I travelled to Kilimanjaro on 16th August with Private Expeditions. During the booking stage - they had provided me with an agreement form which asked for NO medical conditions and NO medical history - therefore I rang them to explain about my condition and I was told that so long as my doctor agreed (I have a letter from my doctor) and so long as the insurance covered me then I could sign up. It was a completely flippant approach to a serious condition. The guide taking us up had NO knowledge of my condition and said I should be attempting it - a bit late after they had taken a lot of money for my trip. He laughed at me when I asked if people with my condition could reach the summit. He made inappropriate comments which I ignored. I was taken down the mountain due to altitude sickness. When I came back I wanted to let the company know what had happened so that no other diabetic went through what I did. I did not want to make a complaint. The MD of the company PAUL DEAKIN has taken private emails I sent explaining the situation and published them on facebook. He has chosen specific emails to make the company look like they did nothing wrong. He left out the emails explaining how PE knew about my diabetes and also blocked my response explaining how my group had to deal with theft from the guide and money being extorted through lies about his children and family - 2 other guides told him to stop this. They were very unhappy. I am totally shocked that the MD of a company would choose this way to deal with me passing on information which I assumed they would need to know. I am also shocked he would use social media to encourage bullying comments - disgusting and unacceptable
There are a lot of operators offering to climb Kili. Some of these are not very reputable and sometimes they fall into the scam category. Many of the 'cheap deals' can be found in Arusha and are to be avoided. My advice is to do your own research on what cost you should expect to pay. There are plenty of online operators (eg Gecko Adventures, Marangu Hotel, Peregrine, ATR) to use as a guide.
If you do go down the line of buying your trip when you arrive, make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for. You can cut cost by carrying your own gear and/or spending one less night on the mountain at the expense of acclimatisation. Both of these options will reduce your chance of summiting (which is the whole reason you are there!!) so make sure you are comfortable in your own training and ability.
The cheapest trips go via the Marangu route due to it being able to be done in 5 days (or even 4 if you go directly to the Horombo Huts on the first day). You will still need to hire a guide and cook (for your guide) minimum and will have tips to pay on the last day (don't pay these in advance!).
Have fun and take care.
This next tip might be a little gross but I'll give it anyway. In regards to the toilet huts it is best to remove your gaiters from your boots before entering the huts. This is because the gaiters usually have a strap that runs under the boot and the toilet huts are not always, shall we say, clean? Some of them are downright nasty since people are aiming for a hole in the ground and don't always make it. You really don't want your gaiter straps picking that up and coming into your tent with you. And to add to that, leave your boots outside your tent in the vestibule portion if you have one, either that or place them on a plastic bag. Your boots will have all the nastiness from the toilet huts on them.
Also, I suggest rolling up your trouser legs before entering the huts if they are trailing down, same reason as above.
At Barranco Camp I entered the toilet hut to discover that somebody missed the hole completely and warned the guy going in after I came out that it was gross. He said "you just get used to it" and then went in and I then heard him say "oh that's gross!" Yup, sometimes you can't get used to it.
Remember to bring cash with you as anything you want to purchase, including at your hotel, will be on a cah only basis. The hotel I stayed at would only accept cash for dinner so if I wanted to eat I needed spare money. Rather obvious I guess though it's normally my plan to use credit cards at hotels and save my supply of paper money for small purchases (gifts, choc bars etc) out on the road.
The best source of cash is via an ATM if you haven't already got a supply with you. There are ATMs in Arusha and Moshi (if you are to be in the same area as I was) but nothing in Marangu. Hotels will change $US for local currency but at a very poor rate. You'll also need some cash for your tip to your climb team.
The best way to help avoid altitude sickness is to keep the liquids up. This means up to 3L of water each day so be prepared to have an extra 3kg on your bag when you start out each day. Water is best with tea okay though remember that it is a diuretic so will make you pee more (as will the altitude).
I purchased a bladder for my day bag (bag was set up for this) and it made life much easier never having to reach around for a water bottle. Others seemed to have to stop regularly to find their water for a drink - this made them start to think twice about stopping and increasing the risk of not getting enough water!
My tour group managed our water purification and all went well. I would suggest that you bring purification tablets or droplets if you are not sure of your water supply.
Nearing the top of Kili my hydration bladder in my pack froze solid - make sure you have a back-up. I had a water bottle wrapped up in my day bag to reduce the risk of freezing - this worked okay though even then there were bits of ice in the water.
The mantra of the guide is 'pole pole' or slowly slowly for the days spent ascending. This is the best advice you will get as it is a slow ascent that is the key to making it to the top if you are not used to the altitude. Having an extra aclimatisation day is highly recommended!
You will run out of puff quite easily the further up the mountain you go so take it easy - remember it's not a race!!
This is a real danger on Kili with its peak being over 5000M and in the extreme altitude range. To combat this, a slow, measured assent is required with acclimatisations days also helping. Drugs such as Diamox can also be used to help to overcome mild cases with more serious cases requiring immediate transport to a lower altitude. Best defence is lots of water to keep yourself hydrated! As you go up the mountain you will need to pee more so don't be afraid to drink more than normal.
Even though you're on the side of a mountain in Africa, there's no guarantee that the water is pure, and it's important to take great care before drinking anything. You should filter or add sterilizing tablets to all of your water (doing both is probably unnecessary; boiling is also a solution, but of course that uses precious fuel). After all, there's nothing worse than picking up a bug on what's probably a once in a lifetime trip. Nevermind, the thought of spending too much of your time in one of the functional but unappealing outhouses.
Whatever method you choose to clean your water (we used a simple filter pump, and that proved to be very effective), make sure you drink lots every single day!
It sounds obvious when planning a trip to Africa, but because the weather isn't always wonderful on Kilimanjaro, it's easy to forget just how strong the equatorial sun can be. In addition to all the hours you'll spend in the open, the thinner the air gets the stronger the sun's effects will be on your skin.
Unless you plan to return home looking shrivelled up, make sure to constantly apply sunblock and lip balm: the guides do (especially lip balm), and they're used to the conditions. The good tour companies will emphasize that you can't carry too much sunblock, so don't ignore their warnings - and since you can't always obtain the best products at a decent price locally, make sure you pack the sunblock before you ever leave home.
A good hat, too, is essential: forget fashion and make sure you get one that provides plenty of shade for eyes, nose and ears!
You might think you have seen fire ants before, but, trust us, everything is bigger and meaner in Africa. Due to an especially dry spell, fire ant colonies were particularly abundant during our hike. They may seem small enough, but they really can bite! Not to mention, the trouble we had with ants getting up inside gaitors and down into socks.
The best advice we can give, passed to us from our guide, is to keep moving - and not "poli poli" - if you see any fire ants, especially in the trail. Another thing to keep in mind - where there is one, there are probably many.
With symptoms ranging from headache and nausea to difficulty sleeping, altitude sickness is definitely something to consider when planning a trek up Kilimanjaro. Coming from various locations, all at sea level, the members of our group were probably as susceptible as they come. Pretty much everyone in the group had some kind of trouble.
The only advice we can offer is to discuss your trip with your physician and get a prescription for a preventive medication (ours gave us Diamox). Since there is really no way to predict whether or not you will have problems (short of previous high altitude experience), we would definitely suggest taking the medication as a prophylactic measure. For those on our trip who waited for symptoms, the symptoms never seemed to go away.
It should be said though, that while altitude is a concern, the trek up Kilimanjaro is not so high or long that serious altitude problems, for example those that might lead to death on Everest, are at all likely.
Choose the Rongai route as part of our Kilimanjaro expedition, the dust was unbearable. The dust was very fine and didn't take much to get airborn (it was dry season) so whenever a porter or porters passsed by us we were coughing dust for the next 15 minutes. My advice is to bring a dust mask and baby wipes for your face
At the Londorossi Gate, we were amused by the toilet (if you can call it that) which was basically a porcelain hole in the floor. No big deal for men, but a bit more unusual for women. We hike and camp enough to have seen a quite a variety of toilets, so without giving it a much thought, we continued on our way. In retrospect we should have considered that a warning. It turns out that the bathroom at the gate was relatively upscale, which we should have guessed since things in the woods are always more primative.
At camp that night we tested out our first outhouse. It didn't seem very unusual from the outside. Although it didn't appear to have door, it was a familar shape and size. But what a suprise we got upon stepping in around the privacy corner. Again we have a hole in the ground, but this time no porcelain, just a sawed out rectangle in the wood. It was about 6" by 12" which seems big enough until trying to aim! It was quite a challenge not helped by those with poor aim who had gone before!
The further up Kilimanjaro we went, the smaller the outhouse holes got. This might have made sense since everyone's aim was improving with time, but didn't take into account the shaking legs and sore thighs we got from some of our more strenuous days.
This is certainly not a good enough reason to forgo the climb, but we felt we should pass along a warning!
Accute Mountain Sickness, or AMS is the effect on the body of depleted oxygen as you climb higher. It is caused by ascending too quickly, but unfortunately on a mountain like Kilimanjaro where you are paying by the day for the trek it is impossible to ascend only 300m per day with a rest day every 1000m as is recommended. AMS is no respecter of age, sex, or fitness levels and can strike anyone. You can begin to experience symptoms from around 2500m above sea level and these will most likely consist of a headache (like a constriction around your whole head) nausea and vomiting, combined with a lack of appetite and lethargy. The lack of appetite could potentially cause problems with energy as you climb towards the peak, and meal breaks will not always correspond with when you need to eat so I recommend that you carry some high energy snacks with you can snack as and when you need energy. The packed lunches we were given provided us with the nutrients we needed, but when I was feeling queasy I was completely unable to force down a cold, fried butter sandwich! I found relief from my initial bout of AMS by resting, and luckily it happened on the night when we descended into Barranco valley, thereby allowing my body to acclimatise overnight. My appetite never returned however and it was this which finally beat me as I was depleted of energy. If you suffer from AMS you should stop further ascent until your conditions improve and descend if you begin to feel worse. Time is the only thing which will allow you to acclimatise properly. Give yourself as long as possible to complete your climb...even if you think you won't need it.
Do not hire a guide, or go with a companythat you 'find on the street' in Arusha. They will require money up front, and if they do turn up on the day, they will be unprofessiona and dangerous. The best way to find a company is through the Tanzania Tourist Board or one of the good travel books (Lonely planet, Fodor etc). they may be a bit more expensive, but they will get you there.