There are few other thrills as great as that experienced when standing on Africa’s highest point, the 5,895m Uhuru Peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s the world’s tallest freestanding mountain and with the right planning and a bit of training it’s entirely accessible to anyone.
Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s tallest mountain at 5,895 metres (19,340 feet) and sits within the Kilimanjaro National Park. It is a ‘strato’ volcano made up of both lava flows and pyroclastic material and is in fact three distinct volcanoes that first emerged around 750,000 years ago; Mawenzi and Shira, which are extinct, flank the highest, Kibo, which is merely dormant.
Heading up from the lower slopes you pass through five distinct vegetation zones that are progressively colder, drier, and less vegetated. Towards its summit, Kilimanjaro has numerous glaciers despite being just three degrees south of the equator.
Its ice covered summit was first reached on 5th October 1889 by Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtsceller who named Kibo’s peak Kaiser Wilhelm Spitz in honour of Germany’s ruler. It was renamed as Uhuru Peak in 1961, Tanzania’s year of independence, Uhuru meaning ‘freedom’ in Swahili.
Climbing with Aardvark Safaris
We pride ourselves on our expert knowledge and excellent service. We may not always be the cheapest if you are comparing us with other operators but we feel strongly that it’s the little extras that make the difference between an average trip and an unforgettable trip. Here are one or two things to consider if you are looking at quotes from several tour operators:
Included within the price of a Kilimanjaro climb with Aardvark are park fees, airport transfers, and accommodation in Arusha before and after your climb, even on lightweight itineraries. Our trips are all ‘non-participatory camping’, which means a full camp team and crew is provided. On the luxury and VIP specification climbs, a private, proper loo tent is provided as opposed to using the public long drop loos.
Fresh fruit and home cooked (nothing freeze dried or boil-in-the-bag) three course meals are included. Meals are served in a designated dining tent with proper seating.
Our climbs use new, top of the range kit and equipment. We use only high quality guides who have constant training to keep knowledge up to date. All our climbs are equipped with supplementary oxygen, pulse oximeters, and customised evacuation stretchers. All the guides are CPR trained. The guides we use have superb emergency training and the crew have the same access to emergency aid as the paying climbers.
Our team in Tanzania employs one crew member as a runner, whose sole job on a climb is to run to the next camping site to claim the best camping area for the group (i.e. not on a slope or on rocky ground). You will also benefit from a full operations team at base who are in constant communication with the head guide who monitors the group’s progress.
Few Climbing Tips
This package includes a proper bed, walk-in tents, a wash tent, and a bathroom tent. Tips for the guide and porters are included in the price, making it a good option for relaxation and peace of mind.
This the most popular climb package, providing 3m x 3m dome tents with thick mattresses and sleeping bags, and a separate bathroom tent. This is a great option for those looking for great comfort at a reasonable price.
Small Group versus Private Climbs
A scheduled climb up Mount Kilimanjaro is the most cost effective option and ideal for both couples and individuals. Imagine the exhilarating experience of climbing the monster mountain with fellow travelers who all share the same goal – standing atop the summit of the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. In addition to the mutual support and encouragement a small group offers, you’ll also find you are likely to make life-long friends.
Small group climbs are offered on specific dates throughout the year on a first come, first served basis. Any trip can run with a two person minimum and single travelers are welcome to join any scheduled climb.
Private Kilimanjaro climbs are ideal for those seeking the exclusive attention of their guides or for friends or family climbing together. Private trips can depart on any date (subject to the availability of crew and equipment). We can even send along a videographer to record your climb and your personal victory as your reach the summit.
Success on your Kilimanjaro climb relies on planning and climbing with experts.
The US Kilimanjaro Team
Both John and Victoria on the Aardvark Safaris team have successfully climbed Kilimanjaro, and have planned many trips for clients of varying ages and fitness levels. They would be happy to talk to you about their personal experiences preparing for the climb, life on the mountain and answer any questions you may have.
The Africa Kilimanjaro Team
During your climb on Kilimanjaro you will be accompanied all the way by a hard working team including a highly experienced head guide, assistant guides, camp crew and porters. We pride ourselves on only using the best guides, who are experienced, fully trained and knowledgeable about all aspects of Kilimanjaro and Tanzania’s culture and life. Our extraordinary partners on the ground will ensure that your climb is fun, safe, and rewarding.
There is a full operations team back at base who are crucial to your climb. During your time on Kilimanjaro there will be one specific manager at base who will be assigned to twice daily communications with your group; the operations team monitors your climb checking your performance and health as well as that of all the crew members. They are ready to assist swiftly should it be required.
The team will check every item of your gear and climbing kit before your climb and provide you with an extensive orientation so you are completely prepared for your ascent.
Porter Policy & Ethics
Porters and climb staff benefit from regular, ongoing training in all aspects of their work, including the natural history and ecology of Mount Kilimanjaro and many further topics that help broaden their outlook. All of the climb staff are encouraged and supported with furthering their education, to progress and seek promotion, and to see climbing Kilimanjaro as a rewarding long term career. All are kept informed and involved in the trips and the progression of the operation and are very well paid.
All of our mountain crew have access to good medical care both on and off the mountain, are well clothed and equipped, and provided with plenty of food of the best available quality. Our porters’ loads are always within the limit set out for Kilimanjaro porters by Tanzania National Parks and each load is carefully packed and weighed before departure to ensure that each porter is comfortable.
We have strong ethical and environmental policies, ensuring that climb crews are well cared for and properly equipped at all times and that your porters are well paid. We leave no trace of our presence on Kilimanjaro other than footprints. Not only is this the right way to treat our partners on the ground, but it has the bonus of ensuring that these important people are always in the best possible condition to look after our clients during their ascent of Kilimanjaro and take good care of the magnificent mountain that dominates their lives.
We believe that the safety and wellbeing of our clients and your climbing crew are of paramount importance and do not set out to be the cheapest Kilimanjaro climbing operator on the mountain. Instead, we offer high value for money on all our climbs.
Q: What is the maximum number of people in each group climbing Kilimanjaro?
A: The maximum number on a scheduled departure climb on Kilimanjaro is ten climbers. Private trips can be any number within reason.
Q: What is your success rate for reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro?
A: Our success rate for climbing Kilimanjaro is currently 98% due to the careful planning that we have in place, the choice of routes, and the experienced and skilled guides.
Q: Which routes do you use to climb Kilimanjaro and can you briefly
tell us why you recommend the routes which you use?
A: We recommend three Kilimanjaro routes, namely Machame, Lemosho and Rongai. They are the most scenically varied and beautiful, and offer the greatest chance of success due to the length of time spent gaining altitude slowly. Lemosho and Machame offer the shorter final ascent route via Stella Point to Uhuru Peak and we like Rongai because it is very quiet, little used and extremely scenic. The main point though is the time taken to climb – the longer and slower you go the better your chance of success, and having plenty of beautiful and varied scenery helps you to go slowly.
Q: Could we start to climb the day after arriving at Kilimanjaro
International Airport or do you recommend that we spend a day locally before
setting off on the trek?
A: In most cases, clients arriving in Tanzania on an overnight flight spend the afternoon getting to know their Kilimanjaro guides and crew and receive a full briefing. This gives them enough time to settle in, get over the long flight, and get ready for the climb. You will spend the night in Arusha, and then proceed to the mountain the following morning.
It may sound like a waste of time, but preparation and familiarization is crucially important to maximize your safety and chances of success. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a big task even with plenty of time, and it is simply not wise or worthwhile to rush it. We have seen several people who were fit, young and determined fail because they tried to rush the mountain.
Q: What extra costs can we expect to incur before, during or after
the climb, such as tipping or additional transport?
A: Tipping is discretionary but very much appreciated by the crew. The recommended amount would be around $300 per climber, which is then distributed among your guide, porters and climb staff. Transfers to and from Kilimanjaro Airport and one night in a hotel before and after the climb are included in the cost of climbs. The only additional costs you should expect to incur would be tipping, unless you wish to purchase any curios or drinks before or after your climb.
Q: Can children climb Kilimanjaro?
A: The minimum climbing age is 12 years, but anyone between the ages of 12 to 16 needs to take extra care and be monitored very closely as altitude sickness can creep up on undeveloped bodies and be much more severe than in adults.
Q: What washing facilities do you provide on Kilimanjaro?
A: Our luxury and VIP specification climbs provide a wash tent where you may stand up to wash yourself with hot water, provided in a bowl. You may use as much as you wish within reason, as the water is sourced from streams on the Kilimanjaro. A long drop toilet is provided for your group of climbers.
Q: What is the food like during a climb?
A: All meals on Kilimanjaro are prepared with as many fresh ingredients as possible. Special diets can be accommodated with prior notice.
Breakfast during the climb consists of a selection of fresh fruits, cereal, porridge, and cooked food such as eggs, sausage and tomato, along with tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
Lunch during the climb is often eaten en-route in the form of a picnic. Your cook sets this up in advance and a typical meal will include fresh vegetables, fruit juice, hot soup, sandwiches with cheese or ham, a chocolate bar, and tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
Dinner on Kilimanjaro is always three courses, and comprises soup with bread, a carbohydrate like rice or pasta with meat accompaniment such as bolognaise, and a high calorie dessert such as banana fritters followed by tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
On the mountain it is essential to eat as much as possible and to keep very well hydrated on the climb. Your body uses up to three times as much water compared to normal while at altitude. Take in as much liquid as you can during meals - hot drinks, cold drinks and soups are all there to keep you well hydrated. Keep drinking during the day, do not wait until you are thirsty.
Special dietary requirements can be accommodated with prior notice.
Q: What procedures are in place if one of the team is taken ill or injured during the climb and needs to be rescued from Kilimanjaor - and particularly what system to you follow to deal with altitude sickness.
A: All climbers and our Kilimanjaro crew are monitored with oxymeters twice daily to assess their physical condition and their response to the increasing altitude. The information is relayed to the operations base, where there will be a duty manager dedicated to each climb. If the guide or the manager at base camp is unhappy with the situation for any client or crew member they are urged to either stop where they are, or to leave the mountain before an emergency situation arises. Every effort is made to allow climbers or crew to walk off the mountain, but if all goes wrong, we have special stretchers to carry people off.
Q: What emergency medical equipment and expertise do you provide on
A: All Kilimanjaro climbs are accompanied by fully qualified and regularly updated first aiders, including CPR training, and we have special stretchers to carry people off, as well as oxygen. On private climbs which include a night camping in the Crater a portable hypobaric chamber is also provided.
Q: Do you supply oxygen?
A: Oxygen is carried on Kilimanjaro for emergency use, to assist with getting a sick person off the mountain.
Q: Do you require your clients to wear helmets?
Q: What are your safety procedures on Kilimanjaro?
A: We believe that Kilimanjaro safety starts well before a climb with training your guides and crew to ensure that they know how look after our clients and themselves properly, including avoiding situations that could lead to risk, and watching for anyone who is struggling, not eating or drinking, or unresponsive. The next stage is to brief our clients well, to make sure that they do not put themselves in danger when on the mountain.
This is followed up with twice daily scheduled communications with base while on Kilimanjaro, and all trips carry a two way radio and a satellite phone for use at any time. Our climbs are always guided by highly experienced people who know the mountain and its characteristics well, so are well equipped to deal with any situation such as a rapid change in weather. Every trip carries a pulse oxymeter, supplementary oxygen, first aid kits, two way communications and a stretcher.
Q: What procedures do you follow for altitude acclimatization and at
what heights are the overnight camp sites?
A: The procedure for acclimatization on Kilimanjaro is to ascend very slowly, and to camp slightly lower than the greatest altitude reached each day. It also helps to ensure that you eat and drink far more than you feel you need to, and to snack and drink as often as possible during the ascent. The camps on the Machame Route are at 3000, 3840, 3950, 4100, and 4600 metres and then back down to 3100 metres. Please see the individual itineraries on the menu at left for more information about camp altitudes.
Q: What level of comfort we can expect in the tents, mess tent and
A: We operate two main climb specifications on Kilimanjaro, luxury and VIP. The luxury climb offers large dome tents designed for three people but used for two, a walk in mess tent, tables and chairs, and a bathroom tent. The VIP climbs include larger walk-in tents, cot beds, and a stand-up wash tent.
In addition to these frequently asked questions, we occasionally get more detailed questions, or questions relating to people's particular wishes for a climb. We've added some of these below as we feel they show how well our teams on the mountain in Tanzania work to get everyone to the summit:
Q: Do you have a sample menu? Can you tell us more about the types
of fruits and vegetables served? Our health provider informs us of food items
that we can/can't eat on trips and we would like to find out if there are items
that we are advised not to eat. Do they use safe food preparations?
A: All of our food on Kilimanjaro is freshly prepared. East Africa has wonderful vegetables and fruits, and we even have porters who come mid-climb to do a fresh re-supply. Some cans are used, for example beans and mushrooms, but even the soups are not packaged but freshly prepared. We have chicken and beef as proteins – we do not use fish as it is very perishable. Should you need vegetarian options, our cooks are well versed.
Q: Regarding the water preparation, if we would like to use another
product instead of iodine (aqua mira) after the water is filtered, can we ask
that this be used (if we provide it)?
A: Water comes from the streams on the mountain and is then purified by filters not iodine tablets. If there is another method you prefer that’s fine, but note that the water is drinkable and safe.
Q: Is toilet paper supplied during the climb?
A: Yes, and our climbs include a portable toilet with a tent in camp.
Q: What happens if someone needs to make a "pit stop"
prior to a scheduled stop? I understand that they want people to use safe
practices, but they can't always pop up the toilet tent, correct?
A: The guides will make arrangements. The toilet tent can’t be popped up a moment’s notice as it will be up in camp.
Q: We would like to bring our own sleeping bags, if that isn't a
problem. Can you provide more information on the sleeping mattress pad? I see
it is a 3 inch foam pad, or is it a self-inflating mattress pad?
A: The mattresses we use on Kilimanjaro climbs are custom made from foam and sealed with a canvas cover. They are about 3 inches – so much more comfortable than a typical foam pad mattress. Our sleeping bags are –30f rated Mountain Hardware and dry cleaned after every climb, but you are more than welcome to bring your own, but note that they are included as well as thermal liners for extra warmth.
Q: Some companies bring an AED for the crater camp for safety
precautions. Does your climb team bring one? Are there any safety concerns
about camping at that altitude on Kilimanjaro?
A: We do not recommend camping in the crater unless you have experience of similar altitude, as it doesn’t suit everyone. None of our set departure climbs include it for this reason. AED’s are only for use by medical professionals, and for use in extreme situations only. We aim to never be in the position where one was wanted, but to get anyone suffering down the mountain swiftly, with the aid of supplementary oxygen and a stretcher if needed. If you would like to include a night here, we recommend chatting to one of our specialists about it.
Although there are variety of routes offering unique scenery and terrain to Kilimanjaro’s peak, Aardvark offers three distinct routes which provide our clients the best possible chance to safely reach the summit. Fortunately, our three featured routes, Machame, Lemosho and Rongai, happen to have the most diverse and beautiful landscapes all while achieving over 98% success on our climbs.
Machame Route – One of Aardvark’s featured routes
With its breathtaking scenery and beauty, especially over the Western Breach, the Machame route is an unforgettable six night climb. Fewer people climb this route affording greater exclusivity, and cozy private tented camps are set up by your climbing team at each campsite. Your journey will conclude with the climb up Stella Point, one of the shorter routes to Uhuru Peak, providing our clients a greater chance in reaching Kilimanjaro’s summit.
Lemosho Route – One of Aardvark’s featured routes
This eight night climb up Kilimanjaro offers our clients a high success rate as the steady pace allows your body to slowly acclimate itself to the altitude. With even fewer travelers than the Machame Route, this route also has comfortable private tented camps set up daily by your climbing team, leading to the final ascent up Stella Point.
This route is used strictly for the descent down Kilimanjaro.
The safety and security of both our clients and climbing team is our number one priority for all Aardvark Safaris’ Kilimanjaro climbs. In order to best ensure this we use a number of different techniques that include:
To provide the best possible chance to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit, we specifically choose certain routes which allow our clients and staff sufficient time to acclimate to the change of altitude. Some routes, like the Marangu Route, may be the fastest scramble to the top, but ultimately can have lower success rates and in some situations can be unsafe.
The Machame, Lemosho and Rongai routes provide more time for the body to acclimate to high altitude, as some days you will climb higher and then sleep lower. This is one of the best ways to prevent altitude sickness and accomplish your goal – reaching Kilimanjaro’s peak.
to Climber Ratio & Staff Roles
To ensure that safety is the top priority, we use an extremely high staff to climber ratio. You may find there are 20 staff guiding only two people or 30 staff for four climbers, or even 60 for 14 climbers. These numbers reflect the ratio we use for the Machame Route, while the longer Lemosho routes requires even more staff to ensure people are not overburdened by the extra food and supplies.
Each staff member of our Kilimanjaro climbing team has specific responsibilities which include: porters, camp staff, cooks, assistant guides, and guides.
Porters play an integral role throughout your climb and are as much a part of our Kilimanjaro climb team as guides. We make sure that their loads and personal kit weigh less than 45 lbs and are packed into specially made climbs bags.
Kilimanjaro Climb Team Training
Ongoing training is essential and ongoing throughout our teams, with biannual formal training for guides in both English and Swahili. A strong “promote from within” policy encourages porters to strive for full time positions as assistants or camp crew and camp staff to join our guiding team.
Kit, Safety Kit and Communications
Prior to your ascent of Kilimanjaro, we will make sure you understand what is provided and what you will need to bring for your comfort and safety. When you arrive in Arusha your team will inspect your kit as part of the pre-climb briefing with a full briefing to follow on your climb.
Climbing gear is inspected by both the operations team and head guide prior to each Kilimanjaro ascent. Oxygen, a custom evacuation stretcher, a pulse oximeter, altitude sickness checklists, and first aid kits are always part of the standard gear. A portable altitude chamber will be carried on any climbs that involve a night at Kibo Crater from where it's not possible to make a quick descent.
Throughout your Kilimanjaro climb your oxygen levels and pulse rate will be measured twice a day with special oxygen and pulse oximetry meters. This data is crucial in understanding how your body is handling the effects of altitude change. After all the information is gathered it is then relayed to base camp to be recorded and monitored.
During your climb your team will communicate with the base camp at least twice a day using a cellular or satellite phone, depending on your position on the mountain.
Your Health and Fitness
Reaching Kilimanjaro’s peak tests the body and mind, as walking multiple days at high altitude will not only challenge your physical fitness but also your endurance. Remember, the altitude is felt by everyone no matter how fit they are – it is a good idea to look at the detailed climb descriptions of the Machame and Lemosho Routes to better understand the altitude and hours walking each day. To best manage and adjust to the altitude it is imperative to walk or climb as slowly as possible, this will also allow you to truly admire the beautiful vegetation, wildlife, and landscapes of Kilimanjaro.
It is suggested that you do some training prior to arrival in Tanzania as well as familiarizing yourself with kit you plan to use on the climb and making sure your shoes/boots are comfortable and do not rub.
It is always recommend that you complete a medical exam beforehand, especially if you are over the age of 40 or if you have had any previous medical conditions that restricted your hiking ability. It also necessary to truthfully answer and return the pre-climb information we give you. This is essential information as some medical conditions can turn life threatening at the higher altitudes on Kilimanjaro.
Not Completing the Climb
While we have a very high completion rate on the Kilimanjaro climb, even the most physically fit individuals encounter altitude sickness, or other conditions which do not allow them to complete the climb.
In these situations you will be escorted off the mountain by at least one other person. This same process is used for staff members who become ill.
If this happens early on, we can plan different activities to keep you busy for the following days. Alas we cannot reimburse you for uncompleted Kilimanjaro climbs and there will be supplementary charges for additional arrangements.