A perfect blend of beauty and beast, Mount Kilimanjaro is a nature’s marvel that leaves no stone unturned when it comes to alluring trekkers to its summit. From being a dormant volcanic mountain and standing at a daunting height of 5895 meters, to hosting a wooden box at the top where summiteers leave their thoughts and being home to almost every ecological system found on earth, this mountain offers it all.
For all those planning to reach the apex of Mount Kilimanjaro, we have gathered all the information that you may need in this extensive guide to help you get ready for the challenge ahead. This article is written from our direct experience of organizing 1000s of Kilimanjaro climbing expeditions over the years and feedback from our clients and guides. By the end of this article, you will have a very good idea of what to expect, how to prepare, conditions on the mountain, costs involved, packing list, Tanzania VISA info and other tips.
We encourage you to go through it entirely. However, if you are short on time, you can skip to the section relevant to your stage of planning the Kilimanjaro climb by selecting from the below Index
So let’s get started.
What are the Different Routes Available for Climbing Kilimanjaro?
Choosing the wrong route can be the difference between a life-changing and life-threatening experience. Hence it is crucial for you to understand the pros and cons every route has to offer.
There are 7 main routes that one can use to climb to the peak:
- Marangu Route
- Machame Route
- Rongai Route
- Umbwe Route
- Shira Route
- Lemosho Route
- Northern Circuit Route
Let’s take a look at each of these routes one by one -
- Ascent Distance: 36.75 Km
- Descent Distance: 36.75 Km (Marangu Route)
- Total Distance: 73.5 Km
- Total Trek Duration: 5-7 Days
- Trek Difficulty: Easy
- Highlight: Camping Not Allowed, Cheap
Also known as the Tourist Route, this is the only route on the list that uses the same path while ascending and descending. It is also the only route that attracts a lot of tourists who cannot be graded as serious trekkers but are rather there to check out the beauty the mountain has to offer. Its popularity comes from the degree of its trek which is mostly a comfortable walking path with a steady and gradual slope. Shared hut accommodations are a common sight and you can even get your hands on amenities such as water bottles and candy bars.
Though, one major problem that climbers face here is the acclimatization problem posed by the short time it takes to reach the summit. Hence, a good option in such a situation is to spend an additional day at the Horombo Hut to give your body some time to respond to the height.
If you are looking forward to camping, you may want to try another route since camping is not possible on Marangu.
- Ascent Distance: 40.16 Km
- Descent Distance: 20.6 Km (Mweka Route)
- Total Distance: 60.76 Km
- Total Trek Duration: 6-7 Days
- Trek Difficulty: Strenuous
- Highlight: Very Crowded, Most Popular,
Also known as the Whiskey Route, Machame is considered to be the most promising route when it comes to scenic beauty. The Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower, and the Barranco Wall are a treat to the eyes. But as the saying goes, “danger lies in beauty and beauty in danger”. Machame often turns out to be a steep climb with a lot of ups and downs along with a succession of valleys and ridges. This can easily prove to be a monumental challenge for first timers and low experienced trekkers. Moreover, Machame is the most popular route on the list with an annual crowd of more than 22,000 climbers. This can either be a turn-off or a motivating factor, depending on your cognitive inclination.
- Ascent Distance: 37.65 Km
- Descent Distance: 36.75 Km (Marangu Route)
- Total Distance: 74.4 Km
- Total Trek Duration: 5-7 Days
- Trek Difficulty: Easy
- Highlight: Less Crowd, Monsoon Route
Rongai is one route of Kilimanjaro which offers the possibility of encountering wildlife. It is the third most popular route on the list, mainly due to its easy climb which rises gradually with no steep ups and downs, thus being a great alternative to the Marangu Route. Another great advantage of Rongai is the success rate that it offers. As many as 90% of the climbers with some past experience of trekking reach the summit. What’s more? The route lies in a relatively drier section of the mountain, which makes it fitting for a climb during the rainy season. Even the acclimatization profile of Rongai is very good as it offers ample time to climbers to get used to the higher altitudes.
- Ascent Distance: 27.71 Km
- Descent Distance: 20.6 Km (Mweka Route)
- Total Distance: 48.31 Km
- Total Trek Duration: 6-8 Days
- Trek Difficulty: Strenuous, Steep
- Highlight: Steep, For experienced climbers only
Although this is not such a technical climb, the Umbwe Route is quite different from the ones above. You would have probably noticed the low ascent and descent distances, and these make Umbwe a rather steep climb. This is quite a tough one and thus, recommended only for experienced trekkers. People often use trees on the slopes to pull themselves up and maintain balance.
- Ascent Distance: 34 Km
- Descent Distance: 20.6 Km (Mweka Route)
- Total Distance: 54.6 Km
- Total Trek Duration: 6-7 Days
- Trek Difficulty: Strenuous
- Highlight: Expensive, Quick
Since this route joins the Machame Route eventually, the characteristics are quite similar to that of Machame. What makes the route different is that it is possible to cover the initial part of the climb in a four-wheeler. This is a great way if you’re looking to save time and directly push your body into acclimatization mode.
- Ascent Distance: 46.26 Km
- Descent Distance: 20.6 Km (Mweka Route)
- Total Distance: 66.86 Km
- Total Trek Duration: 6-9 Days
- Trek Difficulty: Moderate
- Highlight: Expensive
Lemosho is a less frequented trail that approaches from the west and joins the Machame Route. The pros of choosing this way to the top are that it offers a scenic beauty as well as an excellent way to acclimatize to the altitudes due to its smooth elevation gain. The first two days of the climb are particularly notable since it takes trekkers through a remote rainforest. This often makes wildlife spotting possible, hence dubbing Lemosho as the best routes to the top. Although it can be covered in 6 days, a minimum of 8 days is advised for a better altitude adjustment process and a higher success rate of reaching the top.
Northern Circuit Route
- Ascent Distance: 48.9 Km
- Descent Distance: 20.6 Km (Mweka Route)
- Total Distance: 69.5 Km
- Total Trek Duration: 7-9 Days
- Trek Difficulty: Moderate
- Highlight: Expensive, Longest Route
This is the latest addition to the list of Kilimanjaro routes and is quite unique due to the fact that it traverses around the whole mountain (nearly 360-degree traverse) and is also the only route that treks through the northern slopes. The Northern Circuit is the longest climb to the top. Though this can be alluring for serial trekkers, a longer route translates to a higher trekking time and hence, a higher cost.
Which route do you recommend for me?
There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ route. Each route is unique with different difficulty levels and terrains. It depends primarily on the trekker’s level of fitness. For example, Marangu is the preferred route by non-experienced climbers; whereas Lemosho and Northern Circuit are the most challenging routes.
One can also narrow down on a route based on the acclimatization it offers. In this regard, Rongai and Lemosho offer good acclimatization. Marangu is not a well-acclimatized route. The last leg of the trek covers a substantial height. This sudden shift in altitude leads to altitude related illnesses, many a time forcing the trekker back down. But measures can be taken to cope with this. Please look in the questions below for more information.
Which Season is the Best for Climbing Kilimanjaro?
Now that you know the ‘how’ of reaching the top, it is also crucial to answer the ‘when’ of the equation. The right weather will not only increase your chances of reaching the summit but will also make sure that the experience is forever etched in your memory.
Here are the major periods and the trekking prospects that Kilimanjaro offers -
1) January - March
This period is a good time to climb the mountain since the weather is comfortable (dry and warm temperatures), with occasional mild showers or snowfalls. The dry season also makes the visibility good. Though this attracts a lot of climbers and the mountain can be particularly crowded at this time. The crowd starts receding from March as the rainy season knocks.
2) April - June
The end of March marks the onset of the rainy season which continues through June. The irony is that this is the warmest time of the year in Tanzania. Due to the mud, the mountain slopes can get slippery which makes this period dangerous to trek. The Rongai route is usually preferred during these months.
May also marks the end of the snowfall period.
3) June - July
June signifies the restart of the climbing period when the weather starts transitioning from rainy to cold. The air becomes dry but the nights turn out to be particularly cold.
4) July - October
This is the busiest time of the year when Mountain climbing is at its peak. The air is very dry but temperatures drop even further. Along with this, clouds can also be encountered in forest areas along with mild showers in the southern routes. Overall, good visibility and summer vacations across Europe and America add to the swarm of climbers in this season.
5) October - December
Mid-October marks the onset of the second rainy season in Kilimanjaro. The weather is quite unstable throughout November, accompanied by afternoon clouds, sudden thunderstorms, and snowfalls. Thus, this is not a recommended period to trek. Although, some people do trek during December due to the short holidays.
Your choice of the best month may defer due to various personal choices, but when it comes to natural conditions, July, August, and September proved to be best seasons to climb followed by October, January and February.
How Should I Prepare for the Kilimanjaro Climb?
The climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro will take between 5 – 9 days of strenuous walking, depending on the route chosen. Being a long hike, Kilimanjaro doesn’t require you to train like a professional mountaineer. However, its rapid ascent makes it much harder than it seems at first glance. It is a well-known fact that your biggest challenges will be altitude-related issues like Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), Pulmonary and Cardiovascular issues.
Fitness Training - The truth is that predicting one’s response to high altitudes is very complex. Like in the case of Dustin, you may be a great athlete but may also be the first one to face symptoms. Training for Kilimanjaro need not be based on strength or pace. While strength training and resistance training will be a great help, learning how to deal with high-altitude and low oxygen conditions is far more important.
Hiking - The best way to train yourself for high altitude hikes is to hike as much as you can, increasing distance and altitude gradually. All climbing experts will attest to this. As you do this, your heart, lungs, and brain learn how to acclimatize faster. At the same time, getting your body used to walking long distances will target exactly those muscles that do the most work. Start at least 3 months before your climb. If you can, do a preparatory hike at a slightly lower altitude before Kilimanjaro.
Interval Training - Interval Training is a cardiovascular training regime which includes periods of elevated heart rate, followed by periods of low-rate recovery. As your heart accelerates and normalizes, it learns how to deal with low-oxygen and high-pressure conditions, similar to those on the Kilimanjaro hike. For more information on interval training, you can refer BodyResults.
Preparatory Breathing Techniques - Develop patterns of breathing to reduce the rate of oxygen consumption and increase carbon dioxide expulsion. To prepare your body to survive in low-oxygen conditions, many yogic techniques have proven effective in this regard. Meditation has been found to be even more so. Essentially, you want to do everything you can to survive on as little oxygen as possible.
More than 35000 mountaineers attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro every year. But many end up turning back on their toes. Conquering the highest free standing mountain in the world is no easy feat. It requires an amalgam of top-notch physical and mental fitness.
Required Fitness Level for the Climb
Mount Kilimanjaro has been graded as a strenuous climb. Problems caused by the high altitudes make it a challenge even for fit people, let alone for the unfit. You need to be fit enough to endure the diverse range of fitness demands the mountain will ask you. This includes endurance for uphill hiking (with load), lower body strength, core body strength, stamina for all day walking and more.
Recommended Physical Training
Your training regime has to cater to all the aforementioned requirements of the climb and even take it a step ahead. Along with this, you need to condition your body in a way that it can acclimatize to the high altitude and low temperature.
So what all can you do to prepare for the physical ordeal? The bottom line is that you need to be fit enough to be able to trek 100 kilometres in a week.
Here is all that you can do to achieve this target -
1) Aerobic Workouts (Aerobic)
Also known as Cardio exercises, these are low to moderate workout sessions including activities like long distance walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, etc. Such workouts are important for any mountain climber to build up a strong cardiovascular system for the energy demands of the body, and even deal with the high altitude.
A typical preparation plan should include walking/running 6-12 kilometers a day, 3 days a week for a period of 3-6 months (depending on your current fitness level).
An alternative would be an extensive 60 - 90-minute workout on the Stairmaster or sustained cycling sessions. The core notion is to get your heart racing regularly to help it handle the stress of high altitudes.
2) Muscle Strength Building Workouts (Anaerobic)
Since you will be climbing with a considerable amount of load on your back, it is crucial to building up your lower and core body muscular strength.
To build up leg muscles, incorporate the following exercises in your routine for 3 days a week (on alternate days of aerobic exercises)
- Leg curls (front and reverse)
- Leg Extensions
- Step Aerobics
- Leg Presses
- Calf Raises
- Toe Pulls
- Hyper Extensions (lower back)
- Crunches (abdominal)
To build the core body muscles (stomach and back), these body-weight exercises would help -
- Back and Shoulder Flies
- Shoulder Presses
- Kettlebell rows and swings
- Flutter Kicks
- Bird Dog
Important Note -
- In weight training, the amount of weight would depend on your fitness level. For people who are just starting out, the best bet would be to start off with light weights and then increase them gradually every two weeks.
- For every exercise, it is crucial to give the involved group of muscles a resting period of at least 48 hours before they are put under strain again.
3) Endurance Training
Even if you follow every recommendation mentioned above rigorously, the long treks can still leave you distraught. Thus, you need to include regular walking as well as trekking sessions in your regime.
Apart from this, we recommend you to pick out a trek in your location that takes at least 5-6 hours to complete and cover it both uphill and downhill for a period of 3 continuous days. Such practice is perfect to be carried out in the final stages of your preparations and will put your body through a grueling test.
How to Condition for the High Altitude
High altitudes pose to be a major risk for all mountain climbers. The availability of oxygen takes a serious hit due to the thinner air and it becomes more difficult to breathe for a body that is already in a workout status. There are a lot of health risks involved, including altitude sickness, acute mountain syndrome and pulmonary edema. Any of these can easily prove to be fatal.
Thus, you need to train your body to deal with serious oxygen deprivation. Here are the conditioning activities that you can indulge in to acclimatize your body:
- Begin your training sessions at least 2-3 months before you hike.
- Undergo a full body checkup during the training phase to keep a track of how it is responding to the strain.
- Hike as much as possible. Increase the duration and the altitude of your hike gradually every week so that your lungs and muscles get enough time to get accustomed to less oxygen availability.
- Indulge in Interval Training. This is the method of carrying out high-intensity exercises that elevate the heart rate, then alternatively allowing the rate to come down for a period before alleviating it again. Such exercises include uphill running, sprinting, etc. Dedicate one day a week for interval training and do 5-7 repetitions of the exercise you choose.
- Practice Yoga and Pranayama to learn how to deep breathe. Developing a long breath breathing-rhythm will preserve energy at higher altitudes.
Now that your body is up for the challenge, it's time to get your mind ready. Climbers often stress upon the importance of mental health and how it was pivotal to help them reach the summit.
“It is not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves” - Edmund Hillary
So how do you begin preparing for an imminent ordeal? You can start by accepting that pain and discomfort will indeed happen, but it won't be permanent! Hence, whenever you are in pain, keep reminding yourself that the suffering would end eventually.
The next step is to experience it beforehand so that the unexpected gravity of any situation does not bring you down during your climb. Putting your body through a vigorous test in realistic trekking environments would go a long way in establishing this.
What are the Dangers of Climbing Kilimanjaro and How to Deal with Them?
Statistics say that every year approximately 1000 people are evacuated from the mountain and about 10 climbers end up losing their lives. The biggest cause of such incidences is being ignorant towards the health perils that one may face at high altitudes. You need to learn how to read signs of distress off your body and take appropriate measures. Let’s look at the most common health issues climbers face -
1) Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
Almost half the amount of trekkers on Kilimanjaro go through some degree of altitude sickness or another. AMS usually kicks in at an altitude of 8000 feet or 2400 meters above sea level due to a paucity of oxygen in the thinner air around. Typical symptoms range from nausea and dizziness to headaches and shortness of breath. Although AMS is pretty common, it often recedes quickly. Though in some rare cases, the condition can worsen and end up affecting the lungs and/or the brain. Thus, AMS should be treated with caution.
The cause of AMS - Mt. Kilimanjaro’s peak stands at 5,895 meters. After the 3,000 meter mark, most people begin to feel some symptom or the other. The main cause of AMS is climbing too high, too fast. This should be avoided at all costs but is unfortunately quite common on Kilimanjaro due to its rapid ascent.
Prior to the trek, it is not possible to gauge whether you will be experiencing altitude sickness. But there are some factors which can expose you to the risks of AMS as given below -
- Having a history of Altitude Sickness
- Extensive exercises or indulgence in alcohol right before your trek
- No prior exposure to high altitude
- Medical issues such as respiratory problems or heart diseases
- Rapidly Ascending heights, ignoring the recommended speed
- Low red blood cell count or anemia
- Influence of medications that can lower the breathing rate
How to Minimize Chances of AMS
Mountain Sickness can knock anybody down at any time. But it is possible to minimize the chances of suffering through AMS by taking some precautions -
1) Follow a dedicated acclimatization process while trekking
- Never fly or drive to higher altitudes. Give your body time to respond to subtle changes in elevation.
- “Climb high, sleep low”. Always sleep at a lower altitude than the one you are climbing.
- Try to spend one night sleeping at an intermediate elevation level, that is, below 3000 meters.
- When you cross the 3000 meters mark during your trek, increase your sleeping altitude by only 300-500 meters per day.
- Take proper rest after every 1000 m of elevation gain.
- If symptoms of AMS do develop, take proper rest and delay any further accent.
- Keep an extra day in your schedule to utilize it only for acclimatization.
- Consult your doctor regarding proper medication for prevention and treatment of AMS. Diamox (Acetazolamide) is known to speed up the rate of adjusting to elevation gains. Although it does not help in treatment once you do encounter AMS.
How to Identify AMS
AMS can be easily spotted by being on the lookout for the symptoms below -
- Loss of Appetite
- Feeling Sick (Nausea)
- Feeling of constant fatigue
- Dizziness (light-headedness)
- Elevated Heart Beats
- Muscle Aches
- Swelling in hands, feet, and face
- Shortness of breath even with slight exertion
In cases where most of these symptoms are present and have been unattended to for a while, they can get even more severe -
- Heavy Coughing
- Chest Congestion
- Pale Complexion
- Skin Discoloration
- Lack of Balance
- Difficulty in Walking
- Social Withdrawal
- Mental Confusion
In such severe cases, AMS can develop into much more serious conditions such as High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) which involve swelling of the brain and accumulation of fluids in the lungs respectively.
How can AMS be Treated
If you do get altitude sickness even after following all the preventive measures given above, here is how you can treat it.
- If you encounter mild symptoms of AMS, the first step will be to stop climbing and rest for a while at the same altitude. You can even give your body up to 24 hours to respond to the altitude change.
- Keep watching your body. If symptoms develop further, do not exert yourself and immediately start descending to a lower level.
- Painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used for some relief against the symptoms.
- Reduce your activity level to a bare minimum. Resting at this moment will give your body the time it needs to heal.
- Keep your body hydrated all the time. Since AMS can take a toll on your body, water is often lost through frequent urination and sweating. Such dehydration can make the symptoms even worse.
- Do not indulge in alcohol consumption or smoking at any cost. While smoking will directly affect your breathing rate, alcohol will increase the rate of dehydration.
- Since AMS can affect your judgment level and cause a state of confusion, always tell your fellow travelers about your condition so that they can take decisions for you if and when required.
- If symptoms do not recede even after 2-3 days of rest, do not climb any higher and call off the trek.
- Immediately see the doctor if symptoms do not recede or become worse even after descending to sea level.
The following are 5 steps you can take to mitigate altitude-related issues on your climb. Following these will enable you to nullify AMS symptoms and in the worst case-scenario, get yourself rescued in time to descend the mountain.
Step 1: Pre-Climb Medical Examination
AMS can lead to cardiovascular problems such as anginas and hypoxemia, as well as pulmonary problems like edema. However, even for heart patients, high-altitude travel is possible with professional advice from a doctor. It is highly advised that you consult a doctor before planning your trek. If you have existing cardiovascular or pulmonary problems, this is a necessary step.
Step 2: Give yourself time to Acclimatise
Our bodies have exceptional adaptive abilities. At high altitudes, they automatically compensate for the lack of oxygen and thin air by adjusting breathing and heart rate, red-cell production and even excretion. However, if you ascend faster than your body can acclimatize, you will pay for it.
Your body’s threshold for AMS symptoms (Acclimatisation Line) increases as you adapt to progressively higher altitudes. Kilimanjaro has a rapid ascent rate, meaning you will gain altitude rapidly without even realizing it. Thus, your ascent must be extremely slow, so that your body gets enough time to acclimatize.
Step 3: Golden Rule of Climbing - ‘Climb high, sleep low’
One good way to adjust your rate of ascent is to figure out your acclimatization line – the point at which you start feeling even mild symptoms. Don’t climb higher than this altitude. This also means that you have been ascending too fast. Arrange to sleep for the night a few meters below this point, but go for short strolls a little bit higher. This will help you to acclimatize faster.
Step 4: Preventive Medication
Diamox is the most frequently used medication for Altitude Sickness. Diamox works by stimulating higher levels of CO2 in the blood. Increased CO2 makes the body compensate by breathing deeper and faster.
Keep in mind that it is a preventive medicine and thus, will only work if you take it BEFORE the climb. Once you feel any symptoms, the only way to stop them is to descend.
There are steroids that can be used to effectively combat AMS symptoms. However, we recommend consulting your doctor about them.
Step 5: Insurance and Evacuation
Quick Guide to Climbing Kilimanjaro
· Do a pre-acclimatisation trek
· Train for cardiovascular fitness
· Visit a Doctor
· Ascend as slow as possible
· Drink lots of water
· ‘Climb high, sleep low’
· No stimulants of any kind – alcohol, smoke, tea, coffee
· Descend to a lower point as soon as you feel AMS symptoms.
· Take Diamox BEFORE the climb.
· Reach a rescue point
Hypothermia is another health hazard that mountain climbers often face. Cold temperatures and high-speed winds can cause the body to lose heat quickly.
Common symptoms of Hypothermia are -
- Intense Shivering
- Weak heart rate
- Feeling of hotness. An urge to take off all clothes
- Loss of motor skills
- Slurred speech
- Slow breathing
Minimizing the Risk of Hypothermia
It is easier to prevent hypothermia compared to treating it. Here is how you can be prepared for the risk -
- Have sufficient carbohydrates and fats before the climb
- Keep yourself hydrated all the time
- If there are any wet clothes immediately remove them
- Insulate cold sensitive areas such as the head, neck, hands, and feet. Most heat is lost through these body parts.
Sunburn is another common issue that climbers go through in which the skin turns red, becomes swollen and painful as a result of overexposure to the UV rays of the sun.
The risk of sunburn is greater at higher altitudes, particularly in open areas at a time when the sun is directly above you.
Sunburn can be easily avoided by minimizing the amount of skin that is exposed to sunlight. Other preventive measures can include -
- Always finding shady areas to rest
- Using sunglasses to protect the eyes
- Applying and reapplying sunblock
4) Blisters and Sprains
Blisters and sprains are typical hiking injuries. Blisters are often caused due to the friction produced between the feet and the shoes as a result of prolonged walking or hiking. On the other hand, sprains can be caused due to any sudden jerks or movements of the foot. Since the mountainous terrain is often uneven, one can easily get his/her leg twisted while climbing.
Blisters can be easily prevented by using good quality shoes that are dedicated for trekking. Even certain lubricants for the feet help to reduce the friction. Similarly, sprains can also be prevented by using proper trekking gear, including ankle supports.
Are there any tips to climbing Kilimanjaro?
We know how heartbreaking it can be to fail to reach the summit of a mountain such as Kilimanjaro after you’ve put your whole heart and soul into the training.
Having said that, Kilimanjaro is bound to check both your mental and physical fitnesses. Hence, you need to be ready and highly motivated to face the challenge ahead.
Here are some useful tips to help you cope up with the challenge before and during the trek -
1) Research Extensively About Routes - As we have covered this in one of the sections above, there are 7 routes to choose from, each offering something unique in terms of topography, length, required trekking time and even the cost. Learn about each route to understand which one would be the best for you.
2) Keep Medication Handy - Medication for common illnesses like AMS should be in your backpack at all times. This is especially recommended for trekkers who have rushed their training regimes. However, you must consult your doctor and get a full body check-up done before going down this road.
3) Always Remember ‘Pole Pole’ - You will be hearing this often from your guide and porters from the moment you start climbing. ‘Pole Pole’, which is Swahili for ‘slowly slowly’, is the key mantra to conquer Kilimanjaro. This will give your body sufficient time to relax and optimally respond to the altitude.
4) Pack Light - Regardless of whether you are hiring porters or not, packing light will always be easier to manage. Even porters carry a load of up to 15 Kgs that mainly includes your gear and accommodation. Hence, make sure that you carry only essential amenities like clothes, water, snacks, sunscreen, and bathroom supplies.
5) Invest in the Right Gear - Never underestimate the power of the right gear. These include a good pair of waterproof trekking boots, a down jacket/coat with long pockets and the ability to last a night’s cold, water carrier and bottle, ankle/knee support like a ski-pole, headlamps, etc. Such proper gear will make your trek much easier to traverse.
6) Hydration is Key - Hydration is pivotal for your success. Your metabolism will increase at higher altitudes and this will speed up dehydration. At an optimum state, as much as 5 liters of water per day should be consumed.
7) Pay Close Attention to Your Body - Ignoring the signs of altitude sickness is the worst thing that you can probably do on your trek. You need to understand that if symptoms are mild, they will only get worse as you climb higher. Take proper measures to subside them, including medication and efficient acclimatization.
8) Keep Packed Food - You will, most probably, be traveling with a reputable travel company who will arrange timely and lavish meals for you 3 times a day. But there is usually no arrangement if you feel hungry between the meals. You can thus pack some light snacks to keep your energy level high. These should be sweet, salty and high in proteins and calories.
9) Be Mentally Prepared - Accept the fact that this is going to be one hell of a ride. You won’t be able to shower during the trek, suffering in the form of pain, headache, and mild nausea will be inevitable, and self-doubt can creep in anytime during the trek. You need to constantly tell yourself that all this is temporary but the glory of making to the top will stay with you forever.
10) Record your Experience - Make sure to have a means to record the memories you make while trekking. If you don’t, you will surely end up regretting it later! Carry a camera or at least a journal with you so as to capture the beauty around as well as your struggle to make it to the top.
And lastly, do not forget to have fun! We know that Kilimanjaro can be a testing trek, but it is also important to stay positive at all times so that it keeps you motivated and driven. Look around and savor the beauty of the moment! Don’t forget to appreciate the efforts that you have taken to come this far.
How do we Sleep? What About Toilet Facilities?
When it comes to accommodation on Kilimanjaro, it will depend on the trekking route that you choose. If you are choosing the Marangu route, camping is not allowed here. Instead, there is a host of huts available along the route, like Mandara and Horombo huts, which you can sleep in. Such huts are usually in the style of dormitories having 4-20 beds per room.
If you’re taking any of the other 6 routes, you can easily use tents to camp here.
Your operators will usually make all such arrangements for you.
Although, there are a few caves along certain routes which might tempt you to take shelter. Avoid this at all costs since sleeping in caves is strictly against park regulations.
When it comes to toilet facilities, there are 3 options that you can opt for -
- Public Toilets - You can go for the cheaper option here and use the public toilets available on Kilimanjaro. But since they are extensively used, you may find them unsanitary and lack in basic amenities. Make sure to bring your own toilet paper!
- Private Toilets - Private toilets are portable loos that can be booked in advance through your operator. You can easily carry them along with your tent and use it anytime when nature calls.
- The Bushes - Some trekkers also prefer to use the bushes to do their business. If you do choose to take this way, make sure to dispose of any unsanitary elements that can ruin the day for other trekkers!
What gear should I pack for my Kilimanjaro climb and Tanzania visit?
Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb and hence, one will not require any serious trekking gear. However, one must be equipped to handle the unpredictable and harsh climate of Kilimanjaro. Below is a list of essentials we ask all our trekkers to be ready with. Please note that most of these items are easily available in Moshi for purchase or rent. The cost of renting would be anywhere from 100 USD to 200 USD (depending on the items being rented) -
- Spare batteries for camera, headlamp
- Face cloth
- Toilet paper
Summit gear (wear on summit night):
- Leather or thermal boots
- Gore-Tex, Microtex or K-Tech Trilaminate jacket
- Gore-Tex, Microtex or K-Tech pants
- Fleece jacket
- Fleece gloves (use as inner for Gore-Tex mittens
- Thermal gloves liners (use as inner for Gore-Tex gloves
- Fleece balaclava
- Thermal balaclava
- Thermal top
- Thermal long johns
- Thermal socks
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Day packs
- Head torch
- Thermal flask
Trekking gear (wear between camps):
- Rain suit or poncho (mainly used in the rain forest)
- Hiking boots or cross trainers
- Day pack
- Short pants
- Tracksuit pants
- Sun hat (peak caps do not offer enough protection)
- Woolen sacks
- Fleece beanie
- Water bottle
General gear & equipment:
- Duffel bag
- Walking stick (adjustable)
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Altitude sickness
- Cold and flu
- Water purification
- Muscular sprains
What are the guidelines on tipping for Kilimanjaro guides, porters, and chefs?
Aside from the package, one of the major expenses would be tipping for the entire crew. In case of group treks, the tips would be divided amongst the entire group. Below is the tipping guideline -
Senior guide – $20 – 25 / day
Assistant guide – $15 – 20 / day
Cook – $12 – 15 / day
Waiter – $10 – 12 /day
Porter – $8 – 10 / day
Summit Porter – $12 – 15 / day
Toilet crew – $10 – 12 / day
What is the breakup of the Kilimanjaro Trek costs?
Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the most expensive treks in the world starting at a minimum of USD 1100. In understanding the breakdown of this cost, it is pivotal to take into account the park fees levied by the Kilimanjaro National Parks Authority (KINAPA).This constitutes of 70% of the total cost. Below is a rough breakdown of the various fees –
1) Conservation Fees – This is the fee imposed for the maintenance of the Kilimanjaro National Park. The current fee is USD 70 per person/per day. This means that if you are opting for a 7-day Lemosho trek, the cost will be 70*7 = 490 USD.
2) Camping Fees – While on the trek, one would be camping at the public campsites (toilets included) which are maintained by the Park Authorities. The cost of the same is USD 50 per person/per night. For eg., if one opts for the 7-day Lemosho trek, he/she will be staying at campsites for 6 nights. Hence, the cost will be 50*6= 300 USD.
Please note that all routes except the Marangu route offer camping at campsites.
3) Hut fees – This is only applicable to trekkers on the Marangu route since it is the only route with accommodation in huts. These are also maintained by the Park and the cost is USD 60 per person/per night. For example, if one is taking the 5 day Marangu route (4 nights), the cost will be 60*4= 240 USD.
4) Rescue Fees – In the case of any emergencies, the Park offers immediate rescue services, the cost for which is USD 20 per person/per trek.
5) Crater Camping Fees – The Carter Camp is a famous camping spot on Kilimanjaro that falls on the Northern Circuit trail. This campsite can also be accommodated in the Machame and Lemosho routes but on customization requests. The cost for camping at the Crater Camp is USD 100 per person/per night.
6) Entrance Fee for Crew – Each trekker will be accompanied by a guide, porters and a cook and the entrance fee for the crew will be borne by the trekker itself. The cost is USD 2 per person/per trek.
7) VAT – As on July 2016, the Tanzanian government started levying a VAT (Value Added Tax) of 18% on the cost of all the various components mentioned above.
Let’s clarify this better with an example. If 1 Trekker is opting for the 7 days Machame Route, the cost breakdown will be as follow –
- Conservation Fee – 7 * 70 = USD 490
- Camping Fee (6 nights) – 6 * 50 = USD 300
- Crew Fee (1 guide, 1 cook, 3 porters) – 2 * 5 = USD 10
- Rescue Fees – USD 20
- Total (excluding Tax) – USD 820
- VAT – 18% of 820 = USD 147.6
- Total = USD 820 + 147.6 = USD 967.6 per person
USD 968 is the approximate cost for a 7 day Machame trek for 1 person. This means that the cost of the trek primarily depends on the number of days spent on the mountain and in the Park. Invariably, a 7-day Lemosho trek will be costlier than a 6 day Marangu trek since one will be spending more days in the Park via Lemosho.
Please note that this is simply the majority of the cost. The cost of equipment and the fee for your crew is additional and not accounted for here.
The Kilimanjaro National Park offers discounts to children under the age of 16 and East African citizens. For more info, you can check the official Park websites –
- Tanzania National Parks - Park Fees and Regulations
- Tanzania National Parks - Park Fees and Regulations for EAC Citizens
What is Mojhi and why should I use your service, given the endless options?
We are a marketplace for adventure activities around the world. We work with only good local companies because we believe local companies need a platform to connect with international trekkers such as yourself.
We have a comprehensive screening process that every company has to pass before they can list on our site. After the initial screening, there are rigorous and continuous checks and feedbacks taken from our customers.
Below is our screening process:
- We check if the company is legal and has all the required government and legal compliances met
- We verify if the guides are qualified and certified. We have a team of expert mountaineers and trekkers who scrutinize the details of the guides.
- Has the company been operating for long?
- TripAdvisor reviews and other review sources are taken into consideration.
- Feedback from past customers and references are shared. We call and talk to at least 30-40 past customers to get their feedback
- Continuous feedback from new customers is collected.
- The threat of blacklisting. Companies who don't adhere to our quality standards are blacklisted. This fear ensures companies strive to provide good service.
What are the available dates for the climb?
We organize treks on all days of the years. If you have already narrowed down on your trek date, you can let us know and we can do the needful.
If you are looking for group treks, we offer group departures that you can join on certain dates. Get in touch with us and we can share the list of available dates with you. If none of the available dates work for you, you need not worry. We can organize a private trek or you can book your trek and we can make your date available for other trekkers to join in.
What about Tanzania VISA?
Tanzania offers VISA on arrival. You could also contact the embassy in your place of origin and get it in advance. However, Tanzanian VISAs are easily available at a cost of USD 50 for all countries except USA. The cost for the same for people for people from USA is USD 100. Please carry cash as VISA payments at the airport are made in cash.
Yellow fever vaccinations are mandatory if one is traveling from any of the countries provided in this link - https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever#4728
Apart from yellow fever, there are a number of precautionary vaccinations one can take. Please check in the link below for more information on the same -
What else to do in Tanzania besides climbing Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro is not the only attraction that lures tourists to Tanzania. It is also known for its spectacular wildlife reserves and beaches!
Safaris in Tanzania
1) Serengeti Balloon Safari
This safari offers an amazing bird’s eye view of the beauty that Tanzania has to offer via its Africa-Mecca wildlife tour. What makes this tour special is that the wild can be easily spotted at any time of the year, particularly in the Seronera River Valley which offers a permanent water reserve. May-July proves to be the peak spotting period when the Great Migration takes place over the Grumeti River.
If this is on your prospective agenda, do not forget to book your tickets in advance because of the limited seat availability!
2) Boat Safari
One of the largest protected areas in the world (covering 5% of Tanzania), the Selous Game Reserve offers another great experience for wildlife seekers. Large flocks of elephants and buffalos can be found, along with animals such as leopards, wild dogs, lions, hippos, crocodiles, antelopes, rare birds and more. This boat safari along the Rufiji River is a treat to the eyes and should not be missed if you have an extra day in your schedule.
3) Zanzibar Beach Vacation
Zanzibar is a cluster of numerous small and large islands in the Indian Ocean which consist of a plethora of beautiful white-sand beaches. Being just a 20-minute flight away from Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, the island hosts more than 300,000 annual tourists. Apart from beaches, Stone Town offers an amazing Swahili cultural tour, giving an account of important historical events that took place here. Majestic Anglican and Catholic churches, mosques, Omani palaces, the old fort, and cannons are some of the major attractions of this town.
On the other hand, if you are the adventurous kind, Zanzibar also offers some world class snorkeling and scuba diving sites. Some of the smaller islands are in fact coral formations that house many unique creatures.
Tanzania proves to be the perfect travel destination for adventure junkies and leisure seekers alike. Whatever your dream vacation may look like, we can bring it to life! We at Mojhi excel at planning your next perfect adventurous getaway.