Out of all the seven Summits, Kilimanjaro is probably the cheapest mountain to climb, but as with any major ‘tourist’ attraction, it is surrounded by some companies that do it right, and some that do not.
As we try our best to be “responsible travellers” we decided that we wanted to climb Kilimanjaro with a local Tanzanian company, rather than some huge travel agent in Europe or the US, in the hope that it would benefit the local community and provide jobs – but research proved tough.
An emerging country, Tanzania is still some way behind the Western world when it comes to websites, credit card facilities, and international correspondence, but after coming across the Kilimanjaro Porters Association Project (KPAP) and the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC), our search for a registered Kilimanjaro climbing company got a whole lot easier.
The IMEC was founded in 1996 in Boulder, Colorado to promote responsible and sustainable connections between travellers and the people who develop the mountain regions of the world. Through its Porter Assistance Project in Kilimanjaro, the IMEC monitors local companies to ensure they provide their porters with adequate clothing, food and shelter, and list minimum salary guidelines to make sure they receive ‘fair’ pay.
When you consider that the average porter carries around 25 kilograms and has to climb the mountain twice as fast as you do, the ‘fair’ salary of 8,000 TZS (Approx 5 USD) per day doesn’t seem right. But, when you consider that other companies pay them even less using terms such as “any money is better than no money”, you realise just how important these organisations are.
Even today there are still porters that climb Kilimanjaro without warm clothing, proper shoes (we saw one poor guy in Birkenstocks!), and adequate food, so if you are thinking of making the journey to the Roof of Africa anytime soon, we ask you to please look out for the following points when choosing a company:
- Only choose a company that displays the IMEC and KPAP Logos
- Avoid companies that offer cheap Kilimanjaro climbs – If you are paying less than $1500 (USD) per person for a 7-day Machame Route climb (excluding flights), someone somewhere is losing out – and it’s probably the porters. The Kilimanjaro national park entrance fees cost in the region of $650 per person alone, and then you have food, equipment, and staff wages to consider.
- Compare the Companies tipping guides with that on the KPAP website – If their tips are lower – their wages are probably lower too.
- Call the company you are thinking of using and speak to them directly – it can be difficult to find helpful reviews on the internet for Tanzanian companies.
- If in doubt, ask the company to send you their company registration details, and check the Tanzanian company register.
Once you have completed your Kilimanjaro tour, you will have the opportunity to tip your porters generously and they will gratefully accept any items of clothing and shoes that you can spare. Our suitcases were a good few kilos lighter on our return, but the pleasure our guides got from the hiking sticks, iPods, hats, trousers and gloves we left behind made it all worth while!