is the beautiful Queen Elizabeth National park, but that's a story for another day...

A woman carries 2 bunches of matooke and a baby on her back

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