Mar 212016

We are quite proud of our Kilimanjaro staff.

Our guides are experts on the mountain and do everything in their power to help you achieve your dreams while keeping you safe. Our mountain cooks make incredible meals to keep you strong and well fed throughout the expedition. Our porters carry all the food and supplies, set up and break down the campsites, and fetch water.

These hardworking people make up your all star support crew, so all you need to do on Kilimanjaro is simply enjoy your time there. And you can enjoy it with a clear conscience, knowing that the friendly staff who make your trip possible have been and always will be treated well.

Ultimate Kilimanjaro® is one of only 14 U.S.-based Kilimanjaro operators who are members of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), organized by the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC). Most customers do not know the importance of being a KPAP member. They assume that all operators treat their staff fairly. They would be wrong in that assumption.

IMEC is a nonprofit organization that was founded in Boulder, Colorado in 1996 to promote responsible and sustainable tourism in Tanzania and Nepal –  home of the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest. (Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free-standing mountain).

Scott Dimetrosky founded IMEC after returning from a six-month trip climbing the Himalyas in Pakistan, India and Nepal. He was disturbed by the negative environmental and cultural impacts of the tourism he saw. IMEC initiatives have included a homestay program, volunteer handbook, teacher placement program and a porter clothing bank.

Kilimanjaro climbing does a lot of great things for Tanzania. It generates about $50 million a year in revenue for touring companies, of which the majority goes to the government for park fees and of which about $13 million is paid directly to guides, porters and cooks, according to a World Bank report, “Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods.” The report concluded that tourism is an important way for countries such as Tanzania to alleviate poverty.

The revenue from the park supports about 400 guides, according to the report, 10,000 porters, 500 cooks and constitutes about 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Data on what these people are paid vary, but its far more than $2 a day that Tanzanian farmers make, for work that require some muscle and physical fitness but no training, the World Bank report found.

Volcanic soil around the mountain is fertile for growing a wide variety of crops, including bananas, coffee, fruits, vegetables and cereals, but the climbing industry provides an important complement to farmers’ income. As a result, the area around the mountain has the nation’s highest school enrollment rate (100 percent) and highest adult literacy rate (85 percent).

Unfortunately, many Kilimanjaro companies, including both luxury operators and budget operators, have chosen to opt out of KPAP’s efforts to make life better for Tanzanian guides, porters and cooks. We assume that having the oversight of KPAP may be a problem for their usual operations.

In order to be a partner, companies must meet the Guidelines for Proper Porter Treatment, which are monitored continuously (a KPAP representative accompanies every single climb led by Ultimate Kilimanjaro® from beginning to end).

Criteria for membership include detailed provisions that ensure fair treatment for the company’s crew and compliance with the proper treatment guidelines.

These guidelines include:

  • Porters should not carry loads heavier than 20 kgs (44 pounds).
  • Porters receive the full amount of tips intended for them.
  • Porters are outfitted with proper clothing and equipment.
  • Porters have proper shelter and proper sleeping equipment. Tents should be good quality with a ground sheet provided.
  • Porters are provided at least two meals per day and access to water.
  • Sick or injured porters are properly cared for.


KPAP has found significant differences in how porters are treated by member companies and non-member companies. In 2014, members paid porters an average of $5.91 per day, compared to $4.49 per day paid by non-members. Non-members had porters carrying bags that weighed 45.9 pounds on average, which was about 1.5 pounds heavier than members.  Porters have told the KPAP that a few non-members make them carry bags ranging from 48.5 to 66 pounds.

96% of porters received two or more meals per day from members, compared to 71% by non-members (Ultimate Kilimanjaro® staff receive three meals per day). In 2009, just 52% received two or more meals from members, compared to 28% by non-members.

Since June 2015, partner companies have been paying porters at least $6.80 per day and guides $13.60 per day, according to IMEC (Ultimate Kilimanjaro® porters earn more than these figures).

An IMEC-KPAP report released in June 2015, looking at data from 2009-2014, found that things have gotten much better for Kilimanjaro workers during that time.

“Fair treatment practices have become very important to the climbing public,” the report concluded. “Clients and overseas tour operators are seeking to climb Kilimanjaro with climbing companies employing responsible practices toward the crew. Significant improvements in treatment practices are being noted on Kilimanjaro and the stakeholders should be proud of their achievements.”

We hope that once you are aware of the issues surrounding porter mistreatment, you will only support Kilimanjaro operators that demonstrate their commitment to porter welfare.

KPAP member companies, like Ultimate Kilimanjaro®, are leading the industry to improve working conditions for all porters on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Jun 162015

imagesGuides and porters of budget operators are threatening to strike again over low wages and poor working conditions. Our customers need not worry. Ultimate Kilimanjaro staff are paid well and treated well. We are one of only four USA based Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) partner companies, which means every one of our climbs are independently monitored to ensure compliance with proper porter welfare guidelines. We have a happy crew and happy customers.

May 122014

Ultimate Kilimanjaro, the #1 guide service on Kilimanjaro, has recently made significant improvements to its climbing operations. For nearly a decade, Ultimate Kilimanjaro has guided thousands of clients on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africas highest peak. However, their success is not measured by how many people they take to the summit, but how great of an experience it is for all climbers.

“We strive for continuous improvement,” said Adam Collins, Expedition Coordinator for Ultimate Kilimanjaro. “We sat down and looked at everything from top to bottom with a critical eye, and what we’ve come up with is truly the best experience for our clients. I’m really excited, and our clients will be too.”

Among the changes implemented are upgrades in camping equipment, additional safety measures, and better food.
Many people who climb Kilimanjaro do not have any previous backpacking experience, which means clients are not accustomed to sleeping outdoors. Ultimate Kilimanjaro eases the transition by providing thick foam sleeping pads and state of the art Mountain Hardwear and MSR brand tents on all trips.

“These are serious tents, built for the toughest alpine conditions. They are perfectly suited for the weather on Kilimanjaro,” said Collins.

Besides enduring extreme cold, anyone climbing Kilimanjaro may develop symptoms of altitude sickness due to its staggering height – 19,345 feet above sea level. Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides constantly monitor climbers throughout their journey. Twice daily, health checks are performed with the assistance of a pulse oximeter, a handheld device used to measure oxygen saturation in blood. Additionally, climbers are evaluated based on the Lake Louise Scoring System for detection of altitude sickness. Oxygen is used to treat climbers with moderate or severe altitude sickness.

“Bottled oxygen is included on all climbs,” said Collins.

The food served on Kilimanjaro is made with fresh ingredients, carried by porters and prepared by mountain chefs. The menu consists of a variety of entrees and tastes intended to keep energy levels high after a hard day’s hike. Food is resupplied to climbers on longer itineraries so climbers have ample fresh food.

“One of the symptoms of altitude sickness is a loss of appetite,” noted Collins. “That’s why it’s important to provide tasty dishes, so that people will eat even if they don’t feel hungry.”

The improvements didn’t stop with just the clients. Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides are dressed in Mountain Hardwear waterproof hardshells, insulated down jackets and moisture wicking tee shirts. And as one of the strongest supporters of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides and porters receive far more than the standard compensation than those working for other companies.

“Climbing Kilimanjaro is a team effort,” Collins stated. “Without guides and porters, there are no clients. There are no operators. It’s in our best interest to see that everyone is treated fairly.”

Ultimate Kilimanjaro offers private and group treks on all Kilimanjaro routes year round, including the new Northern Circuit route. For seasoned backpackers with high altitude experience, there is also an option to sleep next to one of Kilimanjaro’s last remaining glaciers and visit Kilimanjaro’s volcanic center, the Ash Pit.

“Our customers are going to be thrilled. The best Kilimanjaro operator just got better,” said Collins.

Feb 062012

Ultimate Kilimanjaro specializes in private climbs, but we offer group climbs on Kilimanjaro, which are perfect for solo travelers and pairs who want the companionship of others on their long journey.

We keep our groups limited to 12 people. This way our clients can have a meaningful social experience on the mountain by getting to know your fellow party members, while at the same time our guides can manage the party effectively. With 12 people, we staff the climb with 5 guides to make sure there are enough eyes and ears to monitor everyone in the group.

Below is a photo of another company’s group climb (NOT ours!) near Kibo Hut. Large parties like this are not all that uncommon on Mount Kilimanjaro, unfortunately. Unbelievably, that is a 35 person party, of which only four are guides.  We fail to see the fun in having such a crowd with you on every step of the way.

kili group climb

May 152010

In a climbing group, it is common that one or two people turn around on the mountain due to altitude sickness, exhaustion or a variety of other matters.  We often get asked what happens to the rest of the trekking party – specifically, whether they must also discontinue their climb.  Absolutely not!

Each group will have a lead guide, a number of assistant guides depending on the party size, and lead porters – all of whom are able to escort climbers down.  Therefore, when a person cannot continue their ascent, one of the staff members will accompany this climber while the lead guide takes the group to the next destination.  The remaining party is unaffected and continues their climb as scheduled.summit