An irritating fact about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is the mandated requirement that any climber be accompanied by a local guide and crew, and that all Kilimanjaro tours must be booked through a licensed local operator. Bearing in mind that with even a modest amount of high altitude experience getting to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro is not difficult, this really can be an annoyance to those who do not want to climb as part of a group with a large local entourage.
If this is you then bear a few points in mind:
Eco-travel and Conservation:
Mt Kilimanjaro is situated right within one of the most densely populated regions of Africa. Any geographical location in Africa that experiences high rainfall such as the slopes and foothills of Kilimanjaro will attract concentrations of population. This usually takes the form of small scales farming communities and larger village settlements. The net effect of this on any tropical highland eco-system is devastating.
In order to divert the attention of local people from the direct exploitation of the Kilimanjaro Forest by way of illegal timber harvesting, charcoal production and illegal settlement it is necessary to prove, by way of as wider an inclusion in the tourist industry as possibly, that a genuine incentive exists to preserve the local environment.
The Tanzanian National Parks authorities, and many other NGOs and civic bodies, are very conscious of this. Therefore the mandated use of local Kilimanjaro tour and safari outfitters, and the inclusion on every expedition of local guides and porters, ensures that everybody, or a least a lot of people, can get a share of the pie.
A local stake in the business:
The African tourist industry has traditionally been dominated by foreigners. Outside lifestyle investors have tended in the past to bring to bear their capital to monopolize the lodge, camp and hotel industries while foreign climb outfitters, if given the chance, would completely eclipse local companies in terms of expertise, equipment and marketing. The Kilimanjaro tours and climb industry is protected by government licensing laws that limit the influence that outside outfitters can wield. This all serves to make sure that the Tanzanian, and indeed the East African tourist industry remains as much as possible in local hands
Independent climbing is possible:
It is possible to avoid an over-organized and top-heavy Kilimanjaro tour if you really want to. It is very difficult to get past the determination of both local and outside outfitter to link you into a group expedition with all the trimmings since that is where the money is. Either arrive in Tanzania and walk the streets to find a token guide to accompany you in order to satisfy the legal minimum, leaving porters and all the rest behind, or get in touch with an independent outside contractor like Kilimanjaro Climb Club and let us help you cut through the crap and get onto the mountain.
With all that out of the way let me conclude by adding that there is a lot to be said for being guided and catered for in an environment like Kilimanjaro. The mountain experiences such high traffic annually that independent climbing is always going to be out of the question, so if you have to stick to certain routes and base yourself in designated camps, you might as well do so as part of a Kilimanjaro tour.
So long as you do not opt for the cheapest possible trip which will fit you out with the lowest grade guides and porters on the mountain, the pros tend to outweigh the cons. Local Kilimanjaro tour guides, even if they lack some of the technical knowledge that an outside guide might possess, know their own environment and their own society, and are filled with interesting information.
The secret is to make sure that you opt for a quality Kilimanjaro tour outfitter who will give you what you ask for. Equip yourself with as much background information as possible before you leave and make wise and considered choices.
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