The climb to the Mount Kilimanjaro summit via the Rongai Route is among the most rewarding, life-affirming challenges a climber can undertake. This somewhat gentler route to the highest peak in Africa is less traveled than others, allowing hikers a more gradual ascent along a quieter trail. In addition, Rongai route, unlike the more popular Machame route and Marangu route, affords views of both the northern and southern faces of Mount Kilimanjaro. Popular itineraries allow for five or six days of climbing.
The Rongai route presently begins just south of Tanzania’s border with Kenya. The route, still named for its original starting point in the border village of Rongai, now begins in Nalemoru near Loitokitok. Thus, climbers should note that the Rongai route to the Kilimanjaro summit is sometimes referred to as the Nalemoru or Loitokitok route too.
The trek to the Kilimanjaro summit begins with a hike through tranquil farmlands, fragrant cypress plantations, and patches of mountain forest. Colobus monkeys call from the trees, and bird watchers will appreciate spotting the rare olive ibis, the bold moorland chat, and countless other alpine bird species. Porters may choose to set up camp on the edge of the moorland after several hours of hiking; hikers will benefit from the opportunity to acclimatize.
The following day, the Rongai route up Mount Kilimanjaro continues through an expansive heather forest broken by occasional stretches of rocky terrain. The hiking activities conclude by sunset when porters and climbers make camp in a Kikelewa cave.
The next morning, while climbing Kilimanjaro, climbers will spot the glaciers of Kibo as they move toward “the saddle”, a mountain desert slung between the range’s of Mawenzi and Kibo peaks. At this height, little vegetation can survive. The Rongai route becomes quite rocky, and scenery consists mainly of impressive boulders set against rolling white clouds. Looking downward, porters and climbers may see only a blanket of fog.
By the fourth day, moving ever close to the Kilimanjaro summit, hikers will be well aware of the diminished oxygen. Fortunately, the landscape will remain the same – windswept but gently sloping. By nightfall, as they approach the Kibo Huts end of Rongai route, they will see their final challenge: the Mount Kilimanjaro summit.
Reaching the summit is of course the highlight of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Still, some climbers choose not to ascend to the uppermost point, Uhuru Peak; the thin atmosphere and chilled air leave little time for adventure at the highest heights. Thus, regardless of how far one ascends, all hikers receive a certificate from park authorities at a point near the peak. Then, turning onto a downhill trail, hikers breathe in a welcome supply of oxygen as they embark on their triumphant return.