Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro promises the adventure of reaching the highest point in Africa, the thrill of summiting a volcanic rim at sunrise in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a trek that ranges from lush Tanzanian rainforest to tundra and ice fields.
But what many don’t know about climbing Kilimanjaro is the story of those who climb the mountain for a living: the porters who accompany guides and climbers on every climb.
Porters are responsible for carrying each climber’s gear, food, and their own gear, in addition to climbing every step of the trip along with the group. Porters are essential members of each climb, but sadly, many of them are treated poorly and paid poverty-level wages by the companies they work for.
According to the KPAP website, many porters do not have the basic essentials when it comes to proper shoes, clothing, sleep accommodations, and food rations for their climbs. And while it may be easy to assume that these hard-working men (and, occasionally, women) have an “easier” time summiting Mount Kilimanjaro than us mere mortals, the truth is that porters are susceptible to the same risks as anyone else, including fatigue, altitude sickness, dehydration, injuries, and life-threatening hypothermia.
In an effort to make any money they can in order to take care of their families, porters will risk their health and well-being to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, even if the working conditions are unsafe.
If you’re planning an adventure-filled trip to Kilimanjaro, you can make a world of difference for these porters by doing the following:
- Research travel companies carefully in terms of how the porters are treated and paid on their sponsored trips.
- Visit the International Mountain Explorers Connection’s website (www.mountainexplorers.org/club/partners.htm) for an updated list of international companies that are committed to the ethical treatment of mountain guides
- Only travel with tours that are transparent with their tipping and payment guidelines, and value the health and safety of their porters as much as anyone else.
- Ensure that your gear is equal to or less than the maximum weight restrictions listed by KPAP.
- Find out how much money you will need to bring for tipping, and include this money in the budget (and checklist) for your trip.
- Remember to treat your porters with kindness and respect! You never know what you might learn about the remarkable crew who you will be sharing this amazing adventure with.
Visit the KPAP website, www.kiliporters.org, for more information, including valuable tips about how to make your trip as porter-friendly as possible!