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 climbing companies that do it right, and climbing companies that do not.
If you want to be a “responsible traveller”, it is important that the people of Tanzania benefit from your climb, and so you need to use a travel company, either in Europe or the US, that works together with a local Tanzanian company, which will provide much-needed jobs in the area.
As an emerging holiday destination, Tanzania is still some way behind the western world when it comes to websites, credit card facilities, and international correspondence, but the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) and the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC), can help make your search for a recommended climbing company 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.
The average porter working for a KPAP registered company carries around 20 kilograms in weight and has to climb the mountain twice as fast as you do, and so the ‘fair’ salary of 15,000 TZS (Approx. 7 USD) per day doesn’t seem right. But, when you consider that other companies who do not support KPAP 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, you should consider the following points when choosing a company:
- Check that the Company is registered with KPAP and IMEC on the official website.
- Avoid companies that offer cheap Kilimanjaro climbs – If you are paying less than $2000 (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 $800 per person alone, and then you have food, equipment, and staff wages to consider. The Tanzanian government introduced an 18% VAT levy on all travel services on 1st July 2016, and so Kilimanjaro Expeditions are not as cheap as they used to be.
- Compare the Companies tipping guides with that on the KPAP website – If their tips are lower – their wages are probably lower too (or non-existent).
- Call the company you are thinking of using and speak to them directly about their Porter policy.
We all have a budget, but when it comes to travelling in developing countries, ‘cutting costs’ can affect those who need to benefit from our tourism the most. So make the smart choice when your book your Kilimanjaro Climb, and be a responsible traveller…!