Recently, while browsing through the impassioned website of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), of which Adventures Within Reach is a proud partner, I recalled a recent exchange with a traveler about the cost of our Kilimanjaro treks and why they are slightly higher than a budget Kilimanjaro tour operator. While we are far from the most expensive Kilimanjaro outfitter (some tour companies charge in excess of $4000 per person), we are also not the cheapest tour operator on Kilimanjaro. Our 2-person 6-day Marangu route climbs, for example, are priced at US$1620 per person. What is vital to know is that our rates allow us to pay our mountain staff a fair wage and provide high-quality, reliable equipment for our clients and staff alike.
It is an unfortunate fact that many budget Kilimanjaro companies do not take fair salary and proper working conditions for their mountain crews into consideration. Budget operators are often accused of not paying their porters, or paying them very little. Such an operation leaves guides and porters to work solely for tips, which is unfair to staff and an unsavory experience for the traveler. In addition, while a party of 4 travelers on one of our treks will have a crew of about 16, travelers on budget treks using “street” companies will probably get a crew of closer to 11, which means the crew is overworked and overloaded. In this example, the porters working for a budget trekking company might carry more than the Park Service’s maximum of 25 kg per person. As a result, the crews are grossly underpaid and severely overworked as they haul gear up the steep slopes of Kilimanjaro.
If they are not being paid a fair wage, then the travelers will be expected to tip more. Then the client, in turn, will be pestered and pressured for tips. Furthermore, poor paying companies attract poorly qualified guides. In our experience, we have found that a good guide can make or break your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to climb Kilimanjaro. Choosing a reputable company that partners with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) increases the overall quality of your trek, making it more enjoyable and safer for everyone involved.
When asking “why climb Kilimanjaro,” we encourage you to consider the welfare of the workers that support your efforts to reach the top of the mountain. You will have the best chance to reach the top, enjoy the experience, and contribute to the local Tanzania economy by supporting sustainable and responsible tourism.