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how to choose a kilimanjaro operator

The hardest thing about booking a Kilimanjaro climb might be picking your guide service. Since there are so many companies offering trips and claiming to be the best, you are probably overwhelmed by the choices. Furthermore, you will see that the prices are so different between operators.

Many of our customers ask why there is such a price discrepancy when it comes to climbing Kilimanjaro, especially when it appears to be the same service – supporting a climb up Kilimanjaro. It is a valid question that we ourselves would also be wondering if we were in your shoes.

First, we need to discuss the real costs of such an expedition. The main costs for any operator are staff wages, food costs, equipment costs, and park fees.

Park fees for Kilimanjaro National Park are set by the Tanzanian park authorities. They tend to increase every few years. These are fixed prices so every company pays the same fees. However, the other costs can vary widely from operator to operator, depending on the level of service they choose to provide.

Staff Costs

When it comes to wages, Peak Planet’s mountain crews are the among the highest earners on Kilimanjaro. We believe that to have the best staff, we have to compensate the guides and porters accordingly to reward them for their excellence. Only reputable operators are able to retain the best guides by paying high wages and keeping staff busy. Our guides climb Kilimanjaro around 20 times a year.

Additionally, we have the highest ratio of guides to clients on the mountain – one guide per two clients. We believe this is necessary to adequately monitor every climber. Some operators use only one guide per three or four clients. By having plenty of guides on each expedition, we are confident that we can handle the day to day responsibilities but moreso we are well prepared to mitigate risks and manage emergencies.

We offer many training opportunities to our staff. We hold classes in English language, crisis management, guiding skills, and money management to widen our guides’ experience and ultimately provide better service to our clients. Our staff goes through extensive multi-day training courses during the low season to reevaluate and refresh their knowledge of first aid and rescue. These courses assure that our guides are well prepared for any situation they encounter.

The level of care that goes into the welfare of our staff increases our costs substantially. But it is one of the fundamental principles of Peak Planet that all of our staff is treated fairly and humanely. We want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to perform regular work and that they receive more than a living wage. Clients will see this principle through the eyes and attitudes of our guides and porters while they are climbing Kilimanjaro. It is one of the main reasons why our clients rave about our staff after their climbs.

Staff costs are the first place that low priced operators target when cutting costs. Many operators do not pay their staff an honest wage. By underpaying porters, these operators are able to cut costs dramatically at the expense of their staff’s welfare. It is a shameful, but all too common, practice.

Food Costs

We provide nutritious meals made from fresh, quality food. On longer routes, we resupply food during the climb so that clients can continue eating well. Feedback from our clients often mentions the food on the mountain was outstanding. Our crew also eats three meals a day of local foods such as ugali and rice, with some meat and vegetables.

Many operators do not provide the same standard of food. Instead, they will serve the same dishes over and over to clients, made almost entirely of cheap starches like rice, bread and pasta, and canned foods, while offering little in terms of meat and vegetables. This can greatly affect your climb because it is important to have sustained nutrition for trekking. If you are not getting the nutrients and calories from your meals, you are operating at a deficit.

Sadly, many operators only feed their porters once or twice a day. Porters expend a lot of energy hauling gear up the mountain. They need to eat as well as the clients. But again, this is where low cost operators skimp. Clients usually never notice this as it is done away from their eyes, but it happens often.

Equipment Costs

Our camping equipment is of proven quality and designed for conditions on Kilimanjaro. We provide high-quality tents and name brand gear from Ferrino, an excellent company established in Italy.  Tents and equipment on Kilimanjaro are heavily used and wear down quickly no matter how good they are.  We regularly maintain and replace equipment so that our clients can be comfortable while on the expedition. Constantly renewing the equipment, which is imported from other countries, requires a large expediture of funds every couple years.

Lower priced companies will repair and reuse older tents as long as possible, well past their expiration dates. They also use locally made equipment which is very economical for them but cannot compare in quality. The last thing you want is to be housed in a leaking tent or sleep in a cold sleeping bag. So you want to verify that your operator is using name brand gear that is appropriate for Kilimanjaro.

The mountain crews that work for budget operators have it the worse. They are made to sleep in flimsy dining tents with insufficient mats and worn out sleeping bags. Don’t contribute to their suffering and exploitation.

Lodging Costs

Our climbs include the hotel stays before and after the climb. These nights are spent at quality lodges with great customer reviews. We want your entire stay, from beginning to end, to be excellent so we do not sacrifice service on the front and back end of your trip.

Lower priced companies will use poor hotels or don’t include lodging at all to lower their cost. They also may charge you separately for food.

Our Prices

One of our main goals is to offer a great value for high-quality services. We evaluate each and every expense carefully to ensure that every cost we incur makes a tangible difference in your experience. We want to have the best service at the lowest price without compromising our high standards. That’s why even though we offer so much more than competing midrange operators, we also manage to keep prices affordable. No other company is a better value.

We will never be the lowest priced outfitter on the mountain nor do we care to be. We are a mid-range company, providing a high standard of service at a fair price. Luxury operators charge prices much higher than ours for things you do not need, while budget operators charge prices lower than ours and leave out things you do need.

Peak Planet is one of the few specialist companies operating on Kilimanjaro and we have built a solid reputation as one of the best on the mountain. We will gladly put our standard of service and our client satisfaction ratings against any of our competitors. 90% of the operators out there do not even come close, while the others will charge you far higher prices for the same level of service.

The prices of our climbs reflect our higher, but necessary, operating costs to provide a standard of service that yields a 99.8% client satisfaction rate. As the premier outfitter for climbing Kilimanjaro, we pride ourselves in offering the best Kilimanjaro climbs at fair prices.

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