On February 24th 2014, my husband and I went on the 10 day Lemosho route (8 days on the mountain) through Peak Planet. Everything was exceptional and we wouldn’t change a single thing! Starting from the beginning, I worked with Ken and Trevor to get everything booked. I was extremely impressed with how quickly I received responses to all of my questions! When we went to Machu Picchu a couple years ago I experienced some altitude sickness while in Cusco. I was extremely nervous about how I would do on Kilimanjaro and Ken worked with me to determine which route and length would give me the best chance of acclimating and increase my chances of making it to the summit. Personally, I think the Lemosho route is an excellent choice! Most of the research on the internet sites this route as being one of the most scenic, and we weren’t disappointed! Also, while 8 days on the mountain seemed like a long time, only 1 person out of our group of 12 had any altitude sickness symptoms prior to summit night. The longer time on the mountain was well worth it knowing we were allowing our bodies to gradually acclimate, which would give us better chances of making it to Uhuru Peak — which is what we were there for!
The months leading up to our departure, Peak Planet provided plenty of information so we knew exactly what to expect and what we should / should not take with us in our bags. We left the United States on Saturday for an arrival into JRO airport on Sunday evening. Our hike was to begin Monday morning. We knew this was tight but couldn’t leave any earlier due to limited vacation days. Most of the 12 others in our group arrived at least a day early, which I would recommend. We purchased the airport pickup and our driver was there waiting for us once we exited baggage claim. Something that really impressed me was the willingness to assist its clients. Two other clients who had arrived the previous day had their bags lost by the airline. Our driver asked us if we would mind waiting a few minutes so he could search the bags as it was suspected that their bags would be on our flight. He said that if the bags weren’t on our flight, it would cost those clients extra to have additional porters to catch up to the group after the hike has started so it would really save these two other guests if the bags were in fact on our flight. The driver searched through all the bags and eventually did find the two missing bags that belonged to the other climbers. I could immediately tell that they cared about thier clients and were willing to go the extra step to make sure they had the best experience while on Kilimanjaro.
During the hike, the service and food was way above what we expected. The guide, the assistant guides, the cook, the helping porters, the porters, everyone was so helpful and friendly. The motto on Kilimanjaro is “pole, pole” and the porters do keep a steady, slow pace. The nice thing is that they have one assistant guide for every 2 clients. This meant that if there were people that wanted to go a little slower than the lead guide for that day, they could. Everyone was able to go at their own pace, regardless of what pace that was (but no faster than the lead guide). Once we did arrive to camp each night, everything was ready to go and there were never any issues. My husband and I rented sleeping bags since we live in Florida and don’t really have a reason to own sleeping bags rated at 4 seasons. I would definitely recommend renting instead of buying brand new if you don’t already have a bag that fits the requirements. The rented bags were perfectly fine and did exactly what we needed them to do – keep us warm! The food was actually a lot better than we expected! Chicken, steak, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit… One of the other clients in our group was celebrating her 30th birthday during the climb. The guide was told the morning of her birthday and that night after dinner she was sung happy birthday and the chef made her a cake. Second thing that stood out that they really caring for their clients! Two weeks before our trip my doctor had ran some tests and told me to stay away from gluten. I thought it was way too late to make any changes to my dietary request (which it wasn’t, I should have said something!) so I just figured I would eat what I could eat and just avoid gluten each day. On the first day of the hike my husband happened to mention to the guide that I needed to stay away from gluten and the rest of the 7 days, the guide and chef went out of their way to make sure this request was met. Each day for all 3 meals the chef would prepare something special for me and bring it to me in the dining tent. Again, an example of their caring for their clients and going above and beyond what was expected and making last minute accommodations to make sure the clients had a terrific trip!
After I booked our climb through Peak Planet, I was reading blogs on the internet to learn tips from previous Kili climbers and was shocked to find out that some other tour companies require you to pay extra for a portable toilet! A portable toilet comes automatically with the Peak Planet package, and trust me you want the toilet!!! It makes a whole world of difference to be able to arrive into camp each day and know there is a toilet there and you don’t have to go dig a hole!
On Summit night, I found out that the guides will do anything to help the clients have a successful climb and make it to Uhuru Peak! Our group of 12 broke up into 2 sections about an hour into the climb. The first group was for those that could go a little faster and the second group was going to go at a more moderate pace. My husband and I started in the fast group but I quickly realized it was too fast for me! One of the guides, John, slowed down with us and led just my husband and I up through the dark. I had bought new gloves for the hike but had never had a chance to try them out since we live in year round warm weather. For some reason I could not get my fingers warm. My finger tips felt like ice cubes and eventually turned very painful. John started with giving me hand warmers to put inside my gloves, but because of the way my gloves were designed my fingers still could not get warm. Eventually John took off his own gloves and gave them to me, and he hiked for many hours with nothing on his hands (and it was very cold out)!! Also, towards the top I was starting to run out of energy because I had not eaten anything during the night (big mistake – eat before and during the summit hike!!). I had no energy left and again John gave me his own packet of energy gel that he had with him. I credit this for getting me to the summit, because it gave me the energy I needed for that last hour! Again, another example of caring for their clients and making sure their Kilimanjaro experience is successful!
For after the climb, my husband and I chose the 4 day safari extension offered by Peak Planet and I’m really glad we did. My reason for choosing the 4 day was because I wanted to go to the Serengeti National Park, which because of the distance from Arusha is only available on the 4 or 5 day safaris. We saw so many animals and “cool things” that I would definitely recommend making it to the Serengeti if time permits. The only reason we did not do the 5 day is because we didn’t have enough vacation days! Also, we were recommended by friends who had previously gone on a safari to rent a 100-400 lens to use with our DSLR camera…DO THIS!!! You will not regret it…actually, you will regret not doing this! The animals are close but Tanzania rules require the drivers to stay on the road/paths. To truly capture great pictures, you need a lens with a good zoom. We used the website www.borrowlenses.com and we were able to rent the lens for almost 4 weeks for less than $300.
So to sum it up, book your Kilimanjaro climb and safari through Peak Planet! You will not regret it!!