A number of Cultural Tourism Programmes in which visitors are taken by a local guide to meet villagers and understand their traditional way of life were set up with the assistance of Dutch agency SNV a few years back. Most are around Arusha, but there are also a few in Marangu and Moshi that enable visitors to explore the lower foothills of the mountain while gaining some insight into the traditional lifestyle and culture of the Chagga (the local residents of the mountain) while simultaneously benefiting the local community, thanks to the presence of a local guide. To find out more, type in www.tourismwebservices.com, or visit the Tanzania Cultural Tourism Programmes offices in the Museum Buildings on Boma Road in Arusha.
There are number of guided walks worth considering, the best of which is a trip to the Kuringe Waterfall, located beyond the village of Materuni, 15km (9 1/4 miles) from Moshi -- though this requires a half-day commitment to reach it, it is well worth the time. You could also extend this into a full-day excursion, walking through the cultivated fields of subsistence farmers to visit a Chagga homestead on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro, where you stop for lunch, then spend the afternoon exploring the Rau Forest (www.akarotours.com). If you don't have a full day at your disposal, there are a few waterfalls within walking distance of most Marangu lodgings -- if pressed for time, give the pretty 15m-high (49-ft.) Kinukamori Waterfall a miss and head instead for the more impressive Kilasia Waterfall, with its 30m (98-ft.) drop into an attractive pool surrounded by lush vegetation, said to be safe for swimming ($4; firstname.lastname@example.org). Protea Machame offers picnic trips to Kukuletwa Hot Springs, a natural spring whose warm water invites a dip. Dedicated safari lovers may want to schedule a visit to Mweka College of Wildlife Management (or pop in after descending the Machame or Shira routes, Mweka being their finishing point) -- most of the best local safari guides are graduates of this respected tertiary establishment, and a small wildlife museum is attached to the college.
An hour to 90 minutes' drive away, on the Kenyan border, Lake Chala is a small crater lake, beautiful but with an eerily desolate air. A number of operators offer picnic excursions here, and the views of the lake -- an intense and unsettling turquoise color, rimmed by verdant green cliffs -- are spectacular. Don't be tempted to take a dip -- in 2002, a hapless British tourist, unaware that crocodiles lurk in its attractive depths, couldn't resist and never lived to tell the tale. A lodge has been under construction here for years, and the abandoned structures only add to the eerie atmosphere. Most lodgings offer day trips to Chala; rates vary on distance covered. Keen birders should also consider a trip to Lake Jipe, a 16km-long (10-mile) shallow alkaline lake that shares a border with Kenya. You can book these excursions through your lodging.