Tipping your guides, porters, cook etc
Porters and the guides (porters especially) do the toughest jobs on the mountain. So rewarding them for thier efforts is customary, I might even say, mandatory. BUT a few things to remember.....
There might arise a situation where the guide(s) or porters might tell you what the standard tipping rate is on Kili. They will usually brandish a paper on which are written ridiculous amounts that clients have tipped in the past. All this is supposed to look authentic, and it probably will. Also, the guide might insist that you pay him the entire money for the group and he will disburse the $ to the porters, cook etc later. Well,..............
Not only were we coerced to hand over more tips than our already generous amount (thankfully we didnt fall for the scam), we ran into another peculiar situation. We happened to meet one of the porters and the cook the day after we finished the hike in Moshi. Looked like our guide had appropriated the gifts and money as he saw fit. It's a shame....
Unique Suggestions: One suggestion is - find out how many guides, assistant guides, porters and cook(s) you will have for your group. Plan the gifts accordingly and take a few envelopes with you. Pack each person's gift in a seperate plastic bag and then when the hike is done, depending on your experience on the mountain, add the decided $ into an envelope. After the hike at the park gate, give each person his gift.
To reward them appropriately, we also took gifts along with the $ tips we had planned on paying at the end of the trek. We took swiss army knifes and some collapsible multi-tools, t-shirts and watches. Old hiking gear that is still useable but you might probably throw away also make great gifts!
After a bit of research and asking around, here's the tipping guideline we found and followed for our 6 day Marangu route are:
$50 - head guide
$30 - cook & assistant guide(s)
$15 - porters
Chagga family cave
At the hotel we would see new people heading of to start their climb on the mountain and it was a bit of a torture. So to get our minds of things we decided to go for a guided walk in the area. For 5 dollars you can get one of the people associated with the hotel to take you for a walk in the area. We walked to a local bus stop near by and from here we took one of the mini buses. I have been on rides with mini buses like this before and it can be interesting :-) The car was operated by a driver and 1 other guy that tried to fill up the car beyond its limits. I think that we were at least 20 people in the little bus but we managed to squeeze in there. All the people we met seemed pretty friendly and happy and everyone greeted us with “Jambo” (Swahili for hello). Some seemed more happy that others and according to our guide they were the ones that had been drinking a bit too much banana beer :-)
Our destination was a cave that used to house a Chagga family (the local tribe is Chagga) when they were at war with the Masai people. We were expecting a cave in a mountain type of cave but it turned out to be a cave dug out of the soil. My trip to Kilimanjaro could have ended right there by the way because when I climbed down the wooden ladder to get into the cave, one of the steps gave in and I almost fell. But I was lucky and I didn’t get hurt. The cave itself was pretty narrow and dark and at some places we had to crawl on hands and knees to get through passages. And the girls were not happy of course when we came across lots of bats in the cave. I’m not sure that the cave was interesting enough to justify the 5000 Shillings (about 5 US dollars) we had to pay to enter. But at least we got our minds of the upcoming trek. We had a nice walk back to the hotel and we met lots of children that were smiling and looking at the gang of pale skins that were walking through their territory.