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Kilimanjaro Shira Plateau: The Volcano That Collapsed on Kilimanjaro

Shira Plateau: The Volcano That Collapsed on Kilimanjaro.

Nestled majestically on the slopes of Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Shira Plateau stands as a testament to the awe-inspiring forces of nature. This vast expanse of land, formed millions of years ago through volcanic activity, offers a glimpse into the geological history of the region like no other. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a journey to unravel the mysteries of the Shira Plateau, delving into its formation, unique features, and ecological significance.

Origins of the Shira Caldera
At the heart of the Shira Plateau lies the remnants of a once-mighty volcano, known as Shira Caldera. This geological marvel was formed over 500,000 years ago, during a period of intense volcanic activity in the region. As magma surged from the depths of the Earth, colossal eruptions gave rise to the towering edifice of Mount Kilimanjaro, with the Shira Caldera emerging as one of its defining features.

Shira grew to a towering height of over 16,000 feet (4,877 meters).
Around 500,000 years ago, volcanic activity ceased, and Shira collapsed into a massive caldera. The forces of gravity and erosion flattened the once-prominent cone, leaving behind the Shira Plateau we see today.
Remarkably, while Shira surrendered to time, its sister cones, Kibo and Mawenzi, still stand tall.

The Collapse Event: An Epic Cataclysm
Millennia of volcanic activity eventually led to a cataclysmic event that would shape the landscape of the Shira Plateau forever. Around 360,000 years ago, the vast magma chambers beneath the volcano began to empty, causing the summit of Kilimanjaro to collapse inward. This monumental event, known as the Shira Caldera collapse, created the expansive plateau that we see today, stretching over 80 square kilometers in size.

High Altitude Wilderness
Perched at an elevation of over 3,000 meters above sea level. The Shira Plateau boasts a rugged terrain characterized by sweeping grasslands, rocky outcrops, and ancient lava flows. Its lofty altitude and remote location make it a haven for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. Offering unparalleled opportunities for trekking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

The Shira Plateau lies at an altitude between 11,500 to 13,000 feet (3,500 to 3,960 meters).
Within the heath/moorland zone of Kilimanjaro, temperatures average around 50°F (10°C) during the day, dipping below freezing at night.
Annual precipitation ranges from 51 to 21 inches (1,300 to 530 mm).

Biodiversity Hotspot
Despite its harsh conditions, the Shira Plateau is teeming with life. Harboring a diverse array of flora and fauna adapted to the challenging environment. Rare species such as the endemic Kilimanjaro tree hyrax and the elusive Shira reed frog call this unique ecosystem home. Showcasing the resilience of life in the face of adversity.

The plateau’s rich volcanic soil supports an array of low-growing, woody, alpine vegetation. Look out for giant heathers, groundsels, and lobelias.
While wildlife is less visible at this altitude, the plateau is home to various bird species and small mammals. On rare occasions, even elephants, buffalo, and eland roam its fringes.

Geological Wonders
Beyond its natural beauty, the Shira Plateau is a treasure trove of geological wonders, with ancient lava formations and volcanic relics dotting the landscape. Visitors can marvel at towering lava towers, explore mysterious caves, and witness the raw power of volcanic forces frozen in time.

Which Routes Visit Shira Plateau? Kilimanjaro routes approaching from the west traverse the entirety of Shira Plateau. These include the Shira, Lemosho, and Northern Circuit routes. The Machame route, which advances from the south, does not cross the plateau, but does visit the area. Notable campsites on the plateau:
Simba Camp (Shira route) at 11,800 feet (3,595 meters)
Shira 1 Camp (Lemosho and Northern Circuit routes) at 11,500 feet (3,505 meters)
Shira 2 Camp (Shira, Lemosho, and Northern Circuit routes) at 12,500 feet (3,810 meters).

Where is Shira Plateau?
The Shira Plateau is located on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, East Africa. Positioned at an elevation of over 3,000 meters above sea level. It sprawls across an area of approximately 80 square kilometers. This high-altitude wilderness is renowned for its rugged terrain. Sweeping grasslands, and ancient lava flows, making it a popular destination for trekking and wildlife viewing adventures.

How Was Shira Plateau Formed?
The Shira Plateau was formed over 500,000 years ago through volcanic activity. It originated from the collapse of the Shira Caldera, a result of intense eruptions on Mount Kilimanjaro. This cataclysmic event shaped the expansive plateau we see today, stretching over 80 square kilometers.

What is the Climate of Shira Plateau?
The climate of Shira Plateau is characterized by cool temperatures and low humidity due to its high elevation. Days are typically mild, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. While nights can be chilly, often dropping below freezing. Rainfall is minimal, occurring mainly during the wet season from March to May, making it an ideal destination for trekking and outdoor.

What is Shira Cathedral?
Shira Cathedral is a prominent geological feature located on the Shira Plateau of Mount Kilimanjaro. This towering formation resembles the grandeur of a cathedral, with its sheer cliffs and imposing presence. Carved by millennia of volcanic activity and erosion. Shira Cathedral offers breathtaking views and serves as a popular destination for trekkers and adventurers exploring the wonders of Africa’s tallest peak. Also The Shira Cathedral is a short ridge-summit high on the southern rim of the Shira caldera. It sits at an elevation of approximately 12,200 feet (3,720 meters). Its formation is a direct result of Kilimanjaro’s volcanic activity.

Shira Plateau Route: the worst trail on Kili?

How Hard is it to Climb Kilimanjaro on the Shira Route? Considered a moderate route. The main disadvantage of the route is that the trail starts at a high altitude. Which can cause immediate problems for climbers who can’t acclimatize immediately to the elevation of 11,500 feet.

What Plants and Animals Can Be Found on Shira Plateau?
The Shira Plateau, nestled on Kilimanjaro, hosts unique flora and fauna. Plant life includes hardy tussock grasses, heathers, and giant lobelias. Animals such as the rare Kilimanjaro tree hyrax, Shira reed frog, and various bird species thrive in this high-altitude ecosystem. Adapted to the plateau’s rugged terrain and extreme conditions, these species contribute to the rich biodiversity of this remarkable landscape.

What to expect on Shira Plateau?
Experience the untamed beauty of Shira Plateau, nestled on Kilimanjaro’s slopes. Encounter a rugged landscape of grasslands and ancient lava flows, home to unique wildlife like the Kilimanjaro tree hyrax. Marvel at geological wonders, including towering lava towers and mysterious caves. Embark on thrilling adventures like trekking and wildlife spotting amidst the high-altitude wilderness. Shira Plateau promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Africa’s tallest peak.

What are interesting facts on Shira Plateau?
The Shira Plateau, nestled on Kilimanjaro’s slopes, is a geological marvel formed by a collapsed volcano. At over 3,000 meters, it’s a haven for adventure seekers. Home to unique flora and fauna like the Kilimanjaro tree hyrax, it boasts ancient lava formations and caves. Conservation efforts protect its fragile ecosystem, crucial amid climate change. Shira Plateau offers a glimpse into nature’s resilience and the wonders of Kilimanjaro’s heart.

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