Backpacking Africa

Climbing Kilimanjaro: What Tour Operators Don’t Want You to Know

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Climbing Kilimanjaro is an incredible feat and an adventure that comes highly recommended. Even though the last time I climbed Kilimanjaro was more than ten years ago, I have helped organize this trip over the years for dozens of backpackers.

However, I am a little peeved by the way many tour operators sell this climb. That is to say, they are quite aggressive with the sale and they don’t exactly tell the truth either.

Here’s why:

Climbing Kilimanjaro: The Truth About Success Rates

If you take a look at the FAQ on most tour operators websites, you will notice a success rate of 90+% for the climb. In other words, most tour operators say that 90+% of their guests will make it to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Simply put, this is a complete lie and well documented too.

For example, I read an article this morning about the first all-Black U.S. team to summit Kilimanjaro. Only six out of eleven members managed to reach the summit.

Now:

I’m not sure what the actual success rate is for people reaching the summit. However, I have climbed this mountain and I know of countless more people who have made the same attempt.

You want the truth?

The success rate for summiting Kilimanjaro is significantly lower than 90%. In fact, I suspect that the success rate is much closer to 60%. And this means that instead of nine out of every ten people reaching the summit, it’s more likely that close to six out of ten will make it,.

But of course these tour operators tell you that most people make it to the summit. After all, they want you to book the trip, right?

The Truth About Selling & Booking the Kilimanjaro Climb

You see, for these tour operators, the approach to selling a Kilimanjaro climb is a lot different than a standard tour in Africa.

Here’s why:

When you book a safari or an overland tour in Africa, there are many factors that will determine the success of your trip. Also, tour companies in Africa will rarely mislead their customers about the specifics of a safari. You’ll be sleeping in a tent? Great. You’ll be without showers for a few days? Fine. Some of the drives are quite long? Okay, no problem. The point being, there is nothing major that they can say to dissuade their customers.

On the other hand, what would happen if tour operators told people that climbing Kilimanjaro is more than just difficult? What if you knew that even the porters sometimes fail to make the summit? You must know that altitude sickness is always possible? And what if you knew that there was only a 60% chance of reaching the roof of Africa?

Would you still be as eager to click “buy” or make your booking?

The truth is, knowing the real facts about climbing Kilimanjaro would delay the booking process for most people. True, they might end up going ahead with the trip later on, but tour operators also know that this is extra time for customers to stumble across their competition.

Think about it:

Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is a crucial factor for climbers so why would they want to say anything to put you off?

They don’t…..and they won’t!

Kili Climb

But what does this mean to you?

Well, it just means that this is no walk in the park. By all means, book the tour, but take the tour operators statistics with a grain of salt.

In fact, I highly recommend that you climb Kilimanjaro. It’s an exciting expedition and a truly awe-inspiring mountain to climb. The camping is fun, the trekking is rewarding and while the summit night is difficult, it makes for a challenging and meaningful adventure.

Is it worth the price tag? Sure.

Can you reach the summit? Maybe.

Will climbing Kilimanjaro be easy?

Definitely not.


PS. If you want to avoid the tourist crowds on the Marangu “Coca-Cola” Route, this tour on the Rongai Route is a much more rewarding experience.

Disclaimer: The link above is an affiliate link. This means that if you book your climb, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please know that I value the trust of my readers and will never endorse something I do not personally support. Namaste 😉

Derek Cullen is an experienced overland tour leader in Africa. He is best known for cycling across Africa and writing about travel in Africa for many online media publications. If you would like advice or information for your trip to Africa, you can speak with him directly through the LiveChat box!

2 Comments

  1. Lawe Sosah

    November 6, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Is it possible to climb Kilimanjaro with just one guide or do you have to get a team of porters(I’m not one for crowds)

    • Derek Cullen

      November 7, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      Hi Lawe,

      Yes, you can take a guide only but the guide will often want to have porters.

      On my first climb, I had both a guide and porters. But I never trekked with them. In fact, every morning, I hiked out of camp alone and the guide was totally fine with this!

      ie. I recommend going with a company and just hiking alone during the day 🙂

      Derek

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