WHAT IS KILIMANJARO? WHAT MAKES IT SO SPECIAL?
Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania on the north border near Kenya. It has the highest point in Africa, Uhuru Peak (5,895 m), and is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. While classified as a mountain, Kilimanjaro is actually made up of three volcanic cones that were formed by the Great Rift Valley. Even though Kilimanjaro is one of the seven summits, it's not classified as a technical climb, and is sometimes called Everyman's (or Everywoman’s) Everest because it’s the most attainable of the world’s seven summits. Check out our Kilimanjaro Adventure Guide for more info on its wildlife, climate zones and the most thorough packing list out there!
Kilimanjaro is an extra special adventure to us because WHOA travel was born when Co-Founders Allison and Danielle climbed Kili for the first time in 2013. It was then, that they experienced the unstoppable power we all have when we join forces and put our minds towards achieving something amazing, and they wanted to share that with others! Summiting Kilimanjaro is the accomplishment of a lifetime, and, we know first hand, it's one that will leave you with new friendships and a changed perspective of yourself and the world around you. Nothing worth having comes easy, but with passion, and the support of each other and our WHOA crew, you too can stand on the roof of Africa!
WHAT MAKES TRAVELING WITH WHOA DIFFERENT?
Empowering and connecting women through adventure is at the heart of everything we do at WHOA, and we hold a strong commitment to social responsibility with every adventure we take. Our special style of giving back is about sharing experiences with local women - it’s something that makes our adventures even richer for everyone. For Kilimanjaro, we provide the opportunity for local women in the region to experience and conquer the mountain that they’ve lived under their whole lives, but never afforded the opportunity to do themselves. On previous climbs, we’ve been so honored to have former students of Tembea Girls School, our partner NGO located just across the border from Kilimanjaro in Kajiado, Kenya, apart of our group. Sharing stories and experiences with each other over seven days is a great way to develop meaningful connections with these inspiring women!
In addition, before and after the hike, we stay at one of our locally run partner hotels in Moshi, like the Stella Maris Lodge. The Stella Maris a nonprofit hotel dedicated to funding the Stella Maris school through the Mailisita Foundation – a US-based orphan and vulnerable child relief organization. The school is located on the same property as the hotel, and during the week, you can hear the beautiful singing of the children in the morning!
Last, but certainly not least, all of our mountain guides have received extensive training in first aid, mountain rescue, wildlife and are registered with the Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA). We also work closely with The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) to ensure our crew receives ethical treatment and fair wages that they deserve. Like KPAP, we recognize the value of the demanding labor these porters perform, and we’re dedicated to helping them constantly improving the safety and quality of the Kilimanjaro experience for everyone.
Bottom line, it’s extremely important to us that the work we do supports women, the local community, is sustainable, fills a need and is of value to our partners. For that reason, the partnerships can and do vary depending on their needs and the abilities and desires of our group. In each case, we do due diligence to seek out local partners that are doing great, sustainable work, and we work closely with them to understand their needs and create an experience that will truly be of value to them and you!
WHAT’S A NORMAL DAY ON THE MOUNTAIN LIKE?
One of the great things about Kilimanjaro is that everyday is a completely different and exciting adventure with new and diverse landscapes to take in! That said, there are definitely variables that remain constant. Every morning you and your tent buddy will be woken up bright and early to pack up your things, have coffee, eat breakfast and head out for a full day of hiking! We’ll be walking at a pace that is probably slower that you are used to - this is to help your body properly acclimatize. Breaks for pictures and resting are common and we always stop for a prepared lunch and snacks. When we get to our camps in the evening, we encourage you to enjoy the spectacular views and unwind a bit before dinner (which is delicious)! Dinners are always well-balanced and usually consist of soup, rice or pasta, sauce, a protein and fruit for dessert. Our crew will carry all the gear and your large duffel from camp to camp for you (and they’ll usually have our entire camp set up by the time we reach it in the late afternoon). Did we mention how amazing these guys are!? You’ll always have a certified local mountain guide with you when you’re trekking (there’s a 1:4 guide/climber ratio). The importance of having competent, high quality guides and porters cannot be overstated when it comes to climbing Kilimanjaro...they love the mountain and know it best! All of our guides have received extensive training in first aid, mountain rescue, wildlife and are registered with the Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA).
HOW DO I TRAIN FOR KILIMANJARO?
It’s a physical and mental undertaking, so being in good shape is definitely important! Having strong, conditioned legs makes it easier to walk up and downhill all day. General aerobic fitness will allow the body to function efficiently with less oxygen and withstand the stress of consecutive days of hiking and camping. The best exercise you can do is walk, after all, that’s what you will be doing on the mountain! Ideally, try to train a few days a week walking and/or jogging on inclines to simulate the ascension on Kilimanjaro. If you don’t have trails accessible, a treadmill or stair climber will do just fine. On Kilimanjaro, you’ll walk slowly for prolonged periods of time and be carrying some weight (no more than 12 lbs) on your back. In your training, it’s best to increase the time and distance while keeping a slow pace. If you can walk for 4 to 6 hours, with moderate elevation changes while carrying some weight, then you’re probably in good shape for the real deal. As with all training, for the last 2 weeks leading up to the big event, you should taper off and rest so your body has time to recover. While you’re training, don’t forget to break in your boots to prevent blisters! Also, try to wear the day pack you intend to carry so your shoulders/back/hips get used to the points of contact and weight. For some, extensive training might not be necessary, but either way preparedness will enhance your experience, and make it that much easier to enjoy your time on the mountain. If you currently have an not-so-healthy lifestyle, use the climb as your motivation to change! Eat healthier. Drink less. Don’t smoke. Get more sleep. Don’t worry. Be happy! And remember, physical training is just one part of getting in shape. Having a positive attitude and a bigger reason will work wonders for you when you get tired and need that extra boost!
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR LOCAL OPERATORS?
At WHOA, we hold a big commitment to operating ethically and legally everywhere we adventure. We have a team dedicated to research and vetting partners, before customers ever step foot on a WHOA adventure. On Kilimanjaro specifically, we work with local ground operators who hold annual TALA licenses (mandatory to enter the mountain and obtain Kilimanjaro Hiking Permits). WHOA also works with partners who comply with KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project). KPAP is a quality assurance organization, that ensures the fair and ethical treatment of all guides and porters through proper wages, meals, gear, and the transport of proper weight limits. As you will quickly find out, the guides and porters are the machines behind Kilimanjaro, and their fair and ethical treatment is extremely imperative to our operation.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE PRICE? WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?
WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE SURE I GET THE MOST OUT OF THIS EXPERIENCE?
This truly is a once in a life time experience that will stay with you long after it’s over! We encourage all of our climbers to include their family and friends that can’t come along. Bring a family heirloom or special photo to the top, and ask them join you in the training. Knowing that they are cheering you on from home will help you when times get tough. Also, embrace your new mountain family of fellow trekkers, guides and porters. You’re all in this together and are going to experience extreme highs and lows. Lift others up when they are down and they will do the same when you need it! Take in the views and share lots of laughter (and dances) with one another and you're sure to find beauty and surprises in many different forms all along the journey.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR THE ALTITUDE? WHAT IS HIGH ALTITUDE SICKNESS?
Drinking lots of water and going slowly on the ascent to give your body time to adjust to higher altitudes is the best and simplest way to avoid getting altitude sickness. That's why all our group treks are 7 days, as that ensures a safe and steady altitude gain as well as built in "climb high, sleep low" days before the night of the summit. That said, it’s still common for hikers to feel some, albeit mild, symptoms of the altitude on the mountain. We take safety very seriously and our guides are experts at gauging symptoms. A guide will accompany any climber down that is showing signs of acute mountain sickness (AMS) that could be serious. We have a handy pdf of HIGH ALTITUDE TRAVEL NOTES & SAFETY INFORMATION in the DOWNLOAD CENTER of our website, and encourage people to read up and understand the signs and various types of altitude sickness before trekking Kilimanjaro. The key is to be educated, but don’t over think it - drink lots of water and know that your guides will be watching and taking great care of you. Remember, it's completely normal to experience headaches, mild nausea and/or loss of appetite, but we've found that we're usually so distracted by how amazing the views are that we hardly notice!
WHAT AIRPORT DO I FLY INTO?
Plan on flying into Kilimanjaro (JRO) as there are several flights that fly in and out every day. Flights to Africa from the United States are almost always overnight flights, so whatever day you plan to arrive you will want to leave a day earlier to ensure you arrive at your desired time. We recommend booking your air travel 3-6 months before your adventure start date.
DO I NEED A VISA?
For travel to Tanzania you need an up to date passport (valid 6 months after your adventure dates) and tourist Visa (approximately $100). You may purchase your Tanzanian Visa when you get to JRO, but you can also get it beforehand to avoid lines and complications at the airport. You can find out more info about visas by visiting the Tanzanian Embassy website for your country. If you’re a US citizen, click here to go to the US Tanzanian Embassy website.
WHAT SHOTS & VACCINATIONS DO I NEED?
It’s mandatory you see your doctor and have our medical forms signed by your physician before hiking Kilimanjaro with us. You can download our MEDICAL FORMS HERE. Please review the Tanzanian Traveler’s Health section on the CDC website for the most current vaccination listings, as they change and are updated often. Make sure you get and/or bring with you a signed International Certificate of Vaccination (it’s a small yellow card) as proof of your yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling from an at risk country. It’s worth noting that even though you have to visit a doctor, you can usually obtain shots through your local health department at a lower cost than through a physician.
WHAT IF I DON'T HAVE ALL THE GEAR? DO YOU OFFER GEAR RENTAL?
Yes! You can save yourself some packing space and money by renting some gear in Tanzania from our local outfitter. We’ll be sending out a separate rental form before your adventure so that you to indicate what you plan on renting, and we'll have it ready for you to pick up before you leave for the mountain. We currently offer rental of duffels ($20), gaiters ($10) and hiking poles ($15).