The Shira Plateau area of Kilimanjaro offers a fantastic opportunity to get high on a big mountain and to hike around this impressive World Heritage Site as a day trip. There are some great options for day hikes, perhaps an energetic day hike up along the ancient rim of the plateau or maybe something more relaxed sticking to the undulating floor, going as far as the photogenic ‘cone place’ or ‘Shira Needles’ at the southern end of the plateau. To the west the Kibo Massif of Kilimanjaro sweeps up to the glaciers near the summit, the rise scarred by deep valleys and eroded lava flows that stand like twisted modern sculptures in the harsh mountain weather. A number of streams tumble down this flank of the mountain, eventually joining together in a gulley that crosses the plateau before plunging down to the plains far below.
There is a fair amount of wildlife on the plateau and though most of it is elusive and nocturnal, with care the events of the night can be reconstructed from the footprints around the watering points on the streams. There are herds of buffalo as well as smaller gazelles and bushbuck, and the carcasses of eland and elephant higher on the mountain prove that these larger animals are occasional visitors also.
Your Walking Guide will know Kilimanjaro like the back of their hand so this will be an off-road adventure on Africa’s tallest peak – you won’t have to follow paths and trails! Your scrumptious lunch will be carried in a backpack along with an emergency first aid kit. Hikers will carry their own water and gear for all weather as there can be dramatic changes at this altitude. This is perfect for families, hikers coming off a safari who want to stretch their legs, those wanting to test their altitude capabilities and novice hikers. A great way to say that you’ve climbed ‘on’ Kili too!
Hikes in the Ngorongoro Highlands are always interesting, the topography is fantastic with stunning views either south across the vast Lake Eyasi, a soda lake in an offshoot of the Rift Valley lying thousands of feet below, to the convoluted remains of the multiple volcanoes that created this highland mass. A further attraction is that you will have a Maasai warrior as your guide who can offer incredible insights into the ways of the Maasai.
There is an opportunity to hike right out of the seasonal camp at Ngorongoro and head up through some woodland with a chance of occasional glimpses of wildlife thought the trees towards the ridge that leads into the highlands. The ridge is wide and grassy and not too steep and offers for the first time stunning views to the west over the vast, seemingly endless plains of the Serengeti.
Alternatively you can drive a little closer and hike up the valley and through the Maasai villages or ‘bomas’ that are scattered throughout the open woodland. As you climb higher the trees become closer together and the air becomes cooler and from here you can hike up onto the ridge and descend down its broad grass crest to camp.
You will be accompanied on the walk by your Guide, an armed Parks Ranger and a local Maasai guide. Along the way you may meet other Maasai herders grazing their cows and goats. By lunch time you will reach the high point of this ridge exposing more great views towards Oldonyo Lengai the active volcano that lies in the Rift Valley to the North.
This National Park offers great day hiking, whether its from African Environments private luxury camp or from Arusha Town.
After an early pick up from your hotel in the Arusha area we drive out to Arusha National Park. Having traversed the lower part of the park by vehicle and done a little game viewing on the way we will cross the main river that comes off the mountain and drive further up towards the crater of Mount Meru – the road is steep and the vegetation changes noticeably as we ascend. At about 6000 feet we will alight to begin the hike. There is no wide, manicured walking trail up here – we will slip through this ancient forest using the game trails and follow the contours as we climb higher. The forest is lush and damp, often smothered in cloud leading to an explosion of plant growth, with the high canopy blocking out much of the light and leaving the forest floor fairly clear. After coming upon a gorge we follow its course up to some impressive waterfalls before arriving at our bush meal.
Following a sumptuous meal at the foot of the falls, there is the option of hiking a little more or heading back to your Arusha hotel, arriving there late afternoon, or of stopping off at our Itikoni Seasonal Camp. Set at about 6500 feet in the Park, this Camp has ensuite tents, a Mess tent and a large Lounge tent. Enjoy a hot shower and the opportunity to change, then a light tea and biscuits before driving either to Arusha or to Kilimanjaro Airport to catch your flight home.