We climbed the Kilimanjaro Mountain in 6 days via the Marangu route.
Tour companies and
We have climbed with this company: http://www.africanspoonbilltours.com/trekking.html, and it was quite fine. No problems.
Zara is another big, well established company. It is also more expansive. If you are not bothered by the cost, picking them is a good option, but you can definitely find a cheaper one.
The price is combined of the per day amount you pay for the Mountain Park authorities to allow you to enter and sleep on the mountain and what you pay to the tour company for porters, guides, food, and transportation.
As of February 2008, the amount for the park was around 50$ per day per person to enter the park and 50$ per day per person to sleep on the mountain (notice that sleeping at Marangu huts or in tents on other routes costs the same!). This basically means 100$ per day per person to the park only. The tour company will take another 300$ to 600$ (or more, if you wish) for all the rest. The way to lower the company cost is to go to a less established company (there are a lot of companies with good reputation), ask and negotiate for as less porters as you can (see tips section for more information)..
There are 3 main routes: Marangu is the shortest and you sleep in huts. Machame is more beautiful, longer and you sleep in tents. The third one is Rongai, which goes from the other, northern side of the mountain, also in tents. There is also another less famous Umbwe route. When going up by Marangu you go back the same way. When going up by Machame or Rongai you go back by Mweka way.
Marangu: first night at Mandara huts, second night at Horombo huts, third night suggested acclimatization and sleep at Horombo huts, forth day go to Kibo huts, sleep there and ascent the summit at night. Fifth day down back to Horombo. Fifth night sleep at Horombo and the last day back out.
Machame: first night at Macahme camp, second night at Shira camp, third night at Baranco camp, forth night at Barafu camp: sleep there and ascent the summit at night. Fifth day down to Mweka camp. Fifth night sleep at Mweka and the last day back out.
Marangu is the shortest, but it does not mean the easiest one. The more days you spend on the mountain going up before the final ascent – the higher are the chances to actually reach the peak. Since Marangu allows to do the whole thing in 5 days, while Machame requires at least 6 days, it means you will get less acclimatization days and climb the peak earlier. Therefore, my suggestion, if you are ascending by the Marangu route, to take another acclimatization day (usually at Horombo Hut), walk up towards Mawenzi hut (via Zebra Rock) the next day and get to sleep back at Horombo Hut. This will help acclimatization. If you are ascending by Machame, which I think is better, the 6 days ascent is quite enough, although you can also take another 7th day as well (usually at Karanga river).
I have used this book as a source of information: http://www.climbmountkilimanjaro.com/. It is good, aside from his tipping suggestions.
Tipping on Kili is a somewhat delicate issue. The guides and porters basically expect you to give them big tips and leave your stuff to them at the end. It probably happened since a lot of people actually did leave their stuff (GoreTex jackets, hiking boots, ipods, clothes, etc…) at the end. Another thing that complicates it is that the companies work hard to put as much porters as possible to escort you. We had to explicitly ask to not send more than 7 (!!!!!) people (2 guides, a cook and 4 porters) to escort two of us. Compare this to our other hiking in Nepal, India, or Peru where we usually took one porter per person who is also a cook and a guide. And this is not a question of not letting your porters carrying too much stuff. With one porter per person you can get all you need in 15kilogram (30, 35 pounds) per porter including everything: food, cooking gear, tent, clothing. However in Kili they just pack the porters with unnecessary equipment, such as carrying a table for you to eat at the camp, carrying 30 pounds cooking stove up and down instead of a half-pound compatible small stove, carrying pineapples and watermelons for you, stuff like that. At the end you need to leave a big tip for each of the 7 persons who escorted you. I would personally prefer to have a potentially higher price for the whole package instead of being unpleasantly surprised at the end having to leave unexpectedly big tips. I think the way to solve this is to try to negotiate and agree on the tips up front and also not to create an illusion for porters that you are going to leave them your clothes and ipod at the end of the trip. Another option is to hire only a guide (single person) and carry all your stuff yourself. I have seen people do that. Since on Marangu you sleep in cabins, you don’t need a tent and thus it is not too much to carry.
Kilimanjaro is a VERY high mountain. It is higher than what people usually hike in Nepal and India. I would strongly recommend not to climb it if you have never been and slept before above 4000 meters.
Last updated 26-01-2010