By Alexxa Aloisi, Guest Post
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an experience reserved for a truly dedicated type of traveler.
The beautiful albeit challenging journey up the mountain provokes a deep sense of appreciation and humility towards our relationship with nature, while also inciting within us our capability to adapt our own mental and physical state. It reminds us that this very ability to adjust is our defining attribute as humans.
Centuries ago, explorers were incapable of reaching these great natural wonders without constant life threatening challenges. Today thanks to advancements in technology, most healthy people with an adventurous heart can safely push their personal limitations and reach the highest summits of any mountain.
It is an important step to acknowledge the climb being both gruelling and physically-demanding.
Even most experienced and avid climbers will tell you that despite their training, the change in air pressure and oxygen levels takes time to acclimate to. This means it’s essential to go with an experienced tour company that can ensure a safety more enjoyable climb for you.
That also benfits the local economy. Starting with the porters.
Who Are Porters?
Porters are usually local men between the age of 18 and 40 who are hired alongside a team of
trained professionals to help carry your gear to the summit. They are an impressive group, leaving many trekkers in complete awe of their physical capabilities.
Climbers will hire one or several porters depending on the size of the group, the amount of
equipment and the type of trek. Overall they are there to share their experience and help make
your journey up the mountain as enjoyable as possible, while working as part of your hired team
of expert chefs, guides and assistants.
Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania which is a country well known for its natural beauties
and vast wilderness! It has a population of 55.7 million (2016) and its official language is Swahili
According to data found online, though they are a stable and relatively safe country, they still
experience financial instability with many people living below the World Bank poverty line
including porters. Further research reveals local porters have been subject to great
injustices with exploitation and poor working conditions being very common.
There are many tragic stories of porters succumbing to exhaustion and exposure, so asking the
right questions is a necessary step in revealing whether you are hiring an ethical company that
has the well-being and safety of its employees in mind. NGOs like the Kilimanjaro Porters
Assistance Project (KPAP) are there to ensure porters have fair wages, good treatment,
educational opportunities as well as appropriate clothing and equipment for the trek. They also
make sure that porters do not exceed the carry limit of 20 kilos.
Thanks to the KPAP and groups sharing the same values, finding a team operating under ethical standards isn’t difficult. In fact, many of the best groups and organizations operating around Kilimanjaro are owned by individuals who have been porters themselves!
Now assuming you’ve chosen your ethical tour operator and planned for the trip; what is the next step? Budget.
While porter salary is included in your package — though these salaries are often not very much — it’s customary to tip at the end of the tour. In fact, many companies have a tipping ceremony on the last night. According to KPAP, travelers should budget about:
- Per Lead Guide – $20-25 USD per day
- Per Assistant Guide – $15-20 USD per day
- Per Cook – $15 USD per day
- Per Porter – $10 USD per day
Do Your Part
While it’s up to the tour operator to do their part in paying fair wages to porters and abiding by local laws, you also play a role. Do you part in helping to ensure porter rights and making the experience more enjoyable for your porter by:
1. Tip. Mentioned above!
2. Stick to the weight allowance. Don’t try to stuff more than 15-20 kilograms into your bag. Even if your tour operator allows it — which they shouldn’t — know that packing those extra items means someone else is suffering.
3. Choose a tour operator recommended by KPAP. Ensure your trip is making a positive — vs negative — impact.
4. Help push for better conditions through Tourism Concern. You can view their campaign here.
5. Interact with your porter. Along with being aware if a porter looks sick or like they need help, in which case you should speak up, also interact with them when there is downtime. Show them that you apprecipate their help and try to learn more about them as individuals. Take the time to understand their culture and way of life to open your mind. It’ll exhance your experience and theirs!
Have you climbed Kilimanjaro? Share your experience in the comments below!
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