With so many Kilimanjaro operators, you have many options on which company to use on your climb. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a significant investment of time and money, so it is prudent to do sufficient research into different companies before selecting one. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing an operator:
- Safety - Due to its great height, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a dangerous activity. Therefore, your operator should have a record of safe trekking. Your guides should be experts at preventing, identifying and treating sick or injured climbers.
- Equipment - Mount Kilimanjaro's weather is highly variable. Strong winds, torrential rains and heavy snowfall are all possible no matter what time of year you visit. The equipment and tents should be high quality, able to withstand the mountain's changing environment.
- Food and Water - Nutritious food and clean water are paramount to your success. Your operator should provide enough nutrition and calories in your diet so that you have the energy to hike. Consuming large amounts of water is essential to altitude acclimatization, so drinking water should be available throughout the climb.
- Porter Welfare - Porters have a tough job, hauling food and equipment up the mountain at an astounding speed. Make sure your operator treats them well - with the right amount of food, right clothing and shelter.
- Responsible Climbing - Thousands of people climb Kilimanjaro per year. It is everyone's responsibility to keep the mountain clean. Your operator should obey the standards of outdoor ethics and aim to minimize their and their client's impact on the mountain.
- Customer service - It is likely you will have many questions when preparing for your climb. Make sure your operator is responsive to your requests and gives accurate, timely information.
Of course, price is an important consideration. You may have noticed that the prices charged by different outfitters range from very cheap to the incredibly expensive. It is easy to make the assumption that the expensive ones are the best and the cheap ones are the worst. Although there is some correlation, it is not as clear as one would think.
The international companies are typically the most expensive companies. Companies such as African Environments run climbs for most high end resellers located in the USA. Price notwithstanding, African Environments and similar outfits are top companies and they take many people to the summit annually.
Mid-range companies provide the basic necessities for safe and successful trekking - such as experienced guides and porters, functional tents and equipment, sufficient food and water. Yet they still offer campground luxuries like warm bowls of water for washing, dining tents fully furnished with tables and chairs, and their porters set up and break down the campsites for you. Most people climb with mid-range operators and the most popular companies can guide several hundred to over one thousand people on Kilimanjaro per year.
The Kilimanjaro operators who led the celebrity charity climbs - African Walking Company, Thomson Safaris and Ultimate Kilimanjaro - are reputable and established companies that have proven success when guiding charity climbs on Kilimanjaro. Any one of them would be a good choice for your Kilimanjaro operator.
Budget operators are typically small, local Tanzanian companies. Most are poorly outfitted and unprofessionally run, and have few customers per year. When looking into these operators, they may fail miserably when you rate their safety, equipment, food and water, porter welfare, responsible climbing and customer service. Don't use these companies and potentially ruin your trip.