One of the challenges associated with climbing Kilimanjaro is finding the best Kilimanjaro tour operators to book your trip with. A quick Google search will bring up dozens of blogs about the best offers, operators, routes to take and what to bring with you.
However, Kilimanjaro tour operators do not always agree on the ideal approach in terms of acclimatization, route, equipment and safety procedures.
Most people read reviews about the different tour operators before making their decision. The problem is there are positive and negative reviews for almost every company and they are not always accurate.
For example, some of the reviews on forums such as Tripadvisor, SummitPost and Lonely Planet may be misleading or written from fake accounts.
Unfortunately, there have also been reports that some operators have pressured travellers into writing positive reviews, while others have tried to remove negative reviews or bribe people into editing or deleting their feedback.
This is one of the reasons you cannot rely solely on the reviews or information you read online.
Although it may be tempting to simply follow the recommendations that you read or book a tour with an operator who has the lowest price, this is risky and may not give you the best experience or summit success.
So how do you know whether the information you read is credible or trustworthy?
In this blog, we will outline the key things you should consider when selecting the best operator for your Kilimanjaro climb.
What does your Kilimanjaro tour operator organize?
Before you select your tour operator and book your climb, it is important to understand exactly what your operator will organize, so that you can be better prepared.
In addition, your tour operator can give you lots of advice about how to climb Kilimanjaro safely and provide you with information about what you can expect of your health and wellbeing during the experience.
How to choose the best Kilimanjaro tour operator
It is important to compare offers not only by price and reviews, but also by the ethics of the tour operator, the experience of the guides and crew in question and the quality of equipment.
You should also consider the route you choose to take and the type of tour you want to book.
So how do you select the best tour operator?
Choose a responsible tour operator
Why does it matter if my porters are treated fairly?
Decide what type of climbing tour you want
Start by deciding which route you want to take and how many days you want to climb. The route you take will influence the success of your climb. For most people, we recommend climbing for at least 7-8 days because this will help you to acclimatize to the high altitude.
Similarly, you should check whether a private or group tour is better for your circumstances and ensure that your operator offers the type of tour that you are looking for.
Most tour operators will be able to offer almost any itinerary their clients want, but you should beware that not all of them have experience with more sophisticated, or off-the-beaten track itineraries.
If you do you want such an itinerary (for example one which includes an overnight stay at Crater Camp), then be sure to book with a company that has a proven record of catering to those types of itineraries. So sure to check what they offer before booking your climb.
Another thing you should be aware of is that if you do want to go for a specific itinerary (during a preferred time period) and you want to join a group tour, then this will obviously narrow down the list of tour operators who are able to offer this.
This is why it is important to decide on the route and type of tour first.
Choose a Kilimanjaro tour operator with experienced guides
Another important consideration to take when climbing Kilimanjaro is the experience of mountain crews and guides who will accompany you up the mountain.
A responsible tour operator will ensure that guides are properly equipped, prepared and trained to lead climbers up Kilimanjaro. They will also ensure that there are enough guides for your group.
So how do you know whether your tour operator has experienced and knowledgeable guides?
How many guides should there be for my climb?
Before booking a climb, make sure you understand the ratio of hikers to guides that will be provided by your operator. Having an adequate number of guides is essential to ensure a safe and successful climb.
What else will your Kilimanjaro tour operator provide?
If you are looking for a tour that offers more than the bare minimum or one that includes equipment such as a hyperbaric chamber then be sure to check whether your tour operator includes this. These types of inclusions are usually only offered by mid to higher range operators.
Good tour operators will always be transparent about what is and isn’t included in each itinerary. Be sure to check whether your tour is fully customizable, in terms of itinerary variations, upgrades or rentals.
Tour operators will also vary in terms of the quality of the equipment they offer. The three most important components are tents, sleeping bags and any AMS-related equipment.
Some of the considerations you should keep in mind are the make and quality of the equipment provided, as well as usage practices.
Even if your tour operator provides the best equipment, you should also pay attention to the number of times it is used.
For example, when sleeping bags are used over and over again, they gradually become less effective at keeping you warm during the night. This usually happens after about 10 times of washing.
Keep in mind that not all operators offer high-quality equipment. In fact, most don’t. If in doubt, it is better to check with them to confirm exactly what type of equipment they provide.
What you will usually find is that if something is not clearly listed on an operator’s website or in their booking documentation, then it is most likely not provided by your operator.
Food and nutrition
Budget tour operators will usually just offer simple carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and porridge, because these are thought to be simpler to digest at higher altitudes.
The best operators will try to include a variety of foods and a fair ration of fruit and vegetables, as well as protein for most meals.
If you have special dietary requirements, then be sure to ask about this before booking your tour. Budget tour operators may not always provide specific answers to your questions, so if in doubt, request a specific meal plan to avoid nasty surprises when it’s too late.
The key to selecting the best Kilimanjaro tour operator is to get clear on the type of tour you want before your climb. Once you are clear on what your requirements are, the next step is to ensure that you understand exactly what your tour operator offers and how well this fits in with your requirements.
A good starting point is to select a KPAP Partner company. Companies who have demonstrated a commitment to treating their porters fairly are also more likely to be committed to your safety and wellbeing, compared to the industry average.
Once you have carefully considered the above, you will be able to make a much more educated assessment in selecting the operator that is most suited to your needs.