Climb Kili provided an outstanding experience from start to finish, and doing the climb during Covid-19 made for a very special experience.
Given the difficulties with flying during Covid-19, and the fact that I was solo, I needed a company that offered flexibility and the reassurance of being able to reschedule if necessary. Climb Kili provided this. When my flights were cancelled (twice), and I had to shift my schedule by a day or two, Climb Kili adjusted my trip without any problem and ran it even though I ended up being the only client on the trip. I also chose Climb Kili because they appeared to be an ethical organisation, and my various discussions with their crew in Tanzania supported this being the case.
The head office (Tiffany) was extremely efficient in organising my trip, the information provided prior to my trip was useful, and my family very much appreciated the updates and photos Climb Kili sent them each day during the trip. The staff who took me/from to the airport and met me at the hotel were great, and the hotel was also good.
My crew on the mountain were all simply wonderful. My guide (Amani) was everything you would want a guide to be, competent, friendly, helpful, knowledgable, and set a good pace for me during each stage of the trek. Cook and porters were all friendly, very helpful and genuinely happy for me when I made it to the summit. Food was brilliant (and far more than I could eat). They took great care over food preparation and ensuring I was provided with ample clean drinking water to keep me healthy. Everybody made frequent use of hand sanitiser as well as the water and soap that was provided at each camp for washing. I had an excellent Mountain Hardwear tent to sleep in, a mess tent and a private toilet tent, which made for a comfortable stay at each camp.
The trek itself was brilliant and everything I had hoped for. The Machame Route lived up to its reputation for providing a good experience of the different habitats while moving up and down the mountain. As well as the remarkable flora, we had good sightings of black-and-white colobus, driver ants, duikers, and even painted dog spoor. Climb Kili include several important modifications to the standard Machame itinerary. At both Shira and Karanga camps we arrived by lunchtime and took short walks in the afternoon to aid acclimatisation. At Lava Tower, we had a full, hot lunch to ensure we spent a couple of hours there for acclimatisation. And on Day 5, Climb Kili stay at Kosovo Camp (4800m) instead of Barafu Camp (4600m) where most companies stay, which meant that we had got the scrambling section from Barafu to Kosovo out of the way, and the summit climb on Day 6 was an hour shorter.
Doing the trip during Covid-19 provided a pretty unique experience and I’m very glad I persevered through various flight cancellations. Instead of the normal couple of hundred tourists and more than a thousand porters and crew at each camp, there was never more than just my group and one other group with 1-2 tourists, meaning 19 people in total. On the day I summited, there was one other tourist who summited a bit after me, and the day before I think three tourists summited from Barafu, so we were all in the privileged position of having the summit to ourselves for as long as we wanted. Yes, dealing with all the flight cancellations was challenging, but it was well worth it for the experience.
I was never concerned about the risk of catching Covid-19. Everyone was masked up during the flights, and my time in Tanzania was spent outside trekking up a mountain and sleeping in my own tent. Given that the virus doesn’t transmit well outdoors, I was quite possibly safer than in normal life back in the UK.
One final thing to consider if you’re unsure about tourism during Covid-19 is that the people out there really need us tourists. There are no furlough schemes, redundancy pay and unemployment benefits in Tanzania. For all the people out there whose livelihoods depend upon tourism, no tourists means no income to pay for food, kids education etc. They need tourists to come back.