Kilimanjaro National Park

  • Roger N. Scoon


The free-standing mountain of Kilimanjaro is a giant edifice comprised of three discrete volcanoes. They collectively cover an area of 6,000 km2. The two lowest peaks, Shira and Mawenzi are eroded remnants of extinct cones. The highest peak, Kibo is an eroded caldera with an extensive summit plateau that includes the Reusch Crater. Shira is part of the Older Volcanism of northern Tanzania (2.5–1.9 Ma), but Mawenzi (1.0–0.45 Ma) and Kibo (0.48–0.15 Ma) are associated with the Younger Volcanism. Kibo displays a differentiation trend in which trachyandesite gives way initially to phonolite and then to nephelinite, characteristic of the explosive volcanism associated with many volcanoes in the Gregory Rift. The mountain reveals successive botanical zones, including montane forest, heath and moorland, Alpine desert and icefields. There is evidence of multiple cycles of ice advance and retreat during the Late Pleistocene Ice Ages. Cores drilled into the Northern Ice Field, Kibo, provide information on the age of the ice and climatic cycles during the Holocene epoch. The rapidly receding icefields and glaciers are relicts of ice that has a maximum age of 11,700 BP. Current trends suggest the ice may disappear in the near future. The Reusch Crater reveals evidence of geothermal heat and Kibo is categorised as a dormant volcano although there is no definite evidence of historical activity. Large parts of the mountain are protected in a national park that attracts huge numbers of visitors. There are seven main trekking routes offering the opportunity to reach Uhuru Peak on Kibo (5,895 m) with little technical difficulty. The ascent of Mawenzi, a precipitous cone which is the remnant of an eroded crater with near-vertical outer cliffs and steep ravines on the outer slopes is rarely attempted.


Botanical zones Caldera Ice recession Kibo Pleistocene glaciation Reusch Crater Volcanism 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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