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Guest blog: The wildlife wonders on Kilimanjaro

Written by Fiona November 14 2012

My guest blogger Matt Cook enjoys travelling and cycling, which is a great benefit given his role as eCommerce Manager for Adventure Travel company Explore! Here he writes about the wildlife wonders on a climb of Africa’s iconic Kilimanjaro mountain in Tanzania. While many people see this great mountain as a once-in-a-lifetime summit challenge (you’ll recall my guest blogger walked Kili for charity), there are many other reasons to visit Kili, including spectacular wildlife.

Matt writes: Kilimanjaro ticks many boxes for travellers, including a great challenge, stunning scenery – and a wonder world of wildlife. And holidaymakers do not even need to go that high on the iconic mountain to experience wildlife up close.

Many travellers so focus on the goal of reaching the summit, but it would be a shame to miss out on seeing some of the animals that live in the national park surrounding the peak.

Here is a guide to the wildlife that you may come across at each stage of your Kilimanjaro climb.

Kilimanjaro farmland and forests

The first stage of your trek will typically see you hike through sections of farmland before reaching the forest on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro. There are numerous wildlife-spotting opportunities here, so keep your eyes peeled as you walk.

Colobus monkeys – both the western black and white species – live in the trees, while you may also catch a glimpse of a leopard if you have very keen eyes (and are lucky, as these big cats are notoriously difficult to see). Bushbabies are another of the creatures that lives in the forest, along with buffalo, which are easy to spot when they are around thanks to their size.

Another large animal you may come across at this stage of your climb is an elephant – or more likely a herd – as they roam the national park and are often observed by walkers.

Kilimanjaro moorland

The moorland is the next habitat on an ascent of the mountain and there is still plenty of wildlife to see for those with a keen eye. Among the species to look out for just beyond the forest line is the tree hyrax – a small mammal that looks a little like an oversized guinea pig – and although these creatures spend much of their time in the trees (as their name suggests), they can sometimes be seen out and about.

Around the timber-line you might see one of two species of duiker – a kind of small antelope – either the bushbuck or red duiker. Further into the moorland, you may also come across the grey duiker, while buffaloes occasionally venture out of the forest and further up the mountain.

The eland is another moorland species to watch out for as you hike. This is a distinctive antelope that is easily recognisable thanks to its impressive spiral horns. It is also the largest – and slowest – of the antelope species, but don’t let that fool you, as these creatures have been known to jump up to 8ft high from standing.

Elands are also interesting because the colour of their fur changes as they get older. Young elands will often be a tawny-brown colour, which gradually becomes grey and then black as they age.

Kilimanjaro alpine desert

Unsurprisingly, the higher you get on your ascent, the less wildlife you will see. However, there are some birds to look out for while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, especially once you get closer to the summit and much other life is scarce.

The most commonly seen species at high altitudes is the white-necked raven, while other birds that have been observed in this area include the hill chat, Hunter’s cisticola and the impressively-named scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird.

If you take the Lemosho route to reach the summit, you will pass the Shira Ridge, which is where you have the best chance of spotting lammergeiers (or bearded vultures) at high altitudes.

Have you climbed Kilimanjaro? What wildlife did you come across along the way?

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