On the slopes of Kilimanjaro

sunrise-at-kilimanjaro-crater-rimSunrise at Kilimanjaro’s glaciated crater rim

kilimanjaro-from-savanna-grasslandsKilimanjaro from Kenya’s savanna grasslands

Located 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the equator on the Tanzanian-Kenyan border, Mount Kilimanjaro rises as one of the tallest solitary mountains in the world (Hemp, 2005; Hemp 2006a). Geologically, Mount Kilimanjaro is the eroded relic of an ancient volcano (Thomson, 2003). And with five climate zones that range from the equatorial tropics skirting the savanna plains at 700 meters (2,297 feet) to a glaciated peak of 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) (Hemp, 2006a), the hike up Kilimanjaro is a story unto itself.

The climate zones of Mount Kilimanjaro:

  • Zone 1: Lower countryside slopes/rainforest
  • Zone 2: Montane rainforest and heathlands
  • Zone 3: Heath and moorlands
  • Zone 4: Alpine desert
  • Zone 5: Arctic summit ice cap

The trail begins among the mountain’s rainforests, and then presses upward, winding through heath and moorlands before expanding out into an alpine desert to finally reach the summit, a dramatic, arctic ice cap (Hemp 2005; see also Thomson, 2003). This hike — the climb up Kilimanjaro — is said to be the shortest, most distinct, and most rewarding route one can take from the equator to a quintessential polar extreme.

As one might easily imagine, the mountain’s topography and vista captivates climbers, many of whom have no difficulty in marking their whereabouts by the identification of selected growth in vegetation. In fact, forest types vary from dry, succulent forests to the montane rainforests to subalpine cloud forests (Hemp2006c; see also Thomson, 2003). However, the montane rainforests are by far the prevailing type of woodlands found on Kilimanjaro (Hemp, 2006a). Montane rainforests are mountain rainforests that exhibit much cooler weather with a greater variance in temperature than the ecosystems of standard, tropical rainforests.

kilimanjaro's-montane-rainforestKilimanjaro’s montane rainforest

Kilimanjaro’s rainforests thrive on the air currents blowing in from the Indian Ocean (Thomson, 2003). This ever-abundant supply of warm, moist air is carried high up the mountain, at which point the air cools and condenses to form water droplets that fall precariously, bringing life to Kilimanjaro. Botanists particularly esteem this area because, despite an unusual absence of a bamboo zone, there is a high degree of biodiversity across the mountain’s ecosystems, with additional hidden pockets of specialized plant life (Hemp, 2006c). And such a view indeed renders Mount Kilimanjaro a microcosm of creation.

Can you imagine a career researching ecosystems that impact the various kinds of plants on the slopes of Kilimanjaro?

Botany is the study of plants, plant life, and the ecosystems associated with plants. Scientists who perform such work are called botanists, and there are many reasons why the study of botany is an important endeavor. For example, botanists contribute to our increasing knowledge on plant chemistry and biology to help seek out potential plant-based medicines for diseases such as cancer (Moudi, Go, Yong Seok Yien, & Nazre, 2013). In addition, several specialized areas within botany exist, with each of these areas being equally important, such as paleobotany, enthnobotany (Hemp, 2006b), and vegetation ecology (Hemp, 2002).

The book In Six Days: Why Fifty (50) Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation, edited by John Ashton (2000), tells the story of just how one botanist came to his understanding and identification of a young earth creation. Please see the following link: Professor George F. Howe (botany).

In addition, with various articles that review God’s great design evidenced in botany, the Institute of Creation Research publishes an online botany resource page. Interestingly, this page also includes a short video on how a mathematical sequence of numbers known as the Fibonacci numbers shows up in nature (such as pine cones, pineapples, and sunflowers).

Botany as your career path!

Diving into botany can be well worth the time to see if it is a good direction for your career. It just may be that your analysis of the data, together with the development of your own sound arguments, might gainfully advance creation science research.

Other famous and historical mountain treks?

Where on the earth can people find a greater hiking trail than that offered on Mount Kilimanjaro? Or for that matter, does one even exist? Mauna Kea in Hawaii might be a competitor. However, for very specific reasons, the answer to both of these questions lies in South America, and this spot will be the subject of a blog coming up in the near future.


Ashton, J.F. (Ed.). (2000). In six days: Why fifty (50) scientists choose to believe in creation. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

Hemp, A. (2002). Ecology of the pteridophytes on the southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro – I. Altitudinal distribution. Plant Ecology, 159(2), 211-239. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1015569125417.

Hemp, A. (2005). Climate change-driven forest fires marginalize the impact of ice cap wasting on Kilimanjaro. Global Change Biology, 11(7), 1013-1023. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2005.00968.x.

Hemp, A. (2006a). Continuum or zonation? Altitudinal gradients in the forest vegetation of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Plant Ecology, 184(1), 27-42. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11258-005-9049-4.

Hemp, A. (2006b). The banana forests of Kilimanjaro: Biodiversity and conservation of the Chagga homegardens. Biodiversity & Conservation, 15(4), 1193-1217. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10531-004-8230-8.

Hemp, A. (2006c). Vegetation of Kilimanjaro: Hidden endemics and missing bamboo. African Journal of Ecology, 44(3), 304-328. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2028.2006.00679.x.

Moudi, M., Go, R., Yong Seok Yien, C, & Nazre, M. (2013). Vinca Alkaloids. International Journal of Preventative Medicine, 4(11), 1231-1235. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883245/.

Thomson, H. (Writer & Director). (2003). Volcano above the clouds [Television series episode]. In H. Thomson (Producer), Nova. Boston, MA: WGBH Educational Foundation.