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I recently took part in the African Tours & Safaris June group Kilimanjaro climb, on Machame route for 7 days. To sum it up briefly, it was amazing. The day before the climb I received a full briefing from the head guide Herman. He covered the trip day by day, answering all my questions about food, equipment, weather and terrain. He then went through the clothes I had brought for the climb to make sure they were suitable.
While on the mountain, it was very clear that African Tours & Safaris offered a superior product and service to most other companies. The tent quality for our climbers and for our guides, cooks and porters were of extremely good quality. The sleeping mats were made of high density foam and not the cheap roll mats found in most camping shops which other companies seemed to favour. It meant we were very comfortable in our tents.
The food offered at each meal was exceptional. For breakfast there was always porridge, toast, eggs, fruit and often sausage or bacon. Lunch was either packed lunch boxes full of chicken, eggs, chocolate, crisps, fruit, sandwiches or a hot lunch in camp of soup, pasta, chicken etc. Dinner was always a 3 course affair of soup, meat, vegetables, potatoes, pasta or rice and a desert of fruit, cake or banana fritters. The food provided was of very good quality and plentiful. For drinks there was always a full selection of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, Milo, juice and flavoured concentrate. Each day we were also provided with snacks while walking which included chocolate, juice and biscuits. Speaking to other climbers along the route, it was clear food and drink- wise we were getting the best service of all the companies we saw.
Our eating mess tent was equipped with a gas lantern which also doubled as a heater so at meal times we were always warm. The mess tent was also available for down time, so you could be warm while reading, chatting or writing your journal.
The porters on our trip were great fun, always singing and dancing and encouraging us before, during and after each days walk. The porters were all appropriately dressed unlike many others I saw working for different, maybe cheaper companies. When you see how hard their job is, I was pleased to see our guides and porters so well looked after. I always felt safe and well briefed throughout the walking and climbing by our guides and I trusted them to make the best decisions for each person in our group.
It was clear that doing a 7 day Machame route was easier on the body than people doing a 6 day or even 5 day route up the mountain. It gave us plenty of rest time each afternoon and allowed our bodies to acclimatize well. Due to this and the luck of not getting any altitude sickness, we were all strong and healthy on summit day and successfully made it to the top before sunrise.
I would highly recommend African Tours & Safaris for Kilimanjaro climbing and if I have the chance I would definitely do it again.
To sum it up briefly, it was amazing!
Kilimanjaro is a mountain which will test your determination. It can be climbed in 5 to 8 days and, if you value you health, you will opt for as long a period as your wallet and time availability allow. The last camp is roughly at 4800 meters and the summit is over 5900 meters. This last day of climb is very demanding and exceeds most conventional definitions of a sound elevation increase. It is done in one day because you come back down immediately. This does not prevent many, many people from being sick and vomiting on the way up. The traces of their sickness are apparent at many, many places.
Many people are simply poorly prepared for the exertion and cold and do not summit. The temperature is well below -10oC on the last portion of the climb at any time of year and the wind chill effect can seriously compound the situation. The snow conditions vary quite a bit and can make the descent a real trial, dangerous even when there is a lot of snow and it gets icy or slick. If you have an option, take a minimum of six days, preferably seven days before summitting the next day. Although it is nice to summit at day break, doing it during the day is safer and less exerting.
The days leading up to the summit day are really not as demanding as the Everest Base Camp Trek for example which stretches out a slightly smaller altitude gain over 9 days. The Kili trek up to the last day will not leave you worn out. This is a relatively mild trek up to summit day.
The other factor is the high incidence of food poisoning in the camps. Tough cooking conditions and less than ideal hygiene habits by some companies can make you pretty sick on the trek and decrease your chances of summiting in a compressed time frame. Give yourself time.
We did the 9 day Lemosho route and loved the rain forest and the reasonable pace of elevation gain. None of our group suffered any big altitude sickness symptoms even at the summit.
This company we hired, African Tours & Safaris (formerly known as Africana Travel) is not a low cost service provider. They have a logistically sound, high quality service approach. Their guides were pleasant, knowledgeable and their porter group made us feel welcome and were very encouraging. They danced and sang every morning on the way up and down. They used the same equipment (tents, sleeping bags, toilet) as other, much higher priced outfits like Tuskers. Their logistics were irreproachable. They were also flexible when we needed more time to get added sleep or recover from the flu. They listened. They provided very good, nutritious food and as much as we could eat.
Our guide Eric Marimbo and his assistant, Pascal were knowledgeable and capable. We appreciated their guidance, experience and company.
The management of African Tours & Safaris, led by Arnold Moshi was very responsive to all our demands for info and accommodation. They also arranged for a first class safari and stay in Zanzibar.
They were a reliable source of Tanzanian logistics.
/James D, Montreal Canada