So you want to climb Mt Kilimanjaro? Well I’ve got a detail trip guide below on how I did it, what I packed and who I travelled with. So here we go.
Trip Guide: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro:
There are many tour companies that organise Kilimanjaro climbs which you can arrange from overseas or locally. Truth be told, until I started researching for this particular post I hadn’t actually done much research on this. This is because we had friends living locally in Nairobi who had a reputable travel agent that they and their friends had travelled with before.
My research, however, has made me realise how important it is to choose the right company to climb with and this is mainly to do with the ethics of the organisation especially how they treat their staff and porters – of course your personal safety should also be of importance! Porters play a crucial role in supporting you and the team, they carry not only your personal baggage but all the food, water, tents and equipment required for your whole trip. Their working conditions are challenging – they usually all sleep together in one or two large tents, bring minimal good quality gear/clothes for themselves (adds to the weight they need to carry), and get paid a minimal wage (a decent salary is considered US$5-7 a day) and competition for work is also fierce.
The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) and Kilimanjaro Association of Tour Operators (KIATO) are organisations working towards better conditions and fair wage for the porters. They have lists of partner travel/tour operators who have demonstrated that they give fair treatment and wage to their porters and staff – these companies are regularly audited. The costs for these companies are higher than the “budget” tour, but that will be a result of better pay to staff. I didn’t realise at the time, but the cost of a single persons entry into the park and 6 nights stay is approx. USD$800, so only half of my tour fee went towards wages, food and equipment.
All of this being said – we all had an amazing time with the company and guides we went with. They are NOT a partner of KPAP or KIATO, and I cannot vouch for the ethics of the organisation as this was not transparent on their website or information provided; however – all our guides were certified with the Kilimanjaro Guides Association (KGA) and at no point did any of us feel unsafe with any of the guides/porters we were with. We were also limited to only 15 kg per bag for each porter to carry (plus their own gear likely around 5 kg), so I believe our porters were fairly treated on weight limitations. We felt extremely well looked after and would recommend our friends to use the same company, but I would strongly encourage you to conduct some of your own research and ask questions in line with who you believe is best to go with. I have decided to share the details of our tour company below:
Company: Adventure Africa Expedition
Tour Agent: Wambugu Dickson (or just Dickson for short)
Based: Nairobi, Kenya
Cost: For 7d6n Rongai Route $1,650USD
Contact Info: (e) email@example.com (t) +254 721 71 44 58
Don’t forget to factor in TIPS and PACKING into your budget. Tips should be roughly 10-15% of the price of your package or as a rough guide (for the whole group):
Porters: USD $7-10 per day per porter
Guide: $20 – $25 per day
Assistance Guide: $15 – 20 per day
Cook: $15 per day
For a 7 day hike based on party of 5 person = $160 pp min. approx.
Time of Year
The weather can make a BIG impact on your climb, not only how comfortable, beautiful and enjoyable it is but actually the chances of your success to summit. There’s only two seasons on Kili: the wet season, and the dry season so basically what I’m trying to say is wet = bad; dry = good.
Wet Season: March to May & November (Not Recommended Climbing Times)
Dry Season: August to October
In-between Season: December to February & June to July
Now lets talk about the pros and cons of each –
December to February: (+) Temperature, dry and warm weather expected although chances of rain/fog/mist increases at the beginning of the seasons and at the end as you leave and approach the wet season. This will impact routes more that start in a rainforest climate. (-) Crowds, it’s the busy/peak/holiday season and depending on the route you take it might get very busy.
March to May & November: (-) Very wet, a lot of long days with rain expected which will result in very muddy and slippery paths. (+) No crowds, hurrah!
June to July: (+/-) Chances of rain still there but decreases as you exit the wet season into the dry season but temperates will start to drop at night as you rise in altitude. (+/-) Not too busy with crowds yet but you probably won’t be alone.
August to October: (+) Visibility is the best this time of the year and the mountain is expected to be dry! Rainforest areas are expected to be a bit misty/foggy still with chances of rain but above that sunshine is expected. Temperatures are very cold especially approaching summit. (-) Peak Season! Crowds expected on all routes, especially the most popular ones.
In my first post about Kilimanjaro I said that we had chosen the Rongai Route – so I guess you’re wondering, ‘whats the difference?’ and ‘which Kilimanjaro route should I climb?’
The main routes are:
- Marangu – the only route with huts to stay in, usually shorter number of days leading to less acclimatization and chance of success (but comfortable?)
- Machame – the most popular route from the south, scenery is spectacular and due to popularity usually the cheapest route to travel on, however not the easiest route to climb
- Rongai – the easiest route to climb and only commercial route from the north. The climate is drier with less chance of rain and however more expensive as its not as popular, scenery is considered less nice
- Shira – scenic route that is fairly difficult, it joins up with Machame which makes for busy summit night, more expensive as its less popular
- Lemosho – much more remote so get a real feel of the mountain to yourself, considered difficult but very scenic although expensive as its not popular
- Umbwe – very steep and difficult, for the experienced climbers only
Honestly, because actual professionals have done a better job of describing these than I have, visit mountkilimanjaroguide.com for a more detailed look into each route.
Training, Altitude Sickness & Malaria
Training: A lot of people often wonder if they should train for Kilimanjaro. My personal opinion is yes. Training will make your trip a lot more enjoyable and you will have a lot more confidence in your body.
But, if you don’t train and you’re relatively fit you still have a pretty good chance of reaching the summit as long as you are not greatly affected by altitude and weather permitting. Our group was a mixed bag, some of us trained for several months, whilst others did not. However, we all made an effort to increase exercise in general; be that going on extra hikes on weekends or intensive cardio, or taking the extra set of stairs. I was the least fit one in our group as I did not train the last 3 – 4 weeks leading up to the hike due to a busy work and travel schedule, and I still made it even with a cold – albeit lagging behind the others! I did however climb mini-mountains and train weekly in the months before hand, and climbed Kinabalu to test my reaction to altitude.
Rongai route is relatively easy (gentle slopes) however the other routes are steeper and therefore you should consider lots of cardio/hill and step climbs to prepare.
Altitude Sickness: We took Diamox, an altitude sickness tablet. You should visit your local GP or travel doctor to get more information. We did all need to pee a lot more which is a side effect and we still all experienced some slight altitude sickness symptoms but we truly think it helped us. Obviously ensuring extra time to acclimatize on the mountain is important if you have the time to do this, or else you can acclimatize by climbing surrounding mountains (e.g. Mt Kenya or Mt Meru); Nairobi is located 2,000m above sea level so a few days there should help as well.
Malaria: You don’t need Malaria pills above 1800m, so if you are not travelling through Africa for long you should only consider the days you need to take it – for example you will need to plan to take Malaria pills in Moshi and Arusha, and don’t forget you’ll be climbing down the mountain back into a Malaria zone too. Again your travel doctor will have the best information for you.
Vaccinations: You will need a Yellow Fever Certificate if you are crossing from Kenya down into Tanzania. All other regular travel vaccinations should be considered (e.g. Tetanus, Hep A/B etc.)
‘Do I need Travel Insurance for Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro’? You know what? I’m going to say Yes to this, especially travel medical insurance. Why? Because you never know what’s going to happen, and if this is your first time being at altitude you’ll need to be sure if anything happened you’ll be looked after.
The catch with travel insurance is they may or may not cover you for a certain altitude. So make sure you read the Product Disclosure Statements (PDS). The travel insurance company I went with was: Virgin Travel Insurance**.
- They are backed by Allianz Travel Insurance – an international travel insurance company I have used and relied on in the past both being abroad personally and professionally
- They are one of* the cheapest travel insurance policies that uses Allianz Travel Insurance
- Their Comprehensive Package is pretty… comprehensive (relative to many others)!
- They offer an add on ‘Adventure Package’ which covers “Hiking, trekking or tramping, peaking at altitudes from 3,000 metres up to 6,000 metres, where specialist climbing equipment is not required” so I know I’m covered for Kili
* I haven’t trawled the internet and checked every single one
**Link is to Virgin Travel Insurance for Australians
continue to Mt Kilimanjaro Pack List