From the Journal

Mount Meru, Tanzania: A big "little" brother


Inspiration

Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street.” – William Blake

There aren’t many more adventurous and challenging feats than conquering the highest mountain in Africa – Mt. Kilimanjaro. Gazing over Africa from its “roof” is one of the most beautiful and daring things one can experience.

aerial view of mount meru
Aerial view of Mount Meru, Tanzania

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street.” – William Blake

That is until you’ve climbed Tanzania’s second highest volcanic mountain and witnessed the sunrise from behind the peaks of Mt. Kilimanjaro at 4,566m above sea level, whilst over your shoulder to the west, the moon begins to sink below the jagged horizon. You might just find a moment of clarity up there.

Mount kilimanjaro as seen from mount meru
Mount Kilimanjaro as seen from the summit of Mount Meru

Mount Meru, lying 70 km’s southwest in the shadows of Kilimanjaro, is an active volcano towering over the town of Arusha. The climb to the summit is rigorous with its high altitude, freezing temperatures, steep ascents over rocky inclines and narrow ridges to traverse, making it, in its own right, a profoundly challenging mountain to conquer. The rugged ash cone of this dormant volcano has not seen any lava action for quite some time and is not predicted to do so anytime soon – allowing you to eliminate at least one worry.

 "This is no volcanic mountain to take lightly. Mount Meru is its own deal."

climbing mount meru

Because of Mount Meru’s big brother, Kilimanjaro, many people are unaware of the “little”, free-standing active volcano. And that’s why we love it. You’re unlikely to cross paths with many people on your formidable journey.


Open to amateur hikers and athletes, and sometimes used as a ‘warm up’ acclimatiser for Kilimanjaro, this is no volcanic mountain to take lightly. Mount Meru is its own deal.

hiking mount meru

Before the climb

The climb involves long days of trekking moderate to steep slopes over rough paths as you ascend to altitudes where the effects will most definitely be felt. You don’t need the physique of a gladiator to conquer Mount Meru, but we highly recommend that your fitness is at a reasonable level for safety reasons as well as your own enjoyment. You may find it tricky to absorb everything occurring around you if you’re fighting for gasps of air.


Give yourself time to train. Two months before your expedition, replicate what you will be doing by going on long hikes and walks over undulating terrain. You’ll be hiking 4-6 hours per day, and the pinnacle of your expedition will see you spend 11-13 hours on foot. So, clear your schedule, add 10kg’s to a rucksack and hit the trails. You need to be able to handle this much weight on your back, your porters have the rest covered.

"So, clear your schedule, add 10kg’s to a rucksack and hit the trails."

Mount Meru Training

On top of this, we recommend delving into running, cycling and swimming. And, of course, yoga to attain physical and mental prowess.


The biggest battle you may encounter could be yourself.


Be aware of false summits. False summits can have a debilitating psychological effect. Ever experienced a sinking, punched-in-the-gut feeling? It’s 4:30am, you’ve been hiking for 4 hours, your comfort food is done, your lungs and calves are screaming, but you’re nearly at the summit. You’re okay. Just a few more grudging steps to the summit. You turn a corner. You aren’t close. You want to give up. But you’re prepared for this. You push on.


Gear. The basic idea behind the gear you’ll need is to keep you warm, avoiding hypothermia or frostbite, dry and protected from the sun. Once you’ve set your heart on conquering this volcanic mountain, we’ll share our favourite gear with you. You’d be wise to get a head start with wearing in solid, comfortable hiking boots so as to avoid expedition-ruining blisters.

route mount meru
mount meru

On the mountain

Your Mount Meru expedition will see you spend 4 days tackling the volcanic mountain as you trek through grasslands, tropical rainforest, alpine meadows, moorlands and desert uplands to the icy summit.


Your first day will see you spend 4-5 hours on foot, passing through the ‘fig tree arch’ and hiking over game-filled grassy plains and montane forest, ascending from 1,500m to 2,500m above sea level to the Miriakamba Huts. An armed ranger, along with porters and a guide, will be escorting you through the wild terrain. Don’t let this first day of lush, green rainforest punctuated with waterfalls deceive you.

"Your first day will see you spend 4-5 hours on foot, passing through the ‘fig tree arch’ and hiking over game-filled grassy plains and montane forest, ascending from 1,500m to 2,500m above sea level."

Mount Meru Gear

Day 2 will see you spend 4-6 hours on foot as your path becomes much steeper passing through fine forests and moorland, ascending another 1,050m. At 3,050m above sea level, the air will become crisper and your breathing shorter, as the air thins depriving you of oxygen. You begin to rise above the clouds and gain some perspective of what you have accomplished thus far.


Upon reaching the Saddle Huts, you have the opportunity to hike to the peak Little Meru at 3,820m above sea level. Along with the stunning views of Kilimanjaro, this is a great acclimatisation hike to prepare you for the pinnacle of your expedition.

view of kilimanjaro from mount meru

Day 3 – The pinnacle. This is what you’re here for. You’ll spend a gruelling 11-13 hours on foot ascending a further 1,002m to 4,556m above sea level before descending 2,062m. This is where it gets real.


The clock strikes midnight. It’s near freezing. You sink warm cups of tea and, barely awake, begin your trance-like trek through the pitch black night, traversing the exhilarating and narrow crater rim path, no more than a few feet wide. Sheer drops on either side. Perhaps it’s a good thing you can’t see.


One step forward, half a step back. Scrambling up rock faces. Crawling on all fours. It’s been six hours. The summit, Socialist Peak, is within arm’s reach. You creep forward with everything you’ve got left in you. You’re on the summit of Mount Meru. You’ve done it. To the east, the sun begins to rise behind Kilimanjaro, as the moon sets in the west. The ice begins to thaw. The wind is howling. You’re frozen, stuck in awe. It’s an exceptional moment.

Mount Meru Summit

It’s over all too soon and you begin the trek back down to the Miriakamba Huts for your last night on the mountain.


Day 4 sees you descend 1000m over 2-3 hours back through the montane forest to the comfort and safety of the earth’s floor.

After the climb

You just accomplished something great. You deserve a Kilimanjaro beer. Well, that’s a personal favourite. Any one will do. A beer and epsom salts. A bath in epsom salts will help your muscles recover rapidly so that you can stay on your feet.


If you’re yearning for more, read Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

mount meru views
Joey Cameron
Written by
Joseph Cameron

NYC based, South African transplant, Joey Cameron, is a freelance writer, travel-nerd, natural food enthusiast, personal trainer and brand owner. Characterised by an insatiable hunger for passport stamps and a somewhat strange (non)sense of humour, he can found regularly scanning the skies for ways to up, up and getaway.


Similar articles

Travel Tips

Discover Kenya

Your full introduction to Kenya.

Gear

Safari photography tips

Top photography tips to keep in mind for that once in a lifetime wildlife encounter.

Travel tips

The Mokoro safari

A mokoro safari is a quintessentially Okavango Delta experience.

Travel tips

Botswana travel guide

Your guide to everything you need to know about the famous wildlife destination, Botswana.

Travel tips

South Luangwa National Park

Everything you need to know about this amazing Zambian park.

Travel tips

Best time to visit Africa

Looking to visit Africa but not sure when? This should help.

Travel tips

Kolmanskop Namibia: A Ghost Town

Have you heard of the ghost town in the middle of Namibia's desert?

Inspiration

Exploring the highest sand dunes in Namibia

What you can expect from a day tour to the famous sand dunes of the Namib desert.

Accommodation

Top luxury Namibia lodges countdown | 06 - 04

Find out which Namibia luxury lodges made it onto our top 6 list.

Accommodation

Top luxury Namibia lodges countdown | 03 - 01

Our top 3 Namibia luxury lodges for your next trip to this incredible African destination.

Travel tips

The Okavango Delta safari uncovered

Everything you need to know about planning your Okavango Delta safari.

Travel tips

Your Southern Africa safari experience

A quick look at what your next Southern Africa safari could look like.

Inspiration

Blyde River Canyon

Here's how to do Blyde River Canyon differently.

Gear

Photography in the Kruger National Park

Everything you need to know about Photography in the Kruger National Park.

Travel tips

Hidden Gems in South Africa: Off-the-grid destinations

Our top hidden gems in South Africa to help you get off the grid.

Travel tips

Top 10 surf spots in Cape Town

Get your boards on the roof, we're going surfing in the Mother city.

Inspiration

Okavango Delta scenic flight: A bucket list experience

An Okavango Delta scenic flight needs to be on your bucket list.

Travel tips

Etosha National Park

Find out everything you need to know about Namibia's top wildlife attraction.

Travel tips

Quad bike safari in Botswana

Everything you need to know about a quad bike safari in Botswana.

Inspiration

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro offers intrepid explorers a challenging and exhilarating adventure.

Travel tips

Hell's Gate National Park, Kenya

Five reasons to visit Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya

Wildlife

Malawi Safari: Majete Wildlfe Reserve

The Majete Wildlife Reserve is Malawi's best kept secret.

Accommodation

Giraffe Manor: An out of Africa experience

Giraffe Manor is arguably Kenya's most famous lodge. 

Accommodation

Extraordinary luxury lodges in Malawi + Mozambique

Our top picks of the luxury lodges in Malawi and Mozambique.

Travel tips

Mozambique dhow safari

Discover the incredible experience of a Mozambique dhow safari.

Inspiration

Unchartered territory

We are passionate about pioneering travel in unchartered territory.

Wildlife

A Mozambique holiday spent diving with whale sharks

Diving with whale sharks in Mozambique is a true bucket list experience.

Accommodation

Our finest Cape Winelands accommodation

Our top 3 picks for hotels in the Cape Winelands area.

Inspiration

Exotic Reunion Island

Have you heard of the exotic Reunion Island?

Travel tips

Gorilla trekking in the Congo

Find out why the Congo is the best place in the world for your Gorilla trekking adventure.

Wildlife

Eagles in the Kruger National Park

The eagles in the Kruger National Park are of the most majestic creatures of Africa. 

Travel tips

Our top picks for Braai Day

Top spots in South Africa to celebrate Braai day.

Travel log

Our African safari experience at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

When Sanbona Wildlife Reserve invited us to spend a night at their prestigious Gondwana Lodge, we were more than thrilled.

Inspiration

Top five reasons to travel in 2017

Why you need to travel, now.

Inspiration

The Otter Trail: A South African adventure

Everything you can expect from South Africa's oldest hiking trail.

Guide

Our Cape Town guide: Experience a day in our lives

To make your time in our backyard the best that it can be, we’ve handcrafted a comprehensive, interactive Cape Town Guide.

Guide

The latest additions to our Cape Town guide

We just came across 3 spots which, you’ll agree, you need to know about. Soon to be added to our guide, but check them out now.

Ambassadors

7 Summits: Justin De Wet

Ker & Downey Africa Ambassador Justin De Wet chases entrance to the 7 summit club.

Inspiration

Safaricom marathon: Kenya

Everything you need to know about the wildest marathon in the world.

Inspiration

Cape to Rio: Clyde Barendse

A week before their departure, we met up with Clyde for a quick coffee to get a sense of where his head was at before his Cape to Rio race.

Inspiration

An African adventure for every terrain

A quick guide to choosing which African adventure type best suits your travel style, preferences and personality.

Wildlife

Walking with wild dogs in Kenya

There are few adventure options in Kenya, or the world, that offer the experience, thrill, remoteness and adventure of walking with wild dogs.

Inspiration

An adventure honeymoon: Reunion Island

There comes a time in every man’s life to settle down and tie the knot. That’s the easy part. The challenging part? Finding an adventure honeymoon destination.

Inspiration

Travel cues: Recommendations for your time off

If you are running out of ideas, have no fear, we have the travel cues you should know about.

Lifestyle

Reset your body clock under the African sky [life hack]

Dr. Wright’s recent study has shown that one week spent exposed to the Earth’s natural dusk-to-dawn cycle is enough to reset our human circadian clock.

Inspiration

Climbing Mount Kenya

We break down everything you need to do to get from that office chair to the summit of Mount Kenya.

Travel tips

Nightcaps: African drinks to pursue

In Africa, ending off our ultra-adventurous days with something a bit stronger than our 7am coffee comes with the territory.

Gear

Drone photography: Tricks of the trade

Drone Photography has skyrocketed to become the most captivating means of documenting the world from above and we have to admit, we are hooked.

Ambassador

Joe Pietersen: Rugby, rhinos + drones

We sit down with Ker & Downey Africa Ambassador, Joe Pietersen.

Travel tips

African travel tips

8 of the most important things to keep in mind on your next trip to the African continent.

Inspiration

Backtrack your trip: 5 songs to add to your playlist

You’re off to Africa. Everything has to be perfect, even your playlist.

Inspiration

You don't need a reason to visit Victoria Falls

You don't need a reason to visit Victoria Falls, but we've listed five great ones for you anyway.

Travel tips

South African national parks + game reserves

 South African national parks + game reserves should be on the bucket list of anyone with a healthy appetite for wild LuxVenture® destinations.

Travel tips

Top 5 travel apps

Book your flight, pack your bags, grab an Uber to the airport and be sure to download these 5 apps along the way.

Travel tips

City sightseeing in Cape Town

We can all agree that nobody knows a city’s sightseeing secrets better than the locals. Here's how to see Cape Town like one of them.

Ambassadors

Climbing Mount Aconcagua: debrief

When you start considering -20 degrees as good weather and you are taking out emergency evacuation insurance up to 5000m above sea-level, we think it’s safe to say that you are taking your hobby to the next level.

Travel tips

Travel like a pro

One word comes to mind when people ask me how to get ready for travel in Africa – preparation.

Travel tips

Gentleman’s guide to the safari outfit

Wearing the right safari outfit is crucial. Being in the right gear allows you the opportunity to focus on what's important - the wildlife.

Lifestyle

African Coffee + where to get your fix

If you’re visiting South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania, here are the top African coffee spots to check out.

Inspiration

Golf tournament getaways: South Africa

Here is a guide to the best African Golf tournaments, courses and getaways in South Africa. 

Ambassadors

Francois Malherbe: On his expeditions, Land Cruisers + Mike Horn

Here is a man who said no to the corporate world and followed his gut in pursuing his passion for exploration.

LuxVenture® trips

5 unique Kilimanjaro safaris

While you may consider Kilimanjaro safaris to be the act of jumping in the back of a 4x4 Jeep, there are many unique ways to experience this region.

Accommodation

Zanzibar hotels and lodges

Accommodation

Grumeti Reserve lodges and camps

Accommodation

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans lodges and camps

Accommodation

Masai Mara hotels and lodges

Accommodation

Okavango Delta lodges and camps

Accommodation

Moremi Game Reserve lodges and camps

Accommodation

South Luangwa lodges and camps

Accommodation

Sossusvlei hotels and lodges

Accommodation

Kruger National Park lodges and hotels