Travel

Anyone gone on a Kilimanjaro climb?

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  • Mar 22nd, 2018 1:18 am
[OP]
Member
Oct 17, 2007
464 posts
105 upvotes
Mississauga

Anyone gone on a Kilimanjaro climb?

I'm seriously considering doing a Kilimanjaro climb (probably ~2019) - I'm wondering if anyone here has done this? There is A LOT of information online, and I've quite a bit of research, but I'm looking for feedback from people who have firsthand experience.

Key information I'm trying to find out is how do I choose a REPUTABLE tour operator? There are a great many of them who offer this experience, but it's hard to know which one is honest/reliable/reputable. Obviously, they all claim to be, but how do I know for certain? And I'm not looking for cheapest/bargain basement prices. For a trip like this, the tour operator should have highly responsive customer service, experienced guides/leaders, and equally as important to me personally is that the porters are paid a fair wage.
39 replies
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Jan 15, 2013
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These guys. I plan to do this with my family. Not sure when yet. My dentist has nothing but good things to say about these folks and he's not one to cheap out.

https://www.tusker.com/
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Feb 9, 2007
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Both peaks?
It's pronounced Throat Wobbler Mangrove
[OP]
Member
Oct 17, 2007
464 posts
105 upvotes
Mississauga
Wow... I didn't think I would actually get any replies... most routes climb up to Uhuru peak (the Kibo rim), it's the highest point.

So that's what I'm planning, via the Lemosho route.

I'd also love to tack on a short 3-4 day Safari after the climb.
[OP]
Member
Oct 17, 2007
464 posts
105 upvotes
Mississauga
sandav wrote: These guys. I plan to do this with my family. Not sure when yet. My dentist has nothing but good things to say about these folks and he's not one to cheap out.

https://www.tusker.com/
Thanks for the suggestion - they look like a very well-run company. Definitely not cheap, but everything about the operation looks top-notch. I'll put them on my list.
Deal Fanatic
May 14, 2009
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Check the Trip Advisor forums too!
Jr. Member
Dec 10, 2011
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514
Avoid Tusker and other websites like this, just fly directly to Arusha and you will find a much better deal (1100-1200USD vs 3000/4000 for 6 day Coca-Cola route for example). There are many reliable tour operators in Arusha; Tusker just connects you to them for a very large fee... same with the safaris.
Jr. Member
Aug 17, 2010
112 posts
42 upvotes
GTA
We did the Lemosho 7 day route with Zara tours. Good accommodation before and after the climb and good food, tents, guide, and porters. Lemosho is a decent route to acclimatize.
[OP]
Member
Oct 17, 2007
464 posts
105 upvotes
Mississauga
webconfig wrote: We did the Lemosho 7 day route with Zara tours. Good accommodation before and after the climb and good food, tents, guide, and porters. Lemosho is a decent route to acclimatize.
I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

How difficult did you find the climb? Did you do any training prior to the trip to prepare? And did everyone in your group make the summit? And how busy was the route during your climb?
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Jul 8, 2010
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Tripadvisor for more details. Lemosho is one of the newest route to top and is not crowded. If concern about acclimatization, just go with the 8-days route.

https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowForum-g2 ... egion.html

Tons of good info here, also you can try to go with them as tour-operator:
https://www.ultimatekilimanjaro.com/

I was planning to go myself in SEP 2018, but that didn't worked. Maybe 2019...
[OP]
Member
Oct 17, 2007
464 posts
105 upvotes
Mississauga
I've done a lot more research in the past few days, including directly inquiring with a few tour operators.
  • I won't book with any company that isn't KPAP-certified (ensures treatment of Porters meets a certain minimum standard) - there are 119 operators on the list, so lots of options to choose from :)
  • While it's true that a great many tour operators are simply a customer-facing front that contracts the actual climbing logistics to a separate 3rd party on the ground, the really, really good ones (reputable, consistently excellent reviews, very high summit rates) manage the entire operation end to end. And yes, this does get reflected in the price.
  • Local operators can be good or bad, in the same way international operators can be good or bad. You just have to do your due diligence... i.e. independently verify as much as possible, and ask a lot of questions.
  • If the price is bargain-basement, something has to give... you can't get something for free. Consider this - the park fees alone for the Marangu route is $732USD. Fair wage for a porter should be around ~$9USD/day. Depending on the operator, you have anywhere between ~2-4 porters per climber. Cooks should get paid 50% more, guides I think is double. Then you add all the consumables for your entire party (food/fuel), hotel before/after the climb... it all adds up.
Right now, I'm checking out Kandoo Adventures. Like Tusker, they also manage/operate the entire end-to-end climbing experience, have stellar reviews online, but aren't as expensive.
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Mar 1, 2016
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I went the hire locally way, but I was getting there a week before my friend (I climbed Meru in mean time, actually a nicer climb). I needed at least a full day to gather all the info to get climb organised.
[OP]
Member
Oct 17, 2007
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Mississauga
foreigncontent wrote: I went the hire locally way, but I was getting there a week before my friend (I climbed Meru in mean time, actually a nicer climb). I needed at least a full day to gather all the info to get climb organised.
Thanks for the info. I would imagine Meru would be much less congested, and obviously costs just a fraction of Kili... I can see how it could be better in some ways. One blog post I read about Kili which is on my mind talks about how busy the mountain can get, and porters have to scramble to grab decent camping spots. He makes it sound like a Boxing Day shopping experience rather than a serene trek up a mountain. I'm planning on going towards the tail end of the dry season, and via Lemosho, so hopefully crowds won't be too bad.
Jr. Member
Aug 17, 2010
112 posts
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GTA
tezster wrote: I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

How difficult did you find the climb? Did you do any training prior to the trip to prepare? And did everyone in your group make the summit? And how busy was the route during your climb?
Climb was not too difficult and we made it to the top. You walk very slowly to acclimitize while only carrying a daypack everyday. Meals and accommodation are excellent. You are always well fed. We did not get altitude sickness, so this may have made the climb easy. We met others on the route that had altitude sickness and did not make it (also doing the same route, but different group) Our group was only my wife and I, guide and assistant guide and 6 other porters + 1 toilet porter.

As for training, all I did were stairs for 30 minutes three times a week and some day hikes.

Route was not that busy for most days. We went in October. There were some parts of the route where other routes met at a junction (such as machame) and were quite crowded. The last night summit is very crowded as most groups leave the same time. Larger groups will stop more often giving smaller groups a chance to pass.

We made it to the peak around 6:20am. If anything I recommend bringing extremely warm gloves, as the most difficult thing to deal with was frozen hands on the last night.

The location of your tent (near toilets, on an uneven slope, etc) depends on the tour group you go with. Lower budget or unestablished tour groups will likely get these locations compared to an established tour group.
[OP]
Member
Oct 17, 2007
464 posts
105 upvotes
Mississauga
Very useful info - thanks for sharing!
Member
May 19, 2007
305 posts
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Toronto, ON
I went in September 2017 and we used Zara Tours. Had a great experience with the company with no complaints.
Member
Aug 13, 2006
298 posts
34 upvotes
If you want to go with a tour company that pays the porter properly, you should go with a foreign-run operator. The package cost is gonna be much more expensive obviously. To give you an idea, I paid $1.5K for a locally-run company. It would have cost at least $3K for the same package with a foreign operator.

It saddens me to see how the porter is only paid $7/day for the hard work and harsh condition that they have to work in. At the end of the trip we gave them as much tips as we could afford. We hand the tips directly to every individual. I think that is better than paying lots upfront and hopefully the money is properly distributed. We also gave away tons of gears. Most of these porters are just everyday farmers, etc. who doesn’t have proper winter or hiking gears. Most of them walked in the cold in pj pants and sneakers as hiking shoes. If you can, bring extra cold gears to give away.

In my opinion, the guide is more important than the tour operator. Some guides works with multiple operators so if you have specific ones, you can request them (we did so). I highly recommend our tour operator Evans Adventure. It is the second time that we had worked with them. They made sure that we went up with medical devices (oxygen tanks and portable hyperbaric chamber).

As for guides, highly recommend senior guides Erick Rweyemamu and Elizeus Rutha. Rutha used to be part of the park rescue team so he is very knowledgeable. Erick is one of the select few guides who are experienced in tracking through dangerous routes such as western breach. He also runs a charity climbing group from US that benefits a local school.

As a couch potato, I started climbing 15 floors daily and did kickboxing 3x a week to improve my lung capacity and upper body strength. They were surely needed! Did a few day hikes around GTA, mainly to test out my gears. The terrains here is pretty flat so I also did a trial hike in the US.

Everyone in the group made it to the top, including two who were super sick starting day 2. Guides were monitoring their blood O2 level daily.

We organized a day-safari on arrival to a smaller park. If you have a few extra days and $$, you should check out Serengeti.

FYI I did Lemosho route via Crater Camp. Ask away if you have more questions. Video of our trip to give you a sense of what to expect:



Btw I have some gears bought specifically for the trip that I no longer need. FYI in case you are looking for some....
[OP]
Member
Oct 17, 2007
464 posts
105 upvotes
Mississauga
seven wrote: If you want to go with a tour company that pays the porter properly, you should go with a foreign-run operator. The package cost is gonna be much more expensive obviously. To give you an idea, I paid $1.5K for a locally-run company. It would have cost at least $3K for the same package with a foreign operator.
Thanks for the detailed reply - this is the kind of first-hand feedback I'm looking for. I checked Evans Adventure site, but I don't see an 8-day Lemosho climb... I'll contact them and ask.

I've done a lot of research so far (probably contacted close to 10 tour operators directly). You're correct that porters are typically not treated that well, which is why my preference is to go with KPAP member operator. Aside from fair wages, it's important to me that porters are treated well, and they receive the same meals and medical treatment as the climbers (and have warm clothing supplied to them). There are both good and bad local operators, same with foreign operators that simply outsource the climbing operations to local companies.

Out of all the operators I've contacted, my top two choices at this point are Kandoo Adventures and Fair Travel Tanzania. Kandoo offers a pre-scheduled open group climb + safari. This appeals to me as a solo traveler, as I will need to join an open group (easy to find for Kili climbs, but difficult for safaris). The other one is Fair Travel Tanzania - they are unique in that they operate as a non-profit. Their prices include paying their porters a living wage ($18/day, almost triple the average) - so no additional tipping required for any of the support staff, it's all included in the cost. All profits generated is used to help local communities.

I'm trying to see if I can fit Serengeti in, but that's usually part of a longer Safari, at least 4-5 days due to distance. So it will really depend on the cost.

Great video BTW! Did you bring a drone with you?
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May 14, 2009
6478 posts
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seven wrote: If you want to go with a tour company that pays the porter properly, you should go with a foreign-run operator. The package cost is gonna be much more expensive obviously. To give you an idea, I paid $1.5K for a locally-run company. It would have cost at least $3K for the same package with a foreign operator.

It saddens me to see how the porter is only paid $7/day for the hard work and harsh condition that they have to work in. At the end of the trip we gave them as much tips as we could afford. We hand the tips directly to every individual. I think that is better than paying lots upfront and hopefully the money is properly distributed. We also gave away tons of gears. Most of these porters are just everyday farmers, etc. who doesn’t have proper winter or hiking gears. Most of them walked in the cold in pj pants and sneakers as hiking shoes. If you can, bring extra cold gears to give away.

In my opinion, the guide is more important than the tour operator. Some guides works with multiple operators so if you have specific ones, you can request them (we did so). I highly recommend our tour operator Evans Adventure. It is the second time that we had worked with them. They made sure that we went up with medical devices (oxygen tanks and portable hyperbaric chamber).

As for guides, highly recommend senior guides Erick Rweyemamu and Elizeus Rutha. Rutha used to be part of the park rescue team so he is very knowledgeable. Erick is one of the select few guides who are experienced in tracking through dangerous routes such as western breach. He also runs a charity climbing group from US that benefits a local school.

As a couch potato, I started climbing 15 floors daily and did kickboxing 3x a week to improve my lung capacity and upper body strength. They were surely needed! Did a few day hikes around GTA, mainly to test out my gears. The terrains here is pretty flat so I also did a trial hike in the US.

Everyone in the group made it to the top, including two who were super sick starting day 2. Guides were monitoring their blood O2 level daily.

We organized a day-safari on arrival to a smaller park. If you have a few extra days and $$, you should check out Serengeti.

FYI I did Lemosho route via Crater Camp. Ask away if you have more questions. Video of our trip to give you a sense of what to expect:



Btw I have some gears bought specifically for the trip that I no longer need. FYI in case you are looking for some....
Great video! The way you edited it is great; made me feel some of the emotion of the climb.

I noticed you guys were carrying pretty large packs relative to the difficulty of the climb (length, altitude). Do you remember how heavy they were? Do the porters just carry the tents, food, cooking supplies, oxygen, etc.?
Member
Aug 13, 2006
298 posts
34 upvotes
I can’t take credit for the video beyond being in it. Two of our group member are a video buff and had planned exactly what they wanted to shoot and made sure to bring enough battery packs. All the aerial shots were taken with the drone and GoPro for the ground shots.

One slept with the drone in the sleeping bag every night. Quite the dedication Face With Tears Of Joy

We had asked for 8-day because of the western breach. The longer the acclimation period, the higher chances of success.
tezster wrote: Thanks for the detailed reply - this is the kind of first-hand feedback I'm looking for. I checked Evans Adventure site, but I don't see an 8-day Lemosho climb... I'll contact them and ask.

I've done a lot of research so far (probably contacted close to 10 tour operators directly). You're correct that porters are typically not treated that well, which is why my preference is to go with KPAP member operator. Aside from fair wages, it's important to me that porters are treated well, and they receive the same meals and medical treatment as the climbers (and have warm clothing supplied to them). There are both good and bad local operators, same with foreign operators that simply outsource the climbing operations to local companies.

Out of all the operators I've contacted, my top two choices at this point are Kandoo Adventures and Fair Travel Tanzania. Kandoo offers a pre-scheduled open group climb + safari. This appeals to me as a solo traveler, as I will need to join an open group (easy to find for Kili climbs, but difficult for safaris). The other one is Fair Travel Tanzania - they are unique in that they operate as a non-profit. Their prices include paying their porters a living wage ($18/day, almost triple the average) - so no additional tipping required for any of the support staff, it's all included in the cost. All profits generated is used to help local communities.

I'm trying to see if I can fit Serengeti in, but that's usually part of a longer Safari, at least 4-5 days due to distance. So it will really depend on the cost.

Great video BTW! Did you bring a drone with you?

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