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

Climbing Kilimanjaro is an amazing feat and an adventure I highly recommend. I first climbed Kilimanjaro was more than 15 years ago and I return shortly with some online followers. I have also helped organize this trip over the years for dozens of backpackers. However, I have a little problem with the way many tour operators sell this climb. 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 6 out of 11 members managed to reach the summit. Now: I’m not sure what the actual success rate is for people reaching the summit. But I have climbed this mountain and I know of countless more people who have made the same attempt. This is how I know/think the success rate for summiting Kilimanjaro is significantly lower than 90%. I suspect this rate is much closer to 60% which 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. 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 Booking the Kilimanjaro Climb

Tour operators take a different approach to selling safaris and a Kilimanjaro climb. 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 regarding the specifics of a safari. You’ll be sleeping in a tent, you’ll be without showers for a few days, some of the drives are quite long – they try to manage expectations. However, they never go so far as to actually dissuade potential customers from booking the safari.

On the other hand, what would happen if tour operators told people that climbing Kilimanjaro is difficult? What if you knew altitude sickness can stop anyone in their tracks regardless of experience? And what if you knew that there was only a 60% chance of reaching the summit?

Would you still be as eager to book a Kilimanjaro Climb?

The truth is, knowing the facts about climbing Kilimanjaro would delay the booking process but it’s also a rather dishonest way to make a sale. That’s why I’m always careful with the wording for my own tour (Climb Kilimanjaro: 7-Day Machame Route).

Kili Climb

But Should You Climb Kilimanjaro?

I still highly recommend that you climb Kilimanjaro. 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? Nope! But then you don’t climb Kilimanjaro because it’s easy…

If you’d like to book your Kilimanjaro Climb, I invite you to book your tour through Outdare Adventures or perhaps send me a message on the OA website.

Derek Cullen
Derek Cullen
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!

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The Author - Derek Cullen

I worked as an overland tour leader in Africa for many years. I now want to help you book the trip of a lifetime and find out everything you need to know about taking an overland tour in Africa.

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