What to Expect
One of Kilimanjaro’s main drawcards is that you do not have to be a mountain climber to conquer it. You can be a secretary, farmer, Grade 10 learner, pensioner or a professional runner. Whoever you are, you do not need a single piece of mountain climbing equipment or any prior climbing experience to summit the highest mountain in Africa. With good hiking boots and determination you can make it to the top.
But that’s by no means to say that climbing this astonishing natural wonder will be a walk in the park. It is a gruelling climb under often trying weather conditions, on uneven terrain and exposed to the elements. But we can assure you that the sense of achievment and the view from the summit will be well worth all the hard work. In the meantime, here’s what to expect along the way.
You will be met at the small Kilimanjaro International airport by Kilimanjaro-Experience drivers and taken to your hotel. There will be a thorough pre-climbing briefing by the operations manager or climbing coordinator and Kilimanjaro-Experience’s staff will check your gear to see if you are OK with what you have or if you need to rent anything from us. Arriving at least a day before the climb will ensure enough time for the briefing, getting equipment in order and a good night’s sleep.
There are scheduled group departures every Friday, and scheduled departures on Lemosho Route every other Thursday. Kilimanjaro-Experience also offers treks on other days of the week, for private or larger groups or for tailor-made routes.
A ‘scheduled departure’ is a confirmed departure date for a specific route with, on average, between five and 10 people. This is the most economical option and also a good way to meet and bond with new people. If you want to be on your own – just you and a partner or your family – it is best to book a private departure. Then you trek your own time and will not be mixed with other hikers.
You might want to book a trip up Kilimanjaro for a company, as a team building exercise, or for charity or fund-raising purposes. We would arrange for a private tour. This can be a minimum of one person up to groups of 35 to 100.
On the mountain
There are no hotels on Mount Kilimanjaro. There are no cable cars to the top, no paved paths and no running water.
For people who have no camping experience, it might be a new adventure to sleep in tents on sleeping mats and in sleeping bags. Only on the Marangu Route will you stay in fixed huts. However, the other routes are camping routes and porters will set up the tents before you arrive at the next camp site. In fact, porters carry the bulk of the heavy stuff, not only tents.
There are no taps and flush loos. It can be wild and wonderful to wash your face in a pan of warm water, ‘bath’ with Wet Wipes and keep your balance at the long drop toilets.
You can expect severe variations in temperature. Be prepared for hot and humid conditions in the forests and for below-freezing conditions, ice rain and wind at the higher altitudes. You will wear thermal underwear and hiking boots, warm thick gloves and good quality, thermal socks.
In total, you will pass through 5 different climate zones on the mountain, including lush rainforest, low moorland, alpine desert and the famous arctic summit. Kilimanjaro is feted for its incredible biodiversity.
Some routes up to the summit are more remote and less frequented, but the most popular routes can be busy and you will certainly see other groups along the way and at camp. Having said that, it’s a big mountain and it never feels too crowded.
Your body might do strange things. The altitude will put stress on all your systems and you might doubt your sanity in attempting this stupendous exercise. It might be too cold to change clothes or wash. Your head might hurt on summit night and your lungs will yearn for oxygen or a cigarette. You will have to walk very slowly, keeping a slow rhythm. “Pole pole”, slowly slowly, as they say here in Tanzania. This will be your mountain mantra.
Breathe and carry on. Slowly. It will be worth it.
We recommend to bring your own sleeping bag, though they can be rented from us if necessary. We ensure our bags are washed (and dried) after each trip. If you bring your own sleeping bag make sure it is suitable for temperatures of -12°C or less or bring an inner for extra warmth.
Sturdy three-man tents and sleeping mats are supplied and included in our rate. We use the three-man tents for two people only so as to allow plenty of space for your gear and a good night’s sleep after a long day. Porters will set up the tents and you will arrive at your overnight stop with tents ready. Kilimanjaro-Experience use mostly Vaude tents.
Eating and drinking
Porters and cooks carry all catering supplies and food. You can bring your own snacks. This is advised to help combat fatigue and symptoms of altitude sickness. High sugar, high fat and high energy snacks are best, such as chocolate bars, energy bars, peanuts, biscuits and so on. We recommend you bring at least two snacks for each day spent on the mountain
You will eat well. All meals are catered for by cooks and porters who carry utensils, pots, food and gear. You will drink well. Porters will fetch water from streams whereafter it is filtered and boiled to purify and served as tea, coffee or hot chocolate. You will have to drink at least 3 litres of water a day to stay hydrated enough to reduce symptoms of altitude sickness.Cold drinking water for the day will also be provided by the porters each morning.
For breakfast you will be served eggs, sausages, porridge and bread. Extras include jam, peanut butter and margarine. Lunch is usually a packed affair including a boiled egg, a sandwich or roll, a piece of chicken, biscuits, fresh fruit and a carton of juice. Supper is a hot meal consisting of soup, meat, vegetables, starch and fruit. We provide a mess tent with table, chairs and proper cutlery. We don’t serve alcohol but every meal is accompanied by tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Vegetarians and those with food allergies can be catered for with advance notice and we can cater for Kosher and Halaal diets. A designated waiter and his assistant will cater to all your needs at meal times.
There are no showers on the mountain and the water in the streams is refreshingly cold. Each morning and evening you will be provided with some warm water to wash your face and hands. Toilets are very basic. These ‘long drop’ toilets are housed in wooden structures at each campsite. On private departures on camping routes, mobile toilets are included in the cost. Toilet paper and wet wipes are essential for personal hygiene.