As well as the physical challenges and adventurous spirit that characterise Kilimanjaro trekking, the visual treats on offer as you ascend the mighty 5,892 metre mountain are legendary – the sweeping African plains below, the soaring sky above. What is less well documented is the mountain’s wildlife – in part because it can often seem scarce, while the striking landscape is ever-present. But the most eagle-eyed of trekkers may be able to rack up a few sightings. Of course, it helps to know what’s there to be seen, and on which parts of the mountain you’re likely to find different species, so here is a guide to help keen wildlife watchers know what they’re looking for.
The presence of fauna is not an issue in the forested zone of the mountain’s lower slopes; rather, it is the lush forest cover that provides shelter for the resident wildlife that can make sightings difficult. But as one of the most intriguing stretches of terrain available on the Kilimanjaro trekking route, by virtue of its richly varied plant life, this is an area that warrants travelling through slowly enough to get a good look at the natural wonders on display, and patient observers will be rewarded with a number of potential sightings. Look out for primates: blue monkeys, and their rarer – but still visible – cousins, colobus monkeys, as well as olive baboons. If you venture outside at night, look out for bats and wide-eyed bush babies. Other, harder-to-spot mammals include mongooses, servals, civets, and aardvarks.
Beyond the tree line, animal life is far more scarce – although, without the forest cover, it can be easier to notice motion when living creatures are present. Much of the life up here comprises of rodents: climbing mouse, mole rat, and, that rare beast, the species that thrives at these heights – the four-striped grass mouse. These mice are noticeable by the distinctive stripes on their backs, and can be seen running about on the rocky terrain on most Kilimanjaro trekking routes. Larger mammals that have been sighted here include the elegant grey duiker and its brightly-coated relative the red duiker, and the much larger eland – all species of antelope – as well as buffalo and elephants and even lions, although chances of sighting those are slim; most of these species only venture above the tree line for short periods of time.
One area in which you will not want for sightings while Kilimanjaro trekking is avian life. Whether it’s the hornbills, turaco, bulbuls and other colourful birds of the forest zone, or the birds of prey for whom the upper slopes make perfect hunting grounds, there are many opportunities to see and photograph spectacular examples of bird life – so don’t forget your camera.