As with everything, the hardest part is to get started. When I had decided that I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro my first thought was how can I organize such a trip. Without knowing anyone who had previously done this, all I had was Google.
Looking for organizations can be overwhelming, specially when you have no knowledge about the mountain and what is necessary and what is not. What I knew was that I wanted to book my trek in advance (as opposed to flying to Tanzania and trying to find a guide on the spot) and that I wanted as little as luxury as possible.
While researching companies I contacted a few which I am pretty sure are amazing (and which I could confirm while on the mountain while meeting people who had booked with them) but they all offered too much extras. After some random googling I came across Helen´s blog (check her out, she is awesome: http://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/category/kilimanjaro/) who besides having travelled extensively in Africa had also climbed Kilimanjaro with a company I hadn´t heard about yet.
How did I organize my trip?
I booked my trip to Kilimanjaro with Absolute Africa (http://www.absoluteafrica.com/).
It is a British company based both in London and Arusha that organizes overland safaris/trips through Africa (really cool ones by the way) and who also organizes treks to Kilimanjaro through different routes. I chose them both times for Kilimanjaro and also for a trip to Zanzibar. I cannot recommend them strongly enough.
- Really low prices compared with other organizations. Once in the mountain I could see what other people were getting for twice as much of what I paid and I really didn’t feel I was getting any less.
- Fair wages to guides and porters.
- Flexibility and rapid response time. They accommodated my requests without any problem. Natasha, the person I had most of my interaction with, would reply to all my emails within a few hours and even on weekends. This is very reassuring!
- Very professional guides and porters. At all times I felt I was taken good care of and that the guys knew what they were doing. I could see that everyone in my team was really experienced in the mountain and they really went out of their way to do a good job.
- Amazing quality food! The food during the trek was just amazing. A massive breakfast to start the day and a 3 course meal both for lunch and dinner!
- Once in Tanzania everything runs smoothly. My pick-ups were always on time (something rare in Africa) and everyone showed up when they had to with a smile on their faces. Samson (their chief guide and the one who gives you a briefing before the trek) is very knowledgable and upbeat, he patiently answered my questions and made sure everything would go as planned. Once I was back from the trek he came to the hotel the next day to check up on me. Natasha was also always available by email if I had any questions. They really care about their clients.
- I only wish they would organize trips and treks to other parts of world. Then I would book with them every time.
Why are other treks so significantly expensive?
The main difference is in all the extras. Some companies offer luxury accommodation in Moshi before and after the trek as well as “luxury” services in the mountain.
Some examples of what you can get if you pay more:
– Oxygen bottles, portable altitude chambers and pulse oximeters.
– Satellite phone and other communication systems.
– Western guides and/or a guide who speaks your language.
– Portable toilets and shower tent.
– Extra porters for your day pack.
– Pre-departure meetings in your home country.
– Stand up tent with a bed.
– Bottled water.
Is this necessary? Absolutely NOT. These are luxury add-ons and it is worth to look at the included/excluded when comparing prices with other organizations.
Most people who wish to join a trek like this do it for the thrill of the adventure. Answering the call of nature behind a bush (or other exotic places), sleeping on a tent for a week, learning about a different culture when interacting with your local guide as well as dealing with the rigours of altitude is all a part of the experience. And something that, when looking back, will enhance your sense of accomplishment.
Do you have to be rich to climb Kilimanjaro?
Definitely not. If you want to trek in a luxury fashion maybe yes, but other than that it is a trip that is affordable for the majority of us.
The price for a 7 days on the Machame route with Absolute Africa (as quoted today) is 1315£.
It includes everything except the flights and the tips to the porters and guides (around 300$ per person).
You can choose to combine the trek with a safari, before or after, at an additional (and really good) price. I chose not to do that because I had been on a safari before and wanted to save on vacation days. I took a trip to Zanzibar also with Absolute to relax after the trek. Something that I also recommend.
Would I book with them again?
Absolutely and I actually did. Both my trips to Kilimanjaro were with Absolute Africa.