100 square kilometers were burned on Kilimanjaro

NAt the weekend, helicopters always rattle over the northern Tanzanian city of Moshi and carry water from a nearby water reservoir up to Kilimanjaro. Although the situation has calmed down in the meantime, caution is advised. For days, heavy fires raged on Africa’s highest mountain. The fire has only been officially under control since the use of the helicopters, which began last Thursday, and a rain front that pulled over from the Indian Ocean from Thursday to Friday.

Thilo Thielke

Freelance Rapporteur for Africa based in Cape Town.

Nevertheless, attentive observers reported isolated smoke signals from the east side on Sunday and alerted the national park authorities. The latter has since announced that a little more than five percent of the national park area had been affected by the fire that had broken out a week earlier: almost a hundred of a total of almost 1,700 square kilometers of protected area. Most of the erica bushes, evergreen dwarf bushes that grow in the higher elevations of the almost 6000 meter high massif, were destroyed. Routes for mountaineers did not have to be closed, only twelve huts burned down on the Marangu route to the east. Fortunately, the fire, the cause of which is still unclear, did not spread to the unique rainforest of Kilimanjaro. More rain is now eagerly expected in the region. Since the end of the long rainy season in June, it was partly bone dry on the mountain.

“The government reacted very late,” says Ulomi Ahimidiwe. “For days we watched in disbelief as the fire ate its way around the mountain and nobody intervened.” 35-year-old Ahimidiwe, owner of Professional Kilimanjaro Adventure, grew up on the mountain; He has climbed it himself 275 times; For seven years he has been taking travelers to the roof of Africa, in national parks such as the Serengeti or to Zanzibar. Six times a year he himself climbs up to the summit called Uhuru Peak, which was once called “Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze”, because Tanganyika was a German colony until 1915.

Of course, the worldwide fear of travel and the collapse of the world economy have also hit tourism in the East African state hard. Although the country is easy to travel to even in Corona times, its borders reopened early and the predominantly young population is hardly affected by the virus, guests are only slowly returning. “In a normal year we run around 170 safaris,” says Ahimidiwe. “So far this year there have been just 20. Instead of 14 employees, we still have four employees – and they get half their wages.”

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