To the roof of africa: Kilimanjaro
It is 06:30am, I am standing on Stella Point (5,756 meters high or 18,652 feet) as the sun rays break the horizon, few meters away from the summit on Mount Kilimanjaro called the Uhuru Peak (5,895m or 19,341 feet). If you have the energy to continue along the crater rim past the Glaciers to Uhuru Peak, you will be standing on the roof of Africa, the largest free-standing mountain in the world looking from above at its wild savanna planes.
There is no way to describe or imagine the experience of climbing to nearly 6,000m altitude but if you are tempting to cross the Kilimanjaro summit from your bucket-list, here is at glance what you need to know.
- Can anyone climb Kilimanjaro? If you are too young or too old you will unlikely be able to climb Kilimanjaro. Legally you have to be over 10 years old ! Although you don’t need to have any technical climbing skills, your physical and mental conditions will be challenged and a minimum of fitness level is required to cope with the rate of ascent and the Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or altitude sickness from 3,000 meters onwards. Having said that, the support crews working on site are incredible and rest assure they will do everything possible to get you to the top safely. They will prepare your camp every evenings and cook you hot meals each days. Don’t forget to walk slowly (“pole pole”) and drink fluids from day one (at least 3-4 litres of water a day)
- How to get to Kilimanjaro ? Your destination is Arusha Airport also called Kilimanjaro Airport. Most probably you will have to transit via Nairobi, Dubai or Dar Es Salaam. Your visa will be delivered on arrival (best check Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and your Tour operator should take you to either Arusha or Moshi (departure points for the summit). You can also get to Arusha or Moshi by road taking a shuttle bus from Nairobi (Kenya) or make you own way by taxi or hitchhiking (day time only). To this date no buses are running from the airport to Arusha or Moshi.
- Can I go solo ? It is not possible to climb Kilimanjaro without a guide. The authorities require that all trekkers are accompanied by a registered and licensed guide with proper permission. Generally Tour operators have groups of two to ten trekkers and in average the ratio of the support crew to trekkers is 3:1 or 4:1 (4 porters for 1 trekker). It also includes a chief guide and a cook with their assistants. Bear in mind that the smaller the support crew the more you will have to carry your own gear.
- Which route to take ? There are six routes to the summit. The most popular ones are Marangu and Machame routes. I have personally chosen the second one. The Machame route is considered to be the most scenic route with impressive views and variety of habitats, the cheapest and the easiest one as the rate of the ascent is lower but steady (6 days versus 5 days on the Marangu route). The altitude sickness from the lack of oxygen is the real challenge in this summit and can be dangerous. A proper acclimatisation is very important. If you don’t have the time to acclimatise in Arusha for few days, the longest route (in days) is recommended.
- It is expensive ? It can be. Most organised trips will cost you around 3,000 Euros (flights not included). It should include the government taxes for park entrance (1,000 Usd in 2018). You will need to add to this a support crew’s tips (150 Usd ish). If you are travelling on a budget, look at alternatives and book directly with a local agent. You can get some good discounts. Kilimanjaro is a more and more popular place to go and the quality of the services from the local agencies is getting even better. When looking at a package, make sure all is included.
- Whom to book my trip with ? Go for a known local trekking agency, although they might be a bite expensive, they are reliable companies. A travel agency will most generally use their services and at times might go with unqualified guides. I personally used the agency Top Climbers Expeditions and manage to negotiate the price down by half (compare to market price) as I was flexible with the routes and dates. This it is definitely an option if you are travelling on a budget and have time for negotiation with few days to spare (in case you need to postpone your trip for a better deal) while over there. You can pay in Dollars, Tanzanian Shilling or credit/visa cards.
- What gears to pack ? You won’t need any professional climbing gears but make sure you are equipped for a wide range of temperatures so the best clothing is loads of thin layers and a good pair of trekking shoes. The most complete list I found is on Exodus.co.uk. Don’t forget you can always hire your material. Also, with the length of the trek and the cold temperatures your batteries might go flat rapidly, a solar panel charger could be an extra item to take with you. You don’t want to miss a picture of you at the Uhru Peak !
Now you can relax with a trip to the Beach in Zanzibar !
Enjoy your trek.
CHILL IN ZANZIBAR
Whether you have made it to the top of Africa or preferred to discover Tanzania on a safari trip in the Ngorongoro Crater or the Serengeti Safari Park, Zanzibar is an nice and affordable beach destination to end your holidays. Located at an hour flight from Kilimanjaro airport, a stop over is a most and it will ease your way back home or to your next destination