Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Steps on Planning a Trip to Kilimanjaro & Recommendation on Local Guides

In my previous post, I shared some stories during my trip to Kilimanjaro this October. Here are a full set of steps which can help you plan a successful trip to this great mountain, and also, a recommendation on local guides.

Why Kilimanjaro?

The reason for climbing Kilimanjaro may differ from one to one. Many people whom I met on the mountain told me that it was their dream. If you need a reason, the following facts may help you:
  • Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, at 5,895 metres above sea level.
  • It is the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Free-standing means it stands alone and is not part of a mountain range.
  • It is one of the world's largest volcanoes.
  • It has permanent glaciers covering the summit area, while it is only three degrees of latitude south to the Equator.

Can I Make It?
The first step is to check whether your are physically suitable for the climb. Although climbing Kilimanjaro is not technical, I still advise you to take a medical checkup before you decide to climb Kilimanjaro. Consult your doctor with your medical checkup report. Your doctor should be able to advise whether you can proceed and if you can, what should be noticed before and during the climb.

Time to Climb
To avoid the two rainy seasons, the good periods to climb Kilimanjaro are mid of December to end of February in the next year, and June to October. The former is a bit warmer than the latter in terms of temperature.

The Routes
There are seven official routes for climbing Kilimanjaro. Among them, Marangu and Machame are the most frequently used, followed by Rongai and Lemosho, with Shira, Northern Circuit and Umbwe the least. The website below provides a very good comparison among the routes:


If you choose Machame Route as I did, I would strongly suggest you to stay in the mountain for 7 days instead of 6 days, because the 6-day itinerary skips the most scenic Karanga Camp.

Local Guide / Local Agent
According to the regulation of Kilimanjaro National Park, it is mandatory for all climbers to climb with a licensed guide. The guide, together with his team, takes care of everything (most importantly, safety) on the mountain for the climbers who hire him.

Normally climbers arrive at the airport and stay in town (Moshi or Arusha) one day before the climb and depart from the airport one day after the climb. For my trip, I chose the 7-day Machame Route. So I arrived on Day 0, stayed in the mountain from Day 1 to Day 7, and departed on Day 8. In this way, there are two common options for climbers to organize the whole trip from arrival to departure:

(1) Choose a local agent to arrange the whole trip for you. With this option, the local agent will hire a guide for you and also arrange the accommodation and transportation outside the mountain. There are many local agents on the Internet who can offer this service.

(2) Choose a local guide who can arrange the whole trip for you, including the accommodation and transportation outside the mountain. With this option, you can get a good price without any mark-up by agents, and you can also customize your itinerary with your guide if you want. But only a few guides with good experience can offer this option. At the end of this article, I will introduce my guides Netod and Arnold, who are able to make it.

Air Tickets
Famous airlines connecting Kilimanjaro International Airport include Qatar Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Turkish Airlines. As mentioned above, arrange your arriving flight one day before the climb and departing flight one day after the climb to provide enough buffer for good rest.

Regular Exercise
Going for regular exercise at least three times a week is a good preparation for the climb. Each exercise should consist of warming up, at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, cooling down, and anaerobic exercise. Targeting the trip to Kilimanjaro, useful aerobic exercise includes climbing stairs, running, cycling and pedaling. If you have old injury at your knee like me, cycling and pedaling is more suitable for you. Useful anaerobic exercise includes push-ups, sit-ups and squats. Remember to warm up with enough stretching and never overdo yourself.

When you consult your doctor in the first step, your doctor should have also advised you on the required vaccination for the trip to Tanzania. From my experience, vaccination against Yellow Fever is compulsory for going to Tanzania. Optional vaccination includes Boostrix, Typhim VI and Influenza.

Altitude sickness is a common concern for most climbers. Your doctor should be able to advise you on taking Diamox to treat the altitude effects. For me, I took Hong Jing Tian (Radix Rhodiolae), a traditional Chinese medicine instead of Diamox. To be effective, this medicine should be regularly taken at least two months before the trip. It worked well on me. During the seven days on the mountain, I did not show any sign of altitude sickness except slightly lacking of oxygen on the summit day when climbing above 5,500 metres.

For medicines treating normal travel sickness like cold and diarrhea, I would suggest you to bring the medicines which you have been used to. Do not try to test yourself on new medicines on the mountain.

Travel Insurance
To keep your mind in peace, comprehensive travel insurance covering non-technical mountain climbing up to altitude of 6,000 metres is highly recommended. In the unlikely case of hospitalization and evacuation from Tanzania, this travel insurance will ensure that you can receive immediate support.

Personal Equipment
Your local guide / local agent will give you a list of equipment which is required during you climb. You should decide carefully what to bring your own and what to rent in Moshi, Tanzania. Although you can almost rent every piece of equipment in Moshi, I would suggest you to bring your familiar items as many as you can, because there is no fun to try out any new items on the mountain. For my trip, I only rented bulky items like sleeping bag, insulated parka and duffle bag, and less-frequently-used items like trekking poles, gaiters, gloves and head lamp.

Go Hiking
If you don't normally go hiking, you must go at least once before your trip. Select a route with uneven terrain. Arm yourself with the full set of mountain equipment which you will use in your climb, especially your hiking boots and your day pack. The simulation will help you find out what you may need to improve.

Visa to Tanzania
Citizens from most of the countries in the world either do not require a visa to enter Tanzania or can obtain a visa upon arrival. Only citizens from a few countries require referral visa before going to Tanzania. To know in which category you are, please go to the link below:


Confirm the Trip
Your local guide / local agent will give you a date by when you have to confirm the trip with them and pay them either partial or full price of the tour package. The date is normally about one month before your trip. This payment is necessary for your local guide / local agent to get everything ready before you arrive.

The Final Preparation
During the last week before your trip, the most important rule is to rest well every night. The good rest can reduce the probability that you will suffer from altitude sickness.

Tipping is expected for the mountain crew (your guide and his team) on Kilimanjaro. It can be treated as kind of "performance bonus" for them. If you feel that the mountain crew is really good, here is a guideline of the tipping amount for each crew member (no matter how many clients the crew is serving):
  • Lead Guide: USD 15 per day
  • Assistant Guide: USD 10 per day
  • Chef: USD 10 per day
  • Porter: USD 7 per day
Usually you can give all the tips to your lead guide on the final night (that is, the night after your summit) with a breakdown list stating the amount for each crew member. This means that you need to carry the cash for tipping with you on the mountain. In order to keep the notes from water, lock them into a zip-lock bag is a good practice.

Recommendation on Local Guides
This October on Kilimanjaro, my guide Netod, assistant guide Arnold and their team gave me strong support on my way to fulfill my dream. If you are planning to climb Kilimanjaro and considering to hire local guides who can arrange the whole trip for you, the following information may help.


Netod (Right) and Arnold (Left)

Netod and Arnold are from Marangu Village, a village at the southeast of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is also the starting point of the famous Marangu Route. Netod started his career in Kilimanjaro as a porter in 2002 and obtained his license as a full route guide in 2006 (License ID: KG 396). Similarly, Arnold started his career in Kilimanjaro as a porter in 2004 and obtained his license as a full route guide in 2008 (License ID: KG 593). Their licenses are registered under Kilimanjaro National Park. They know the mountain from a single plant to all the routes.

As a team, Netod is a bit more senior and experienced in the mountain, while Arnold is more skillful on writing and communication over the Internet. Both of them speaks good English. When business comes, they gather their brothers in Marangu Village to form a team to help the clients fulfill their dreams. Since everyone knows each other, the team is solid and effectively organized.

Standard / Customized Tour
Being professional guides, Netod and Arnold are able to guide all the seven standard routes: Marangu, Machame, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Northern Circuit and Umbwe. They are also flexible to guide customized routes based on reasonable request from the clients - for example, to camp and stay one night in the crater. No matter you are climbing solely or you have a group of people climbing together, they can accept your business.

Mountain Crew
The mountain crew is the team led by Netod and Arnold. The members in the crew include lead guide, assistant guide, chef, waiter, toilet engineer, camping engineer and a number of porters. The size of the team depends on the number of clients. For my trip, there were 15 members in the mountain crew supporting two clients. They will make sure no one in the team is overloaded and the clients can receive the best service on the mountain.

Crew Equipment
The group equipment prepared by the mountain crew includes:
  • Client tents
  • Dinning tent with table, chairs and full cutlery
  • Private toilet tent with chemical toilet
  • Kitchen tent
  • Crew tents

Food & Water
The mountain crew will make sure that the clients can get enough energy and keep hydrated from their meals. Each day on the mountain, breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provide. The meals will include hot drink (tea, coffee or hot chocolate), appetizer (soup or porridge), meat (egg, sausage, chicken, beef or fish), staple (bread, toast, pancake, rice, pasta or potato), snacks (peanut, popcorn or cookie) and fresh fruits / vegetables (banana, orange, watermelon, tomato, cucumber or carrot). If you have special dietary requirement, you are welcome to discuss with the crew for customized arrangement.

The mountain crew draw water from streams on Kilimanjaro, which is very clean, and then filter it and boil it before using or serving it to the clients.

Emergency Plan
Netod and Arnold are professionally trained on altitude sickness and first aid skills. They are also equipped with adequate safety equipment. In the unlikely situation where a client needs to evacuate from the mountain, they will communicate with Kilimanjaro National Park authorities and arrange a proper evacuation. One of the guide and a number of porters will use a portable stretcher to carry the client to the end of the main road, where an rescue vehicle will be waiting there and ready to send the client back to the hotel or to the nearest hospital according to the symptom of the client.

On the mountain, the guides and Kilimanjaro National Park authorities have good communication via radio or mobile phone. The rescue service provided by Kilimanjaro National Park is included in the park fees, which is covered in the tour package.

What's Included
The comprehensive tour package includes the following:
  • Full itinerary from arrival (at Kilimanjaro International Airport) to departure (from Kilimanjaro International Airport)
  • Consultation for trip preparation
  • Transportation between Kilimanjaro International Airport and the hotel
  • Transportation between the hotel and Kilimanjaro National Park
  • 2 nights hotel stay with breakfast (the well-rated accommodation in Moshi by TripAdvisor will be provided)
  • Crew equipment as stated above
  • Personal equipment list for client
  • All Kilimanjaro National Park fees (including emergency rescue fees)
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner during all the days on the mountain
  • Water during all the days on the mountain
  • Wages for the crew (including lead guide, assistant guide, chef, waiter, toilet engineer, camping engineer and all the porters)
  • Safety equipment for altitude sickness and first aid
  • Official summit certificate
The comprehensive tour package does NOT include the following:
  • Air tickets
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal equipment
  • Visa to Tanzania
  • Tips for the crew

Netod and Arnold commit to provide high-end service to clients. They do not sacrifice the benefit of the clients to cut down costs. At the same time, they can offer clients better price than local agents by eliminating the administration overhead costs. The prices for one person for three popular packages are listed below:

Marangu Route (6 days - 5 nights)
1 to 5 pax: USD 1,900
6 to 10 pax: USD 1,850
11 to 15 pax: USD 1,800

Machame Route (7 days - 6 nights)
1 to 5 pax: USD 2,000
6 to 10 pax: USD 1,950
11 to 15 pax: USD 1,900

Rongai Route (7 days - 6 nights)
1 to 5 pax: USD 2,000
6 to 10 pax: USD 1,950
11 to 15 pax: USD 1,900

Note: the quotation above is valid till 31 Dec 2015.

Payment Method
About one month before your trip, Netod and Arnold will need you to confirm your trip by paying partial or full price of the tour package. You will know whether it will be partial or full payment when you initially book the trip with them. The payment can be made by either Western Union or international wire transfer. In the case of partial payment, the remaining amount will be paid by US dollar in cash upon your arrival.

As Arnold is more savvy on Internet in the team, he will be the contact person for your booking and trip consultation. His contact information is as follows:

Email Address / Facebook: mtuymasha2005@yahoo.com

Mobile Number / WhatsApp: +255 753 168 280

Mailing Adress:
Arnold Gabriel Mtuy
BOX 167
Marangu - Moshi
East Africa

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