Kilimanjaro is one of a series of volcanoes lying at the northern edge of the Tanzanian Central Plateau. It has two peaks: Mawenzi, which consists of volcanic plugs, and Kibo, the main summit rising to 5895 metres, which still has a complete crater. The lower slopes of Kilimanjaro number among the few fertile areas of Tanzania. Here, coffee and bananas can be grown up to about 2000 metres. On the higher slopes, up to about 3000 metres, you will find rainforests abounding in vegetation such as ferns, conifers, holly and cusso trees. The rainforests open out into a bushy heath. Rain seldom falls upwards of 4000 metres and, the higher we climb, the sparser the vegetation becomes, until we reach the level of permanent ice. Once, the glaciers of Kilimanjaro reached down to below 4000 metres but, already by 1930, they had receded to 4500 metres and they continue to melt. In the mid 19th century, the German missionary Johannes Rebmann was the first European to discover the snow on Kilimanjaro. Initially, his report met with disbelief: it was simply inconceivable that there could be a snow-clad mountain in the sweltering heat of East Africa. It was not until 1862 that the existence of snow was confirmed by Baron von Decken, who climbed to 4300 metres.
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