The climatic zones otherwise known as the vegetation zones of Mount Kilimanjaro can be categorized into five main zones. Each of these zones has weather patterns that are unique to them. They are so distinctive that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro can seem like moving from the warm equator climate to the harsh cold of the North Pole. Standing at a staggering 5,895m, Mount Kilimanjaro is high enough to create its own weather and microclimates enabling it to have its own climate zones, vegetation zones, and weather. Not only does the terrain change on every climate zone on the mountain, but also, the flora and fauna.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, from the base of the mountain to Uhuru Peak you will come across diverse weather conditions, landscapes and temperatures.

The gap of elevation between the base of the mountain and the summit is so huge that it is possible to do segment the mountain into five climate zones. From the warm temperatures at the base to subzero temperatures at the top of Kilimanjaro.

Climate zones on Mount KilimanjaroList of the Climate Zones

Below is the list of the five climate zones on Mount Kilimanjaro from the lowest altitude to the highest in that order.

  1. Bushland/Cultivated Zone 2,600 to 6,000 ft (800 to 1,800 m)
  2. Rain Forest Zone 6,000 to 9,200 ft (1,800 to 2,800 m)
  3. Heath/Moorland Zone 9,200 to 13,200 ft (2,800 to 4,000 m)
  4. Alpine Desert Zone 13,200 to 16,500 ft (4,000 to 5,000 m)
  5. Arctic Zone 16,500+ ft (5,000+ m)

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Kilimanjaro’s Five Ecological Zones

Below is the detailed information about Mount Kilimanjaro’s zones in ascending order with details touching on the characteristics of the climatic zone, weather pattern, and the mean precipitation per annum.

Bushland/Cultivated Zone

Altitude: 2,600 to 6,000 ft (800 to 1,800 m)
Precipitation: 20 to 70 in (500 to 1,800 mm)

DAY TEMPS: 90°F – 110°F (30°F
NIGHT TEMPS: 60s – 80s F

This is the lowest climate zone in terms of altitude on Mount Kilimanjaro. Found on the lowest elevation, the cultivated zone of the mountain is characterized by plantations, human settlements, villages, and grassland mostly savannah.

It is basically expansive natural land that features a huge tract of bushes, plains, some lowland forests, cultivated crops, and coffee plantations. The cultivated zone is very fertile due to the rich volcanic soil found around here which is good for farming and agricultural activities. Naturally, the people that live on and around Mount Kilimanjaro, the Chagga tribe are farmers. They settled on the base and lower slopes of the mountain to do farming activities and growing cash crops like coffee and tropical fruits. Man-made streams from the slopes of the mountain provide water for irrigation. Mount Kilimanjaro provides employment to the people of the area around the mountain as most of the porters and guides are sourced from the nearby villages and towns. Due to encroachment of the fertile land, large wild animals are a rare occurrence in this zone, up until the rainforest zone apart from birds, small animals and nocturnal animals like the tree hyrax and monkeys still exist in this zone.

Cultivation zone Kilimanjaro

Rain Forest Zone

Altitude: 6,000 to 9,200 ft (1,800 to 2,800 m)
Precipitation: 79 to 40 in (2,000 to 1,000 mm)

DAY TEMPS: 70s – 90s F
NIGHT TEMPS: 40s – 60s F

The rainforest zone of Mount Kilimanjaro records a high of six to seven feet of rain per annum on average and has abundant biodiversity. Temperatures are mostly warm during the day while the humidity is usually high in this zone that is heavily forested. On the contrary, the temperatures at night are quite low especially when it rains at night. This zone appears to be constantly rainy and wet. This is one of those zones that require waterproof gear or rain gear while climbing the mountain. Kilimanjaro’s rainforest zone is rich in flora and fauna. The tall camphorwood trees are home to many bird species and other animals like the colobus monkey, blue monkey, and a variety of birds. Apart from the animals, the plant life here is diverse with different types of plant life surviving on this zone which includes, orchids, ferns, sycamore figs, olive trees, and palms with various fungi like mosses crawling on the barks of trees. Other big animals also roam this zone in search of food. Those lucky enough can spot wild animals that live near Kilimanjaro like elephants, buffalos, antelopes, and other animals especially for climbers plying the Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, or Northern Circuit routes.

rainforest zone Kilimanjaro

Heath/Moorland Zone

Altitude: 9,200 to 13,200 ft (2,800 to 4,000 m)
Precipitation: 51 to 21 in (1,300 to 530 mm)

DAY TEMPS: 50s – 70s F
NIGHT TEMPS: 30s – 50s F

The heath and moorland zone also referred to as the heather or moorland is the last zone before you reach the alpine zone. This zone is distinguished by heath-like vegetation and terrain filled with wildflowers.

Heath and moorland zone is a high altitude zone located at a high elevation of 2,800m to 4000m above sea level and is mostly where climbers begin to show signs of altitude sickness. This zone is also suitable for acclimatization purposes as oxygen levels begin to drop from this region onwards as you climb higher up the mountain.

As you climb higher, it tends to become cooler with the air becoming drier and the vegetation becomes dotted with heather-like shrubs. The region becomes semi-alpine with very little vegetation.

Vegetation on heath and moorland zone of Mount Kilimanjaro features Giant lobelias and senecios prominently. In fact, this zone is synonymous for this unique flora of groundsels (Senecios) and the Giant lobelias. The most prominent florae are the unique and iconic Senecios (also known as groundsels) and Giant Lobelias. Kilimanjaro’s giant Senecios and Lobelia are endemic to the region. The Senecios, which is a Latin word for “old man,” have thick weathered stems topped with large, succulent rosettes that resemble beards. Lobelias, on the other hand, look like oddly-shaped palm trees with rosettes that fold in during evenings to protect themselves from the cold temperatures at night time. Black and white crows roam around the heath and moorland zone of Mount Kilimanjaro, frequenting the camps located here. Also, noticeable birds that visit this mountain region are a few birds of prey like the crowned eagle and the lammergeyer eagle that visit this zone in search of prey.

Current weather conditions for Mount Kilimanjaro’s heath zone can be found here.

Moorland zone Kilimanjaro

Alpine Desert Zone

Altitude: 13,200 to 16,500 ft (4,000 to 5,000 m)
Precipitation: 10 in (250 mm)

DAY TEMPS: 30s – 40s F
NIGHT TEMPS: 10s – 30s F

The alpine desert is just that, an arid region on the alpine zone of Mount Kilimanjaro. Water is scarce in this region of Mount Kilimanjaro hence the scarce vegetation that dots the alpine desert zone. Since the place is near the equator and the air is thinner, this region has high levels of solar radiation, one of the main reasons why you must apply sunscreen on your skin. Temperatures here can reach as high as100 degrees Fahrenheit and above during the day while at night, temperatures will fall dramatically to subzero. The freezing temperatures at the alpine desert zone of Kilimanjaro often leave a dusting of morning frost on the tents. The alpine desert zone is classified as a “very high altitude” zone of Mount Kilimanjaro. For proper acclimatization procedures, it is recommended that you spend some more time in this region by using the “climb high, sleep low” rule of acclimatizing and minimize the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Since this zone has thin soils with very poor capillarity, only plants like Everlastings, tussock grass and different types of moss can survive such harsh environments as the soil is too thin to retain water. Animals here are scarce to none as the conditions here are too harsh to support animal survival.

Current weather conditions for Mount Kilimanjaro’s alpine desert zone can be found here.

alpine zone Kilimanjaro

Arctic Zone

Altitude: 16,500+ ft (5,000+ m)
Precipitation: <4 in (100 mm)

DAY TEMPS: 10s – 30s F
NIGHT TEMPS: -10s – 20s F

Last but not least, the Arctic region is the last region you encounter on Mount Kilimanjaro. It is rare to find such a region with its characteristic on the regions surrounding the equator. The Arctic region is distinguished by ice and rocks, virtually harsh enough to keep away any animals. There are no signs of plant life here either as the area is filled with layers of ice cover and glaciers that can be seen for Mount Kilimanjaro’s crater rim. Night times come along with extreme cold and strong winds in contrast to the scorching sun of daytime.

The Arctic zone falls under “extreme altitude” regions. In comparison, oxygen levels here are about half of what you would normally breathe in at sea level. This makes breathing to become slower with difficulties.

This zone also causes climbers to feel various symptoms of altitude sickness due to the high altitudes of about 5,000m and above. It is strongly recommended that you spend a little or brief time here to minimize or avoid altitude sickness. Tranquil Kilimanjaro recommends that you descend briefly after reaching the summit.

Current weather conditions for Mount Kilimanjaro’s artic zone can be found here.

Arctic zone Kilimanjaro

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