In light of the Cecil incident, I’m reminded that I want to give some more thorough information on my African Kilimanjaro and Safari trip. The following is more detailed information on the Kilimanjaro guiding company Climb Kili and other logistics that will hopefully aid you in creating your own experience.
You can read about my adventure on the mountain, here, which walks you through some of the logistics as well. In this post, I outline some common feedback I give when asked about the company and the climb. We opted for the 7 day Machame Route. Climb Kili is the company that handled all of my arrangements and tours while I was in Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro. They are awesome!
For flights, I used frequent flyer miles to get me to Europe since I would spend some time there climbing after Africa. I hear many people that find good rates to Europe from America then bounce to Africa, rather than buying an African ticket, which can be pricier. My European ticket took me to Vienna. I had a separate ticket from Vienna to Nairobi. It was cheaper to fly into Nairobi than to Arusha or Moshi, which are closer to Kilimanjaro. There is a convenient shuttle that will take you from Nairobi to Arusha, but know that it is Africa and if you don’t pad significant time for the arrival and departure, you might find yourself missing your connections. I had ample time and wasn’t concerned with any layovers so I didn’t worry about the shuttle and opted for adventurous travel. Note, many people climbing Kilimanjaro travel there this way and it’s likely you will find another party or two on your shuttle doing the same trip. It’s a long shuttle ride and you have to go through customs entering and leaving Kenya/Tanzania and for Americans, pay a fee (my crossing cost $100 in total) but it’s painless and gives you more opportunities to experience a different culture and see more of the African landscape. In either case, Climb Kili will fetch you when you arrive into Arusha via their own shuttle or personal driver.
Climb Kili are very thorough, friendly, hospitable and bend over backwards to make your experience a pleasant one. They are a small company, which I prefer. You may find yourself 1 in 6 or 1 in 10 but never 1 in 20+. The larger groups have a rowdier atmosphere, from what I witnessed, and I prefer the intimacy of a smaller team. Our guides were friendly, teaching me Swahili as we trekked. They were patient with our team’s pace and our motto was slow and steady. We were not there to do the summit the fastest but to enjoy the various climates, the experience of the surroundings and revel in what the mountain had to offer us along the way. I for sure could have gone faster but our plan was for a 7 day summit for maximum acclimation. This makes for a very leisure experience and really only adds one more camp spot, which was fine with me. Note, if you and your team want a swifter experience, they are capable of that, too. Most companies I saw, rushed their clients to make target stops but our company adapted to us, which in the end, helped our entire group make the summit.
The guides and our porters were tremendously helpful, always smiling, genuine and caring. I shared a lot of my food with them on all of the breaks, esp the food I brought just in case I didn’t adjust to what they were feeding me.
The food they made for us was incredible. Everything was clean and fresh. Drinking water was filtered. We always ate in a tent with a real table and chairs. We were served a plentiful amount of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I brought some ziplock baggies for various snacks of mine and ended up taking leftovers whenever there were any and eating them as snacks along the trek. The meals are hot or cold, appropriate for what you would expect. There is tea, hot chocolate, butter, and other condiments. They wake you with hot water for tea every morning. I had a small thermos and a one of those plates that snap into a bowl. I took the hot water and skipped the tea until breakfast. I had brought my own oatmeal and vitamins, which I ate in the tent, then used the hot water in the bowl with my own sham cloth and wetwipes to freshen up each morning. I washed my hair with the waterless shampoo only once while I was up there. This routine helped me feel ready to tackle the day. Oh, and a fresh pair of underwear daily. 🙂
I would not recommend packing a lot things, I probably could have washed the undies on a regular basis and brought only 2 or 3 of them instead of 7 or 8, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. Same with the waterless shampoo, you really only need 1 bottle and I think I packed 3. Breakfast was sufficiently satisfying that I could have foregone the oatmeal I brought but it’s one routine I try hard not to break.
The guides hike up a toilet for the group and it’s setup for every major stop. It’s not really a problem to hike away from the group to pee at any time but know that you have a camp toilet waiting for you at the tent site when you arrive. It’s always clean and cleaned for you. There is a tarp that covers it for privacy and this is the one amenity you will absolutely appreciate. The pit toilets there are disgusting.
The guides can provide you with a sleeping bag and sleeping pad if you need them but I recommend you bring your favorite. Getting a good night’s rest is critical to having a good trek and eventually summiting the mountain.
Altitude sickness is real. Bring the pills to have and use them if you are not sure how you will do. I used them one day and had to pee, a lot, which is a known side affectx. I opted for the tradeoff of no pills so I didn’t have to pee as much. In the end, I didn’t have any problems with the altitude.
Bring a water bladder and a spare water bottle. This will be evident for the summit night. Your bladder hose will freeze and you don’t want to be dehydrated at that altitude trying for the summit. It’s a long way down and you will suffer.
Take a few hand warmers and toe warmers. For some reason, my feet froze even with the double layering as well as my fingers. Some people put some of the hot water from breakfast into their water bladders and said the hose didn’t freeze and I wish I had done that myself because I ended up not drinking as much water as I should have on the summit night, which made me feel terrible on the way down.
Bring a few extra hand warmers and toe warmers for the guides who will summit with you. I noticed some didn’t have gloves and were freezing but they never said anything. They still helped me tie my shoes and fix myself along the way when I got uncomfortable.
Bring the trekking poles, they are just nice to have and save your knees. Also, don’t be afraid to take things you don’t want to bring back to the States with you. At the final ceremony on the mountain, you will have the chance to tip, in cash, and leave any items you want for the team. The head guide will divvy everything out. Note, they won’t get paid until you are back in your Climb Kili jeeps. The team will continue to work for their earnings, which is what the company wants. Otherwise, once paid, the porters will leave before you are really done. Note, I believe they get a lot of gloves and equipment from people and choose not to use them. Maybe they give them away to family or sell them for money, I’m not sure. I don’t mind it either way, they definitely need the gear and money, but I was disturbed to see them hands in pockets as their only warmth.
I will add that I partnered with Outdoor Research to provide them socks, gloves, and other items, which Climb Kili had logo’d. If anyone gets a good pick of some of their OR logo attire, please share.
From there we went on safari, arranged and handled by Climb Kili and toured some villages, all under their guidance. Everything was super and I can’t say enough about this company.
I know from talking with the company and witnessing other companies on the mountain, the experience varies. Cut out one day and you might find this the hardest summit of your life. Climb Kili is a very professional company, low key, relaxed but they know how to celebrate, too. Other companies make a bigger deal out of your time up on the mountain with more constant celebration. Therefore, I think it’s up to you what you want to experience up there. I fell in love with the mountain, the guides, the experience. I would not change a thing and I would use Climb Kili again, in a heartbeat.
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