Interested in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and safari in Tanzania? Wondering what it is like to be
on Africa’s highest peak and safari in
the Serengeti and Ngorongoro?
When people think of climbing a mountain, they conjure up images of a brave soul clinging to a vertical rock face
with their bare hands, with a harrowing fall to the earth below. Or an intrepid alpinist dressed from head to toe in
a down suit, taking step after step in deep snow, axe in hand, while roped to their teammates. Neither of these applies
to Mount Kilimanjaro despite its formidable height.
Mount Kilimanjaro does not require any technical skills. It is what is known as a walk up mountain mountain because, well, you just walk up it. There is no need for mountaineering equipment like harnesses, ice axes or ropes because there is no danger of falling off a cliff or into a crevasse. Furthermore, there are no parts of the trail where one has to be particularly talented in rock climbing. Unless you will take the western breach route then you need, technically equipment, like helmet, ice axes, ropes, cramp.
Kilimanjaro is known as as Everyman’s Everest because it is a challenge that is completely doable by laymen. If you asked around, you would probably find that you have a few friends, or friends of friends, who are not the most outdoorsy people yet, have successfully stood on Uhuru Peak. More than 30,000 people attempt the mountain every year and the demographics of those visitors show that people from all walks of life come here to test their mettle. Young and old, experienced backpackers and complete newbies, all have a place on this mountain.
Just because Kilimanjaro is located close to the equator does not mean it will be hot.It’s not.
Almost immediately, as soon as you gain elevation, the temperature drops. That means everyone needs to have clothing
that is designed to keep them warm in cold weather.
During the day, it often is warm as long as the sun is visible. So during day hikes you will probably be pretty comfortable wearing a single base layer on top and trekking pants. Occasionally, a soft shell jacket for the wind when the clouds come or a hard shell if there is a strong breeze. At night, , it’s a different story. As the sun sets, the cold comes too. It’s not uncommon to wear a down jacket and knit hat even on the very first night.
Almost certainly you will have nights where temperatures fall below freezing. This will be apparent when you find that ice formed on your tent while you slept overnight. As long as you have the right clothing and right gear, this is a non-issue (African Traces rents -30F rated Mountain Hardwear sleeping bags to clients, provides.
Meaning that our team of guides, cooks and porters accompany climbers on the trek to do all the work.
Some porters work as the tents crow set up the tents, take down the tents, one shef cooker, depending on how
big the group is. Some porters will fetch the water, and clean the campsite. Clients do not have to use their
precious energy doing any labor and instead can focus on acclimatizing to the altitude and enjoying the hike.
For every client, there are around three to four personnel. This may sound excessive, until you realize what is actually brought on the mountain. First, there are the sleeping tents and the dining tents. There are sleeping pads and sleeping bags. In the dining tents are folding tables and plastic chairs, as well as lanterns, silverware, bowls, and dishes. The food is prepared in a kitchen tent, equipped with a gas, pots and pans. And this food and equipment is required only the clients, as the staff has their kitchen, food plus cooking equipment, they don’t have to wait for the clients to finish eating then preparing their food.
The staff will carry everything described above. In addition, they carry most of the clients’ gear too. Because of this, climbers do not have to carry heavy packs. With minimal gear, just enough to take care of any immediate food, water, or clothing needs, clients can focus on enjoying the hike. Typically, climbers’ packs weigh 15-20 lbs. at the beginning of the day, with three liters of water making up almost 7 lbs. of that.
Unlike western backpacking trips, where the bulk of the caloric requirements are met with dehydrated food, powdered
mixes and processed items, the meals on Mount Kilimanjaro are made with fresh ingredients. Our clients eat real meals
consisting of fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, and grains, as well as vegetarian and vegan diets. An assortment of
The chef and his helpers prepare your meals in a kitchen tent using a gas ,(open fires are no permitted on the mountain.)
The air is thinner at high altitude. This is the cause of a common illness experienced by climbers known as acute
mountain sickness (AMS). AMS is the primary reason that people fail to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. And while
mild forms of AMS are expected while climbing Kilimanjaro, severe forms of AMS are potentially fatal.
AMS arises when the human body is adapting to the lower oxygen levels at high elevation. This process, known as acclimatization, creates some biological responses to combat the oxygen deficiency. More oxygen carrying red blood cells are produced. The respiration rate is increased. When these actions are not sufficient to compensate for the reduced oxygen in the environment, AMS symptoms begin to appear.
Symptoms usually start with a light headache, feelings of nausea and some fatigue. With time, these disappear as the body acclimatizes to the current elevation, before the body is retested again at a higher elevation. As long as one is recovering in this manner, it is a sign that the body is overcoming the oxygen deficiency and there is no cause for concern. In fact, some people who acclimatize quickly will not feel symptoms at all.
If symptoms do not go away, and become progressively worse, AMS becomes dangerous. Two types of severe AMS – high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) can lead to death. HAPE and HACE results in bleeding in the lungs and brain, respectively.
Our team conducts health checks twice daily to monitor the well-being of our clients. The health checks consist of oxygen saturation readings, a review of pulse rates, and a survey of symptoms. The data is recorded to evaluate changes over time. If the guides determine that it is too risky to continue, you will be escorted down the mountain for your safety. We carry bottled oxygen and a portable stretcher on every climb, and can coordinate an evacuation on foot or by helicopter in case of a medical emergency.
One of the first questions people ask about Kilimanjaro is where do we poop? First, let us describe where other people
poop. Then we will describe where our clients handle their business.
On the mountain, there are along drop toilets at every campsite, pictured above. They are simply holes dug into the ground with a wooden shelter constructed above it. A ceramic launch pad is where you stand or squat over the opening. As you might imagine, long drop toilets are disgusting and filthy and best avoided.
For African Traces clients, we provide private toilet tents, shown in the photo above. The toilet tent consists of a plastic commode covered by a phone booth sized and shaped tent for privacy. The commode is complete with a cover, toilet seat and water based flushing system. You use it just like a regular toilet at home. A few hand pumps send water to rinse out the bowl.
What if you need to relieve yourself while on the trail? You go behind a rock or bush. And what about showers? There are none.
There is no wifi connection on the mountain. Cell service is very, very spotty. During each day, there may only be one
or two possibilities to make a call, text or email. But you should not depend on it. Cloudy weather can sap the strength
of the signal. If you would like to use your phone, ask the guides when and where you might be able to get a signal.
Or simply observe when the local crews are on their phones. It is possible to get local sim card here.
Likewise, there is no electricity on Kilimanjaro. There is nowhere to charge camera batteries or smart phones, so plan accordingly. Bring enough camera batteries to last the entire climb. A portable external battery pack is great for recharging phones. In our experience, solar chargers are unreliable and generally do not work well.
There are many different routes you can take up Kilimanjaro and they all take you to the same place – Uhuru Point,
the summit. But we strongly recommend booking routes that are between seven to nine days long. This goes for everyone,
even if you are extremely fit, very experienced and in your physical prime.
So why would you intentionally prolong the climb when the primary goal is to reach the top? Please refer to point five (because AMS is dangerous). The slower you ascend, the easier it is for the body to Acclimatize. Therefore, a gradual ascent, enough to initiate the acclimatization process but not too much as to overtake the body’s ability to adjust.,
The shortest routes on the mountain are five days up and down. When you dig into the details, you will see that is just three and a half days to climb from 6,000 feet to 19,340 feet. If that sounds incredibly difficult. But if you don’t have enough time it is recommended to take Marangu route which is starting with 5 days
Don’t spend your hard-earned money, time, and effort only to become ill after a couple days on the mountain. Though summiting Kilimanjaro may not be in the cards for everyone, the most practical thing you can do is increase your odds dramatically by adding more days to your climb. Chances to feel better, enjoy yourself more, and get to the top.
The typical day hikes consist of walking short distances at a slow pace, with gentle elevation gains. Most people
would not consider these days as strenuous, but light and enjoyable. Summit night is a different story. It will be
difficult for almost everyone.
This final ascent is different from the usual routine for a few reasons. It starts with being woken up around midnight. So you do not get a full night’s sleep beforehand. In other words, you begin at a disadvantage – sleep deprived. Secondly, because it is the middle of the night, it is dark. You won’t be able to really see what is around you and where you are going. Your guides lead the way and you follow. A headlamp illuminates the path just a few steps in front of you. In the distance, you can see other headlamps far above and become disheartened about the effort required.
Third, it is cold. The climb to the summit puts you into the arctic ecological zone, where no plants or animals live.
As you might guess, the arctic region is cold. And because this final ascent is done in the early morning hours, well
before sunrise, the temperature can easily be below zero degrees with wind chill. This might sound terrifying but with
the appropriate layers of clothing and accessories, you will be fine. Most people wear four layers on top and three layers
on bottom, along with hat, gloves and gaiters. The wind and cold need to be endured for about 6-7 hours. It warms up
quickly when the sun rises.
The elevation gain is around 4,000 feet, followed by a 9,000 feet descent. This can take between 10 to 14 hours, or for some, even longer. In the moment, you might wish you were at home, resting on your comfy sofa. Don’t fret. Step by step, inch by inch, you will make it. Many people say it is the hardest thing they’ve ever done. But the effort required is what makes it worthwhile. In the end, climbing Kilimanjaro is something to be proud of because you endured this hardship, pushed on, and ultimately succeeded.
Sorry to break the news, but climbing Kilimanjaro is not cheap. Even though Tanzania is a third world country,
the fees imposed on tourists who visit national parks are quite high. In fact, most of the expenses incurred by
Kilimanjaro operators are made up of mandatory park fees. At this time, the park permits, other fees plus government
taxes equal more than $141 per person per night. When you see considerable prices for Kilimanjaro climbs, understand
that these numbers are a function of these costs that the operator has no control over.
Secondly, as we mentioned above in point three (climbs are fully supported), there is a lot of manpower involved in every Kilimanjaro expedition. For instance, a group climb of 15 people requires a crew of more than 60 staff members. Therefore, labor costs make up another large portion of total expenses.
Climbing the mountain day in and day out is a tough job. At African Traces, we reward our crew by paying them one of the highest wages on the mountain (only behind luxury operators who charge double our prices). Our staffs consist of a great bunch of people trying to make an honest living and they deserve it.
mid-range guide service on Mount Kilimanjaro, our group climbs are competitively priced. We are positioned where we can deliver great service, with a high standard of safety, at a fair price. This is why our clients rave about our operation and refer their friends and family to us for their own Kilimanjaro adventures.
Kilimanjaro is quite accessible for such a faraway destination. Tanzania has an international airport known
as Kilimanjaro International Airport (airport code JRO).
The airport is located near the towns of Arusha and Moshi. These two cities serve as the gateways to Kilimanjaro
expeditions. Nearly all climb and safari operators are stationed in one of these places and will use accommodations
here for their guests before and after their trips. We launch our trips from Moshi for most of our clients. Arusha,
which is closer to Tanzania's northern wildlife parks, is used for those only going on a safari.
Arriving at Kilimanjaro airport, one can transfer to either Moshi or Arusha in about 40 minutes by vehicle. Taxis are readily available, perhaps too available, as you will be hounded by taxi drivers as soon as you exit the airport. But most operators offer pick up and drop off services for your convenience. If you have arranged for a transfer, just ignore the crowd and look for the driver holding up a sign with you name and AFRICAN TRACES on it.
There are a variety of choices to fly into the country KLM, Turkish Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Kenya, Qatar Airways, Precision Air, Air Tanzania, and Ethiopian Air.
Don’t fly home right after climbing Kilimanjaro! It would be a shame to not spend some time in
in Tanzania’s famous national parks. Tanzania is known as the world's best safari destination.
Home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park the country attracts
thousands of visitors who come for the chance to see the Big Five (elephant, leopard, lion, buffalo, rhino)
So, before you book your return flight, consider extending your holiday. We offer a number of itineraries to suit your needs and desires, from day trips to multiple day itineraries, with accommodations in lodges, permanent tented camps or luxury hotels, and camping safari.
Our safari guide will take you where the animals are in durable, four-wheel drive Land Cruisers. Our vehicles are equipped with pop up roofs let you observe wild animals in their natural habitat clearly and closely, without any barriers or obstructions. If you are lucky, you might witness a cheetah stalk a gazelle, a pride of lions bring down a buffalo, or a herd of wildebeest stampede across the open plains. These are sights you will never forget.