Edelweiss Air has started to fly a regular scheduled air service to Kilimanjaro Airport.
The Swiss carrier began at the start of this month, flying three times a week to JRO. Flights depart Zurich at 22.30 on Friday, Saturday and Tuesday evenings, arriving at JRO the next morning at 07.40.
The Friday flight that arrives at Kili Airport on Saturday morning then continues onto Zanzibar, departing JRO at 9.10 on Saturday morning (so there’s a ninety-minute wait on the airstrip between landing and flying to Zanzibar. The flight then leaves for Zurich, arriving there on the evening of the same day. The Tuesday flight will follow much the same sort of flight schedule, though will call in at Dar es Salaam rather than Zanzibar, arriving there at 10.20 before heading back to Zurich, departing at 12.35 and arriving at 19.30 on Wednesday night.
Edelweiss Air is the sister airline of the now defunct Swiss Air. Describing itself as a ‘leisure airline’ they fly to popular tourist destinations all around the globe. Their two-letter airline code is LX.
If nothing else, it proves that there is still a lot of confidence in Tanzania as a destination amongst the airlines, and that they foresee a quick and complete recovery after lockdown. Whether they are proved right, of course, remains to be seen, though we at Kilimanjaro Experts have seen a steady influx of climbers throughout 2021 and bookings for 2022 are steady and increasing too.
With the death of their idiosyncratic president, John Magafuli, will Tanzania now start to take the pandemic seriously?
April 5th, 2021
As most of you will be aware by now, the Tanzanian president John Magafuli, died on the 18 March 2021 from what was officially described as a pre-existing heart condition – though which many believe to have been complications arising from COVID.
The president had become notorious for his somewhat lackadaisical approach to the virus, refusing to close Tanzania’s busy markets and centres of worship (mosques, churches etc), and welcoming all-comers to the country with minimal restrictions.
Alongside this ‘light-touch approach’ there were rumours of night-time burials, deliberately arranged to hide the true toll of the virus in a country that relies on tourism for much of its foreign income, and didn’t want the negative publicity.
Magafuli’s refusal to accept the vaccinations offered by charitable organisations – opting instead to put his faith in steam inhalation and a natural remedy from Madagascar – only underlined his idiosyncratic approach to the pandemic.
Bearing this mind, many observers may, somewhat harshly, be of the opinion that his death was nothing more than he deserved.
Whether that is true or not is a matter for debate. The question that interests us, however – and should interest anyone who is looking to visit Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, go on safari or visit Zanzibar – is what happens now?
Tanzania’s new female president
The new president of Tanzania is Samia Suluhu Hassan, the first woman to hold the post. Previously the vice-president, she was Magafuli’s running mate when the first became president in 2015, and was again by his side when he was re-elected last year.
In line with the Tanzanian constitution, Mama Samia, as she is affectionately known, will run the country for the remainder of the five-year term. She is also currently the only female head of state in Africa.
Whether she will put herself up for re-election after that depends very much on whether she wants to keep the post, and what kind of job she has done in the meantime; though as head of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the party that has held power since Tanzania won its independence in 1961, there is no reason to believe that she won’t serve beyond the next election in 2024.
A different style of government?
In terms of personality, Mama Samia is vastly different to her predecessor. Less charismatic, maybe, but less impulsive too, and more thoughtful.
But it is her approach to COVID that is really going to indicate whether Tanzania is going to head in a different direction or not.
For those who want her to make a more ‘grown-up’ approach to the pandemic, the early indications are good. Last week the Ministry of Health released guidelines about the coronavirus that were more definitively ‘science-based’. These guidelines included the use of personal protective equipment for workers in the healthcare sector and masks for their patients.
The president does have a fine line to tread, however. Contradict the previous regime’s approach too quickly and she could be seen as being disrespectful to Mr Magafuli; sit on her hands for too long, however, and she risks exacerbating the impact of the virus on the country.
One sure-fire indication as to which direction her government will take to fight the pandemic is whether the Minister of Health, Dorothy Gwajima, will be allowed to keep her post. Ms Gwajima is seen as very much a Magafuli loyalist who did much to promote the ex-president’s beliefs in steam inhalation and natural remedies such as smoothies of ginger, garlic and lemon to ward off COVID.
Many health experts believe that if Ms Gwajima was to lose her job, this would be the clearest indication yet that Ms Samia’s government was preparing to do a volte-face from the previous administration’s policies. If that happens, then it is also hoped that the true statistics regarding the impact of the coronavirus on Tanzania will be made available, and, perhaps, eventually, that the country will feel able to ask for its people to be vaccinated.
What this all means for the tourist industry
While Tanzania continues to welcome tourists, it is fair to say that the numbers are a fraction of what they would usually be at this time of year. The restrictions placed on all but the most essential foreign travel by most countries in Europe and North America mean that there is just a trickle of climbers turning up to climb Kilimanjaro, and only a few lucky tourists watching the lions in the Serengeti and the other national parks.
(To give you just one anecdotal example, our company, Kilimanjaro Experts, had one trekker on the mountain last week, but by all accounts he was virtually alone on the mountain. All of which made for a wonderful trek for him, of course, and some beautiful crowd-free photographs – though such paltry visitor numbers won’t enough to sustain the country’s large tourist industry.)
Currently, visitors who do make it to Tanzania will find themselves subjected to very few restrictions during their stay.
That said, the airlines are insisting that all their passengers have to take a COVID test – and that the test result is negative – no more than 72 hours before they board their flight home. This COVID test costs US$100 and is easy to organise. What’s more, there are test centres in Arusha, the Serengeti and Karatu (near Ngorongoro), so even though the results usually take 48 hours to come through, for many people the disruption to their schedule should, hopefully, be fairly minimal.
The reason that visitor numbers remain low, however, is not because of restrictions placed upon them by Tanzania, but because of what happens when those visitors arrive back home at the end of their trip. Because the country’s relaxed approach to COVID has meant that Tanzania has been placed on the ‘red list’ of many countries – that is to say, those who visit Tanzania may well find themselves subject to extra restrictions when they return home.
To give you just one example: visitors to Tanzania from the UK – just one country that has listed Tanzania on the ‘red list’ of most ‘dangerous’ countries to visit because of COVID – have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel at their own expense for 10 days on their return home. This quarantine will cost them almost £2000 (approximately US$2600) – a prohibitive expense that has pretty much choked off the supply of tourists from Britain.
There are currently no indications that the UK government will be raising these restrictions any time soon. But hopefully, if Tanzania starts to adopt a more conventional approach to the pandemic, then its treatment as an almost Pariah state will be short-lived.
But if instead Mama Samia decides to follow the policies of her predecessor, then it is likely that Tanzania will be on other countries ‘red lists’ for many months to come – to the inevitable detriment of Tanzania’s travel industry, and the economic wellbeing of the entire country.
The long-dreaded plans to build a cable car on Kilimanjaro have been given the go-ahead – but will they actually happen?
March 5th, 2021
According to reports in Outside Online, the government have given the green light to the project in their efforts to reinvigorate tourism in the country in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
We first wrote a lengthy article on Kilimanjaro’s cable car project on this website in 2019, though the idea was first mooted over a decade ago.
The initial plans were for the car to run alongside the Machame Route, the mountain’s most popular trail. The easy access to the main Moshi-Arusha road that runs south of Kilimanjaro was believed to have been one of the decisive factors in choosing this location.
The cable car would run from near the Machame Gate, situated at 1811m/5942ft above sea level. The cables would be strong enough to carry 15 cars, with each car carrying 6 people. The ride would last for about twenty minutes and take passengers up to the Shira Plateau, presumably somewhere near the Shira Cave Campsite which sits at an altitude of 3839m (12,595ft).
Of course, though the authorities have given the green light to this project, there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome if it’s to actually become a reality.
Why a cable car on Kilimanjaro is a bad idea
For one thing, there is a lot of opposition to the project, not least from trekking companies who justifiably feel that a cable car that runs alongside the mountain’s most popular trail will inevitably have a deleterious effect on business. Because people are not going to be so keen on climbing Africa’s Highest Mountain if they have to do so in the shadow of a cable car.
But even if they move the Machame Route so it is no longer in the shadow, the fact that there is now a cable car on Kili will undoubtedly make the mountain much less magical for climbers. It’s as if a wilderness has been tamed, and conquered, and man has left his indelible mark upon its face.
This drop in climber numbers will, of course, have a negative impact on the livelihoods of those locals – the porters, guides, cooks etc – who make their living from the mountain. Far fewer people will be required to work on the cable car, of course, and the majority of the money it makes will presumably not stay in the local area but will end up with investors who don’t live locally, and maybe not even in the same country.
Then there are the medical factors to take into consideration: ascending that high (the gain in altitude will be somewhere in the region of 2000m or 6500ft) that fast is never good for you. Presumably the fact that people are deposited back down to a lower altitude very quickly will ameliorate this – but it does need to be investigated.
But the main objection is, of course, environmental – erecting ugly concrete pillars in the heart of a national park is always going to raise objections. In response, the authorities have argued that they conducteda thorough review of the environmental and social impact of their scheme. But at least environmental body has claimed that the review didn’t go into any great detail about how the mountain’s environment would be impacted by the construction of a cable car at all.
Voice of Kilimanjaro
The many people who object to the cable car scheme on Kilimanjaro have coalesced into a lobby group, Voice of Kilimanjaro, which is fighting against the scheme.
The group was founded by Merwyn Nunes, who once worked for Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism but who now operates his own tourism outfit, Wildersun Safaris.
At the moment, the group are still hopeful that the build will never happen. According to the article in Outside, Mr Nunes himself says he is hopeful that it won’t, because ‘there appears to be some dragging of feet in government circles on this project’.
One can only hope that he’s right.
A fire started on the south-eastern side of Kilimanjaro on Sunday evening. The fire occurred above the tree-line, to the north of the Mandara Huts. These huts are typically where trekkers on the Marangu Route at the end of their first night on the mountain.
Several of our guides were on Kilimanjaro attending a training course when the fire started, and were able to help firefighters in the efforts to extinguish it. However, though they were able to bring the fire under control the next day, it restarted again and is still raging as I write this on Tuesday morning.
We also had a group of three climbers who successfully made it to the summit this morning. They were not on the Marangu Route but were on our very popular Alternative Lemosho Route. One of the Kilimanjaro Experts, Robert Masha, was able to capture this image from Hans Meyer Cave, which is on the other side of the Saddle from the fire.
While the photo is not the best and is, of course, very dark, those of you who know the layout of the mountain will know how far away that is, which gives you some idea of just how extensive the fire is.
There are no reports of any injuries or deaths caused by the fire, but the damage caused to the mountain is as yet unknown.
The cause of the fire is not known, though there has been an extensive dry spell in the region and the short rainy season has yet to arrive. As is usual, there are also conspiracy theories circulating that the park authorities are somehow behind the fire, the suggestion being that they started the fire in order to improve the budget they receive from the authorities in the next financial year.
Fires are nothing new on Kilimanjaro, and often it’s man who starts them, either deliberately, as an act of arson, or by accident. Honey collectors, who deliberately start fires in order to smoke out the bees so they can get to the honey, are often blamed, though in recent years most of the fires have been above the tree-line, and thus above the territory where the honey collectors work.
Tomorrow at 8pm UK time I will be chatting with one of our climbers who is recreating his cancelled Kilimanjaro climb from his home city – and you can listen in.
Rob Illidge, from Manchester, UK, was due to begin his 8-day trek on Kilimanjaro’s Alternative Lemosho Route tomorrow, the 9th June.
Those plans have, of course, been thwarted by the coronavirus.
So instead, Rob has decided to recreate, as best he can, the walk he would have taken each day had he been able to go ahead with his trip. In doing so, Rob is also hoping to raise money for the NHS.
How you can join in
Each evening at 8pm for the duration of the trek (9-16 June), I will be chatting on Facebook Live with Rob about what each day’s walk would have had in store for him, and how he is going to recreate those walks using his local parks – and possibly his back garden.
You are welcome to join in and watch this discussion and post any questions you may have to either myself or Rob.
You are also more than welcome to recreate the trek yourself – and we’d love to hear how you’re getting on!
But even if you don’t want to walk, we’d still love to hear from you – and you can still sponsor Rob (details of how to do this will be given during the broadcast).
If nothing else, completing this walk will be a great way for those of you who’ve had to cancel their trip to alleviate the stress and disappointment of having to do so.
It will also be an excellent opportunity for those who are hoping to climb Africa’s Highest Mountain in future to test themselves – albeit without the cold and high altitude that are two of the biggest challenges trekkers face on Kilimanjaro!
If you want an itinerary of the Alternative Lemosho Route that Rob will be following, just let us know by email and I will send you a pdf file of it.
So do join us tomorrow at 8pm on our facebook page as we discuss how Rob is progressing on his virtual climb!
Tanzania continues to ease lockdown – but what does it mean for Kili climbers?
This is in response to a decline in cases of coronavirus in the country, according to Tanzania’s president, John Magafuli.
He cited statistics from a hospital in Dar es Salaam, which was at one time treating 198 patients for the virus, but was now treating only 12 people.
As part of the relaxation of lockdown, universities look set to reopen, sports will resume and international flights will begin arriving once more.
The government is also looking to kickstart its vital tourism sector at the beginning of next month. Though tourists are currently required to enter into quarantine on crossing into Tanzania, the president has made it clear that he wants to remove that requirement soon – though tourists would have their temperature checked on arrival.
“If they have no signs of corona, let them go see the animals,” he said.
How the global community has reacted
It’s fair to say that the global community has not been fulsome in its praise of Tanzania’s response to the pandemic over the past few weeks.
The country’s decision to continue with religious services, and to allow local markets to continue to trade, has drawn particular criticism.
Stories of mass burials taking place in secret at night have also raised concerns that the government has been covering up the severity of the outbreak in the country. According to WHO data, there are just 509 confirmed cases and 21 deaths, though many observers believe the figures to be much higher.
The abruptness with which the government has announced a ‘return to normality’ has also left the international community worried.
So while many are pleased to see an easing of lockdown in the country, there remains a great deal of unease at the government’s handling of the pandemic and whether they are putting the country’s economy before the lives of its citizens.
Indeed, just yesterday, (17 May), Kenya closed its borders to both Tanzania and Somalia after 43 new cases were diagnosed amongst people who had recently crossed from those two countries.
You can read more about the situation by following this link to a Reuters article on the subject of coronavirus in Tanzania.
Were you planning to climb Kilimanjaro?
Had you already booked your trip?
Was your trek taking place in April, May or June?
Does that trip now looks to be in jeopardy because of the coronavirus
Then why not join us in climbing Kilimanjaro in the comfort of your own home????
On the 9th June, one of our climbers, Rob Illidge from Manchester, was due to begin his trek up Africa’s Highest Mountain with two friends.
Those plans have, of course, had to be put on hold because of COVID-19.
So instead, Rob will be undertaking a _virtual_ climb of Kili – and we invite you to join him!
And even better, he’s doing so to raise money for the brave workers for the NHS. So even if you can’t join Rob on his virtual climb, you can still sponsor him – to show support for our National Health Heroes.
So how does this virtual Kilimanjaro climb work?
It’s simple. Every morning for eight days, I’ll be sending out a description of the relevant day’s itinerary on our Alternative Lemosho Route trek. I’ll describe the length of the walk, how much you would gain in altitude during the day, approximately how long it would take, what the weather and scenery will be like… and so on and so on.
And then Rob will try to recreate the walk both in his own home, and on the limited exercise he’s allowed to take each day away from his house.
In other words, he’ll be walking the required distance each day, and try (using his stairs, presumably, or any hills that are local to his home) to climb the same slopes as he would if he was doing the trek for real.
Who knows, if he gets into it, maybe he’ll wear the appropriate clothing too.
Join Rob on his climb
I’ll be putting each day’s instructions on the Climb Mount Kilimanjaro facebook page. So if you too were not able to trek because
of the lockdown over the past few weeks, or are training to climb Kili later this year and want to know if you’re fit enough, or just want to know what it’s like to climb Kili, then you can also simulate the experience from the comfort of your own home.
Just get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on facebook/Instagram/Twitter and we’ll advertise your climb – and hopefully people will sponsor you too.
At 8pm on every evening of the virtual climb, I’ll be joined by Rob on Facebook Live to discuss his progress, what the experience would be like on that day on the mountain, what food he would be eating, the clothes he would be wearing and answer your questions.
How to sponsor Rob
We’ll also be setting up a JustGiving page in the next few days to make it easy and safe for you to sponsor Rob on his expedition. And there’s nothing to stop you joining the expedition – and collect sponsorship for your own cause too.
So why not join Rob on his trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro – and let us bring the mountain to you during these unprecedented times.
I’ve received several emails over the past few days from a Mr Christopher Loynd, telling us of a recent expedition he took with his children up Kilimanjaro.
Nothing unusual in that, of course – except that in this case the children’s ages were remarkable.
For starters, one of them, Amara Loynd, was only eight years old. Not quite young enough to beat the record for the youngest person to get to the summit, unfortunately (the record for the youngest person to climb Kilimanjaro is six years old), but impressive enough.
But it is the successful ascent of her two elder brothers that stands out. Alan and Alex Loynd are twins and they both reached the summit on their tenth birthday – thereby setting a new record for the youngest people above ten years old to reach the summit.
(Ten years old is a significant age for climbing Kilimanjaro, as it is the minimum legal age that you are allowed to climb the mountain. Any younger than this and you have to ask for permission from the authorities.)
Given that it was their tenth birthday on June 24th, when they reached the summit, this record can’t be broken. It also breaks the long-standing record of Jordan Romero, who was ten years and eleven days old when he got to the top.
Incidentally, also in their party was a fourth sibling, Adaeze, who was a venerable eleven years old when she got to the top.
you can find out more about their trek by following this link to a video on their facebook page about the Loynd’s record-breaking climb.
Congratulations to everyone!
Over the past decade or so there has been one rumour about Kilimanjaro that has refused to go away. The rumour is that there will be a cable car being constructed near the Machame Route.
It is a rumour that has been fuelled by successive directors of Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA), who have all stated it as one of their ambitions during their time in office.
Well it appears that their dreams have taken a step closer to reality with the announcement last week from Constantine Kanyasu, the deputy minister for tourism, that they are now considering plans to build it.
The ambition of building a cable car are obvious: to allow those unable to climb the mountain to visit, and as a consequence to increase tourism by as much as 50%, according to the minister.
At the moment the plans are still a long way from fruition. Apparently various environmental, economic and engineering assessments have to be made. But there are currently three companies – two from China, one from ‘a Western nation’, that are interested in such a project. And it is not as if monumental cable cars haven’t been built before, and this would actually be the fourth in Africa.
But such an announcement by so senior a figure in the Tanzanian government is a big step forward for the scheme.
But should they go ahead with the scheme?
Personally, I’m against the idea. I can see that a cable car may mean visitor numbers could conceivably rise as people who would not normally go anywhere near Kilimanjaro now have a chance to visit and reach an altitude that they would normally only achieve in a light aircraft.
But I’m against the project for three main reasons:
Firstly, any extra revenue generated from the scheme will presumably go straight to the government – and away from the local economy. Whereas on a climb, of course, a large chunk of that valuable foreign money from tourists is distributed amongst the local population in the form of wages for porters, cooks and guides, and more tangentially in the markets as agencies buy food for each expedition.
Sure, they’ll be some sort of short-term boost as presumably local people will be required to help build the car in the first place. But this will be offset by the long-term loss of income to the local economy from reduced climber numbers.
Of course, it is possible that the arrival of a cable car will have no impact on the number of people wanting to climb the mountain. But we doubt it. We think it’s inevitable that it will have some sort of deleterious effect on the numbers of people wanting to climb the mountain, particularly if, as is mooted, the cable car is situated near the Machame Route, where tens of thousands of people climb the mountain every year.
My second objection to the idea is that there has to be some sort of environmental impact with building a cable car, particularly as this sort of project won’t take place in isolation, but will inevitably require improved roads and other construction projects around it.
My third reason for not wanting a cable car on mountain I love so much is more intangible: despite the fact that around 50,00o people climb Kilimanjaro each year, because Kilimanjaro covers such a large area it is still possible to think of much of it as a wilderness, largely untouched by people. This is particularly true on the quieter routes, and definitely so if you leave the official routes altogether.
Thinking of Kilimanjaro as a natural paradise may be an illusion given the huge numbers of visitors to the park and the damage they cause. But it’s one that resonates with a lot of climbers, including myself. And having a cable car up the side of the mountain is a very visible reminder that man has tamed and controls this environment too; that we are not just visitors to this beautiful, natural place, but we own it, and it is the wildlife that are the guests here, not us.
Nevertheless, despite all my misgivings, I am prepared to be proved wrong and I don’t want to always play the Luddite in cases such as this.
Why? Well, the climate and conditions on Kilimanjaro are so varied, as anybody who has already climbed it will know. This in turn, of course, leads to an incredible biodiversity, including several unique plants. Indeed, the flora of Kilimanjaro is so rich and so varied, that only an entire book can do thesubject justice.
But curiously, before this month, to the best of my knowledge, no such book existed. I have field guides to general flora of East Africa, and even one on the roadside plants of Tanzania. But nothing on the greatest garden in the region: the slopes of Africa’s Highest Mountain.
Indeed, though I hesitate to say it, one of the best guides to the flora of Kilimanjaro has been, up to now, Chapter 4 in our guide book. And while I’m proud of the photos I’ve taken for the book and the research I conducted to get them identified, I’m certainly no botanist.
So my delight was unbounded this morning when I received in the post a copy of The Flora of Kilimanjaro – A Field Guide. Written by long-time Kilimanjaro obsessive Eddie Frank, boss of Tusker Trails, together his wife Amy Micks Frank and Swiss biologist Thomas Ruegg, it’s a comprehensive yet accessible study of Kilimanjaro’s shrubs, trees and flowers.
The book itself is 78 pages long, with a few pages added at the end for your notes. Most of those 78 pages are taken up with photos of the plant in question (just one or two per page)plus their scientific (ie Latin) name, ordered according in their scientific families, which have been arranged alphabetically. The book covers all of Kilimanjaro’s vegetation zones, from the cultivated zone of the lower slopes to the snowy summit.
Among the highlights, have picture of one of the oldest trees on the mountain and what is said to be the tallest trees in Africa, a 500-600-year-old Entandrophragma excelsum that measures 81.5m (267ft), which was discovered only in 2016 in one of the mountain’s remotest valleys. (You can read more about the discovery in a post that we wrote at the time on the discovery of Africa’s biggest tree) .
There are also pages devoted to the helichrysum family – the dry ‘everlasting’ flowers that decorate the upper slopes of Kilimanjaro, of which there are several hard-to-distinguish varieties.
Any criticisms I have of the book are negligible. I would have liked to have seen a little more description or ‘anecdotes’ about the plant; maybe a few lines on what the locals call it and whether it has any medicinal or other properties that the Chagga people exploit. But presumably in a world where information is available instantly online, such embellishments are considered unnecessary these days. A couple of the photos in the book, too, don’t do the plants themselves justice (though I think that the fault may lie with the printer rather than the photographer). But I am being picky, because some of these plants are seldom encountered on the mountain, and when you do see one you can’t dictate under what conditions you’ll find them (ie what time of day or night, whether the plant is situated in shade or full sun, and what the weather is like at the time you find it etc etc).
And besides, this is a book about the flora of Kilimanjaro; the one that Kili-lovers like myself have been seeking for many, many years. And the authors are to be thanked for their efforts over the past decade in making this possible – and congratulated on such a welcome, attractive and necessary addition to the Kilimanjaro library.
The book can be purchased by following this Flora of Kilimanjaro link.
January 21st is actually an extraordinary time to be on the Roof of Africa. Not only will there be a super full moon – when the moon passes closer to the Earth than at other times and, as a result appears to be that much bigger – but there will also be a penumbral lunar eclipse at this time too. This is where the moon, Sun and Earth are in alignment, meaning that the moon partially hides in the Earth’s shadow.
And best of all, this will all be happening at around 5.30am – when many Kilimanjaro trekkers will be on the Crater Rim, making their way round to Uhuru Peak and the very highest point in Africa!
How spectacular will it be? Well, I don’t know, but I am curious enough to have chosen to trek at this time and see what it looks like. I’ll also be taking an unusual route to the summit – the Full Circuit Umbwe – which is an improved and safer version of this beautiful and wonderfully quiet route. There’s still a couple of places on this pioneering trek if you wish to join us – no experience needed!
If you can’t make this date then there’s also a Super Full Moon the following month, and we have treks running on both the Rongai and Machame Routes at this time.
Later in the year there’s a further partial lunar eclipse in July, and then in November there’s a further astronomical event as Mercury transits in front of the sun. Typically the Solar System’s smallest planet takes about five and a half hours to complete its transit across the Sun. The last time this happened was back in 2016 – and after next year it won’t happen again until 2032.
Of course looking directly at the sun is never a good idea – it certainly won’t do your headache any good! But star-gazers and astronomical enthusiasts can watch the transit using small Newtonian telescopes or simply outfit your binoculars or telescope with solar filters; there’s a fair bit of instruction on the internet about how to do this. Though November isn’t traditionally a great time to climb – the short rainy season often starts at this time – the transit does occur during the first half of the month, so you may be lucky and miss the rains altogether. (One of my favourite times on the mountain was climbing on the Alternative Lemosho Route in this month, when the rain held off and the lack of anybody else on the mountain – the rainy seasons are always quiet – made it a terrific trek!)
Interested? Well, we have treks scheduled to coincide with all these events; visit the following page to see if there are any that are of interest to you:
Hope to see you on the mountain soon!
We have had reports recently that KINAPA, the Kilimanjaro National Park Authorities, have started to enforce certain rules that had previously been, if not exactly ignored, then certainly regularly flouted.
One of these rules states that children under 10 are not allowed to go to the summit, but only to 3100m. Although this rule has been around for at least two decades, it has never been properly enforced and, as a result, companies have found ways to circumvent this particular order. This is usually by bribing the rangers and other officials to turn a blind eye to any infraction.
It is for this reason that the record for the youngest child to get to the top is just seven years old, and down the years we have reported on at least a dozen occasions when an under-ten has made it to the summit.
However, we have had reports recently that the authorities, tired of companies and individuals flouting these rules, have issued directives clamping down on any agency that attempts to bypass them. We have even had reports of the rangers tailing groups with an under-ten in their party to make sure they didn’t go beyond the 3100m limit.
As a result, for the time being it looks like it may be impossible for children under ten to attempt to get to the summit unless they first have permission from KINAPA – which, as anyone who has tried to get permission or help from any official Tanzanian body will know, is often incredibly difficult!
UPDATE: November 2018
About three months after we wrote this post Coaltan Tanner, a six-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, became the youngest person every to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro . So it appears that once again it is possible, with a bit of persuading and perseverance, to take your under-ten offspring to the highest point in Africa. However, we know that it took a long time for the parents to get the necessary permission for Coaltan to be allowed to climb, so if you have similar ambitions for your son or daughter, start planning at least a year before you want to actually climb. After all, you don’t want to turn up on Kilimanjaro without the necessary permission.
Jambo Bwana – the mountain’s very own theme tune
Anybody who’s spent more than a day or two on the mountain will undoubtedly have heard the guides and porters belting this song out.Indeed, it seems rare to arrive at a campsite these days and not hear it being sung by one expedition or another. By the end of the trek, it’s highly likely you’ll know all the lyrics and singing along too.
Jambo, Jambo Bwana,
Wageni Wakaribishwa Kilimanjaro,
But where did this song come from, who recorded it first – and what are they actually singing?
Well the lyrics themselves all very inoffensive:
Hello, hello sir,
How are you?
I’m very well.
Visitors are very welcome to Kilimanjaro
The song was first recorded in 1982 by Them Mushrooms, a Kenyan ensemble formed in the early seventies who used to ply their trade at the luxury beach hotels in Mombasa. The song was written by the band’s leader, Teddy Kalanda, though he borrowed heavily from traditional folk tunes around at the time. In the Mushrooms’ version there was no mention of Kilimanjaro at all – instead the original song welcomed people to Kenya yetu, or ‘our Kenya’.
The song proved to be a big hit, selling over 200,000 copies, and was subsequently covered by several other African bands including Mombasa Roots, Safari Sound Band, Khadja Nin and Adam Solomon. Worldwide fame, however, arrived when the German-Caribbean disco outfit Boney M released their version, Jambo – Hakuna Matata – though the lyrics were heavily doctored and only the first and last lines of the original survived.
Just in case you missed this one, earlier this month several UK newspapers reported the story of a woman who had agreed to accompany her daughter on a climb up Kilimanjaro – only she thought it was in Wales. Apparently, Nikki Barnett, from Nuneaton, had always had trouble pronouncing Welsh place names and so assumed that, because she had trouble pronouncing Kilimanjaro too, so it followed that the mountain must be part of Wales too.
She only became aware of her mistake when a neighbour pointed out that it was actually the Highest Mountain in Africa – of course.
Nevertheless, Ms Barnett has agreed to continue with her plans and in two days she flies out to Tanzania to begin her climb with her daughter Leanne. She is climbing for the Myton Hospice, which looked after Nikki’s sister when she passed away from breast cancer in 2014.
Dr Distelhorst climbed with his grand-daughter, Ellen Edgerton, who was already in Tanzania volunteering for a charity project.
The duo took six days to climb Africa’s highest mountain, finally reaching the summit on July 20th 2017.
Unusually, Dr Distelhorst took oxygen for the final push to the summit, as recommended by his doctor, but otherwise found the climb relatively straightforward; indeed, Dr Distelhorst is quoted as saying that he was surprised the climb ‘wasn’t harder’.
Regular readers of this website will know that the record for the oldest person to climb Kili has been broken more often than any other over the past few years, with the previous holder, Angela Vorobeva, who set her record on October 29th 2015 at the age of 86 years, 267 days.
Thankfully, Dr Distelhorst also beats the ‘unofficial’ record set by the mysterious Valtee Daniel, a Frenchman whom I only read about once while researching for the first edition of our guidebook way back in 2001, and whom I have never heard anything else about since. Mr Daniel’s climb has never been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, who insist that any record attempt is verified by independent witnesses and must be filmed, photographed and meticulously documented in a log book. Mr Daniel was said to be 87 at the time of his climb – so Dr Distelhorst has eclipsed this record too.
You can read more about the records for Kilimanjaro on our dedicated records page.
Mark Lloyd, 33, an ex-soldier from Pontypridd in South Wales, was today jailed for 20 weeks for benefit fraud. Mr Lloyd claimed that he was unable to walk more than 50m in order to claim thousands of pounds in disability benefits – yet during this time he then spent on activities such as climbing Kilimanjaro and skiing in the Alps.
The rather hapless fraudster was found guilty of claiming for almost £7000 in disability benefits, yet posted images of himself on social media of his action man lifestyle, including pictures of himself at the top of Africa’s highest mountain. this was despite stating on his claim forms that he couldn’t walk on uneven ground and suffers pain when walking for long distances. He first started claiming for the benefit in 2011, having been discharged from the paratroopers for a long-term injury to his lower back, and claimed for more money in 2014, explaining that any walk longer than 50m would leave him bedridden for the rest of the day.
In amongst all the fun and enjoyment that happens when climbing Kilimanjaro, it’s easy to forget how dangerous the mountain can be. Because Africa’s highest mountain definitely has a dark side, with around half a dozen people dying each year in their attempts to conquer it.
This was brought home to me recently when I came across a report of an Irishwoman, Majella Duffy, who died while trekking on Kilimanjaro last month from altitude sickness. The article, printed in the Irish Times, is based around an interview with her local priest, Canon Michael Leamy, who talks about how difficult it’s been to come to terms with the death, and how it all feels surreal.
Canon Leamy recalls how they had organised a coffee morning to raise funds for the Irish Heart Foundation and told mourners at Majella’s funeral. “None of us who called that day could have envisaged what is taking place here today.”
It is understood that Ms Duffy became ill at about 4000m, and although she was attended to by a doctor who was on the trek, her condition worsened and she later died on the mountain. According to the report, Ms Duffy was climbing in memory of her father, who had died from a heart condition.
An eight-year-old girl from Florida, US, has become the youngest ever female to climb Kilimanjaro all the way to its 5895m summit. Roxy Getter, from Punta Gorda, reached the summit with her family earlier this month. Also in their party was her dad Bob and mother Sarah, as well as ten-year-old brother, Ben – thus surely setting another record as the youngest siblings ever to reach the top.
The family trained in Florida by climbing multi-storey car parks and the steps of a local stadium. And despite Florida’s sea level altitude, the family all made it to the top without succumbing to altitude sickness.
Remarkably, the climb was the first time the family had even camped out together, let alone tackle an enormous mountain!
We offer our hearty congratulations to Roxy, Ben, and everyone in the party who made it to Uhuru Peak.
OK, I apologise, because this is not really of interest to anyone else, but I love it when coincidences like this happen!
This crossword features not only the word ‘Kilimanjaro’, but also ‘Trailblazer’ (our publisher) and the word ‘hiker’ too! Perhaps the crossword’s compiler knew that the fifth edition of the guide book was shortly to be released? Perhaps they themselves are thinking of climbing Africa’s Highest Mountain, ordered a copy of the book – and subconsciously inserted the details of the book into the crossword they were composing that day?
Or maybe it’s just pure coincidence and there’s no rational explanation as to why this should happen.
Still, it does at least provide us with a timely reminder to inform you that the fifth edition of the guide is now available in the shops. We should also point out that it remains the only one to provide an in-depth review of all the major tour operators working on the mountain, guides to the cities and towns of Arusha, Moshi and Marangu – one of which will be your base when not on the mountain – and all the information you need to prepare properly for one of the greatest adventures of your life. Just ask the other people who’ve written guides to the mountain – they clearly use this book as the reference and source for pretty much all their info!
Earlier this month avid cyclists Martin Dreyer and his wife Jeannie managed to scale Africa’s highest mountain by riding and pushing their mountain bikes to the summit. It’s not the first time Kilimanjaro has been scaled this way – British TV presenter Nick Crane and his cousin Richard are believed to have been the first to manage it back in the early eighties – but apparently this is the first time it’s been managed on the mountain’s second-most popular trail, the Marangu Route.
The pair, from South Africa, took just four days to get to the summit – but were able to descend in just four hours!
Sheila Dearden recently sent us a link to her blog, which includes a diary of a climb on the Machame Route. Nothing unusual about that, of course – the Machame Route remains the busiest of all the mountain trails – but the blog is well written, full of insight and her philosophy and love of outdoors shines through.
The link is: http://www.playwithoutceilings.com/the-great-outdoors/kilimanjaro-standing-on-the-roof-of-africa
Thanks for the link, Sheila!
Two trekkers are believed to have died on Kilimanjaro since Christmas. The weather is said to be very bad at the moment – though it is doubtful that this has contributed to these deaths.
The first death has been reported by a Chinese news agency (http://www.china.org.cn/world/Off_the_Wire/2017-01/02/content_40025488.htm). The deceased is believed to be Johan Aclep, a 54-year-old Norwegian who, unusually, died at Simba Camp, below 3000m above sea level on the Rongai Route. The second victim, about whom less is known, died at a place that’s become known recently as Jamaica Point, which is just below Gilman’s Point at 5685m.
A report released by the United Nations has called for the reforestation of the slopes of Kilimanjaro in effort to reverse the damage done to the mountain’s fragile ecosystem. It is hoped that, if implemented, such a move would safeguard the water supply for the region, so much of which comes from streams emanating from Africa’s highest mountain.
It would also have the knock-on effect of protecting the tourist industry that earns so much for the Tanzanian government.
According to Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment agency: “Across the continent, the damage done to these ecosystems is depriving people of the basic building blocks of life.”
By reforesting the mountain, it is hoped that the water catchment area will be protected and thus safeguard the future of the local agricultural and tourist industries.
We’ve just had reports that South African rally driver and television presenter, Gugu Zulu, has died while attempting to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.
Mr Zulu, was aged just 38, and was on a charity climb, Trek4Mandela, in order to highlight the problem of 350 000 girls who miss school due to their menstrual cycle and to raise funds to buy sanitary towels for them.
His last post on facebook was as follows: “Made it though (stet) day2. My wife is doing fabulous, she has even learnt the local language. Am having flu like symptoms and struggling with the mountain but taking it step by step!! Today we managed to see our destination and our camp is literary above the clouds!!” he said in his last post 16 July.”
The following statement has been released: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce that one of the climbers on the Trek4Mandela, Gugu Zulu lost his life while summiting Kilimanjaro early this morning before summiting
On behalf of the Board and staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation we extend our sincere condolences to his wife Letshego Zulu, their daughter Lelethu and the Zulu family on this tragic loss.
Details are sketchy. What we do know is that Gugu experienced problems breathing. The medical team supporting the trek put him on a drip and they descended the mountain with him. We are informed that the medical teams tried everything possible to save his life.
Gugu was climbing Kilimanjaro with his wife Letshego and we understand that they both descended the mountain together with Richard Mabaso, the project leader and the medical teams. The team was led by experienced mountaineer, Sibusiso Vilane.
Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation said, “I am devastated. I knew him well. I recruited him to climb Kilimanjaro. The last thing he said to me at the airport before he left last week was that he wanted to speak about doing other Mandela Day projects. I feel a huge sense of loss.”
The climbers were due to summit Kilimanjaro today, for Mandela Day.
On 1 July 2016 the Tanzanian government went ahead with its long-mooted proposal to raise the VAT on park fees.
This, of course, has meant a large increase in the cost of climbing Kilimanjaro, as well as visiting the famous national parks (Serengeti, Ngorongoro) in the country.
Specifically, since 1 July 2016 the park fees for all national parks (Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Kilimanjaro, Ruaha etc.) have been subjected to a 18% VAT increase.
In addition, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCAA) has increased the entrance fees from US$50 to US$60 for adults and from US$10 to US$20 for children below the age of 16 years. The campsite fees have also been increased from US$30 to US$40 for adults and from US$10 to US$20 for children below the age of 16 years. Furthermore, the fee for a Ngorongoro Crater drive has risen from US$200 to US$250 per vehicle. Lastly, 18% VAT will also be enforced on those already increased fees.
The tour operators are currently looking at ways of absorbing these large increases while limiting the impact on those already booked with them. They have reacted in various ways, with some companies saying that they will absorb all the costs (ie the price you booked is the price you pay), either with no conditions or perhaps providing you pay in full before the end of a certain time period. Those already booked on a Kili climb or safari will need to contact their tour operator to find out if their price has been affected.
It had to happen. In an ingenious publicity stunt, Pizza Hut delivered a pizza to the top of Kilimanjaro in order to celebrate opening a branch in Tanzania, their 100th country. The stunt was carried out by a team of guides and in doing so, they set a record for the highest altitude pizza delivery. The pizza – with a pepperoni topping – apparently took four days to reach the summit, and was kept warm by a small battery-powered heater.
No reasons were given for this sudden announcement though it is widely believed that the flights were not proving popular enough. This is largely thanks to the upgrading of the road between Nairobi and Arusha and the speeding up of the border control at the Namanga crossing too. As a result of these improvements, more and more travellers are viewing the overland journey as a more attractive option when compared to the expense of flying, particularly when one takes into account the journey times between Arusha and Kilimanjaro Airport, and Nairobi’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta, and Kenya’s capital – not to mention the two-hour check-in time too.
For further details on flights that are still serving Kilimanjaro Airport please look at Question 13 on the homepage, and visit our getting to Kilimanjaro page
It’s the kind of video that could lead you to think that climbing Kilimanjaro is easy. Twenty-two women from eleven different countries set off from Machame Gate with the specific aim of reaching the summit on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2016. Nothing too unusual about that, perhaps.
However, their travel company, WHOA, which specialises in adventure travel for women, do like to do things slightly differently. The two founders decided to set up their company, having met on Kilimanjaro back in 2013. At one point on their climb, perhaps in a show of defiance against the terrors of altitude sickness, the two started dancing – and a WHOA tradition on Kilimanjaro was born!
The video of their 2016 climb is the best yet – and shows that, despite all the hardships and deprivations, climbing Kilimanjaro can be a fabulous and fun thing to do. Click on this link to watch the WHOA 2016 Kilimanjaro Dance video.
Congratulations to everyone on the trek!
The severe weather that hit Kilimanjaro last week has, according to rumours currently circulating, claimed the lives of three porters. Details are very sketchy at the moment but it is believed the three died in separate incidents while working for three different companies.
A team of eleven teenagers from Moshi’s Amani Children’s Home (www.amanikids.org) are to tackle the Kilimanjaro Marathon on 28 February 2016.
The team will be running on behalf of Amani’s sports program. At Amani, many of the children find that sport is something they can really excel at, which in turn gives them the confidence to believe they can change their life and have a better future. The funds raised will be used to buy sports materials and to have an acrobatics and a sports teacher, making sure all children at Amani can learn, grow and heal through sports.
The runners in next month’s marathon were all rescued by Amani after living part of their lives as childen on the streets of Moshi and Arusha. They have since spent the last few years living in our Children’s Home, while catching up with their education and healing from their traumas.
We’ve had a lot of dealings with the excellent Amani Children’s Home over the years – and a lot of our clients have really enjoyed visiting them. Really is a very, very well run – and, sadly, absolutely essential – place.
You can find out more about Amani – and donate to the charity – by visiting their jsutgiving page at http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/amanichildren/kilimarathon2016 .
Good luck to all the runners!
Next month two intrepid adventurers will be cycling and pushing their mountain bikes to the top of Kilimanjaro – and then riding down it again! Rebecca Rusch and Patrick Sweeney are only the third ‘group’ of people to be allowed to take their bikes on Africa’s highest mountain.
The expedition has been organised to raise funds and awareness of World Bicycle Relief, which provides bicycles for individuals in Africa to access critical resources like education, healthcare and economic opportunities. To date, World Bicycle Relief has delivered over 275,000 bicycles. Rebecca and Patrick hope to raise enough in sponsorship to add another 100 to that total.
The first people to get to the summit of Kilimanjaro by bicycle were the Crane brothers, Nicholas and Richard, who managed the feat back in the early eighties. Rebecca and Patrick’s adventure is somewhat different, in that they have no intention of trying to pedal all the way up. Instead, their trip is all about the descent. Somewhat less impressive, perhaps, but probably a whole lot more fun too!
You can read more about Rebecca and Patrick’s exploits on the following website:
We wish them every success!
At the beginning of March this year a man from Kettering will set off to climb Kilimanjaro. Nothing unusual there, of course, considering around 50,000 people climb #Kilimanjaro every year.
However, Mick Rogers, a 49-year-old builder, will not actually be climbing the mountain until August – and in the intervening months is hoping to WALK from his hometown to Africa’s Highest Mountain.
Mr Rogers has been walking for 25 miles a day to train for his marathon expedition. He decided to undertake this madcap venture two years ago when his dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was then that he decided to pack in the fags and start training.
Just to make things slightly more tricky, Mr Rogers will initially walk in the wrong direction, to Cornwall, to bid farewell to his three grown-up children. He has also eschewed the use of any planes, opting instead for road or ferry in places where walking is not possible. Countries that he hopes to cross include France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and finally Tanzania – walking, he hopes, on average 40 miles a day.
Mr Rogers is hoping to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support; to sponsor Mr Rogers, call 07743 233866, email email@example.com, search ‘Laird Betty S’ on Facebook or go to www.justgiving.com/LairdBettySwollocks/.
Fantastic and rather poignant article from the Guardian a few days ago, written by Will Gadd who set himself the task of ice climbing on every continent. He was rather struck, however by the lack of ice left on #Kilimanjaro due to global warming – something, of course, that we’ve been writing about for years. And while it isn’t quite as bad as Will makes out – the first photo of Will climbing, for example, appears to be taken on the much-reduced Furtwangler Glacier, whereas some of the other glaciers are larger and less ‘fragile’ looking, as Will’s second photo, on the Southern Icefield,confirms. Nevertheless, any article that highlights the devastating effect of global warming on the world’s most beautiful mountain can only be a good thing.
Anyway, here’s the link: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/13/will-gadd-we-were-climbing-ice-that-isnt-going-there-next-week-climate-change
A slightly disturbing report in the Daily News today. Tanzania’s Minister for foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Bernard Membe, says that it is not good enough that ‘only’ 2000 Tanzanians and 50,000 foreigners climbed #Kilimanjaro last year. Mr Membe, apparently, wants there to be ten times that number!
That’s madness, isn’t it? While recognising what an important earner of foreign currency the mountain is to the country, (tourism is one of the most important business sectors, earning around 16% of total GDP, and when it comes to National Parks Kilimanjaro is the second biggest earner behind the Serengeti).
But surely Mr Membe would recognise the environmental degradation that already goes on, and how much more severe it would be if there were ten times the number of climbers on the mountain – and how much less attractive it would be to future climbers if this increase in climber numbers were allowed to happen. It also seems to fly in the face of what the park authorities, KINAPA, are trying to do.
Let’s hope the minister fails to get his way before he leaves his post next year! #climbkilimanjaro
A British pensioner aged 75 has just returned after successfully scaling Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro . Tony Simmonds, from Surrey, did most of his training in the hills around Malaga in Spain, where he lives for part of the year. Indeed, Tony is a member of The Field Club walking club of Fuengirola and the Senderistas walking group of Torreblanca which meet regularly to stroll around the hills in the local area. Though as he admits – and as most people who tackle Kili will surely agree – nothing can prepare you for the demands of Kilimanjaro, where the climatic conditions are much harsher and the air is, of course, much, much thinner. Nevertheless, as we always advocate, any walking you can do in preparation of a Kilimanjaro climb is beneficial, and the more hiking you can do the better. it may not help you much when it comes to getting to the summit, but it will certainly make you enjoy it more!
Following his October climb Tony described the last hour to the summit as the toughest thing he has ever done. Nevertheless, he made it to the summit on October 9th 2014, together with by his son Jeremy and daughter Wendy. In total they raised €3,000 for Cudeca, a local cancer charity and hospice in Malaga, in the process.
We always say that one of the joys of climbing Kilimanjaro is sticking your head out your tent at night to gaze up to the Heavens. The lack of light pollution and the fact you’re usually above the clouds means that the views of the stars above are simply, well, out of this world!
To give you an idea of what I am talking about, I urge you to watch this two-minute footage of the night sky above Kibo. It is quite breathtaking! What climbers see above Kili is never quite as jaw-dropping as this – I think special equipment must have been used to capture all that majesty. But just as beautiful are the head-torches heading up the slopes of Kili from Kibo Huts on the Marangu Route (and also, round the corner, the Barafu Route) to the summit.
Anyway, I urge you to watch this video – it’s quite enthralling and only lasts a couple of minutes: Stars over Kilimanjaro:
Video of Alternative Lemosho
Want to know what it’s like to climb our famous Alternative Lemosho Route? Well, one of our clients, Jennifer Truitt, has just made this great 30-minute-plus video of her experience. It’s not a promo video for us – it’s honest, and I think it truly conveys the joy, hard work and obstacles that have to be surmounted to get to the top. Hope you like it!
You can see it right here:
I am grateful to Pamina Gimber for bringing to our notice a new record that’s just been set. Jack Rea from Wetherby in Yorkshire, who is a pupil at Aysgarth School in Newton-le-Willows, climbed to the summit with his father, Aaron, last week.
In doing so we believe he set a new mark for the youngest British person ever to walk to the summit at just 10 years and 20 days old.
Though Jack is quite a bit outside the world record, held by Keats Boyd from California who was just seven when he reached Uhuru Peak, we believe that he beats the old British record, set by Oisin Devitt from Jersey last year.
Nor is the culmination of Jack’s ambition. As was quoted in the Yorkshire Post, Jack said: “It is my ambition to climb the seven summits which are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.
“Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and is my first summit I am going to complete.”
To make a hugely impressive feat just that bit more impressive, Jack’s justgiving page (https://www.justgiving.com/Jack-Rhodes-Rea-2/) has so far collected £6957.28 in sponsorship from his climb.
We do, of course, congratulate Master Rea on this remarkable achievement – nice one Jack!
Those of you who keep one eye on events in Northern Tanzania will be aware that there have been a few worrying incidents over the past couple of years.
These ‘events’ – by which we mean bomb attacks – are sporadic, with four incidents over the past 18 months or so. And at the moment, we believe that Arusha is still OK to visit and we are still booking and sending people up Kilimanjaro/on safari; as, indeed, is every other trekking company. Furthermore, the Foreign Office in the UK – who, as you may be aware, are the most ‘pessimistic’ of bodies and always err very much on the side of caution – do not advise against travel in Tanzania. Indeed, it’s worth quoting from their current advice:
“Still current at: 16 July 2014
Updated: 8 July 2014
Latest update: Terrorism section – small scale attacks in Arusha in 2014
Although most visits to Tanzania are trouble-free, violent and armed crime is increasing. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
There is an underlying threat from terrorism.
Around 75,000 British nationals visit Tanzania every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.”
For once we agree with the Foreign Office on this matter and think their advice is sound and sensible.
So what exactly were these bomb attacks in Arusha? Well the first of the current spate of attacks took place on May 5 last year when a church congregation was attacked as they attended Sunday communion. One of the most serious attacks, three people were killed on the spot and a number were injured. The next attack took place on June 15th, just over a month later, when a political rally was attacked by terrorists with grenades, leaving another four killed.
Following a period of relative calm, there have been a couple of incidents recently that have got people worried. Firstly, a bomb was thrown at a Muslim cleric, leaving two wounded. And then on the 13th of this month, an ‘improvised explosive device’ (IED) was thrown into an Indian restaurant. Eight people were injured. The most worrying aspect about this latest incident, at least from a tourist point of view, was that the restaurant was popular with foreigners and even the occasional holidaymaker – suggesting, perhaps, a change of target.
Nobody knows whether these attacks are all linked or the motives behind them; though in the last attack two people were quickly arrested and are currently helping people with their enquiries. We can only hope that the information they provide can shed some light onto all the attacks and help to bring about their end.
In the meantime, we will of course report on any developments and should the situation worsen we’ll be sure to let you know.
Most of you who have climbed Kilimanjaro, or are shortly to do so, will be familiar with the ‘wonder drug’, Diamox. Originally invented as a treatment for the eye condition, galucoma, it was soon realised that the drug was also very beneficial in combatting the symptoms and underlying causes of altitude sickness.
I myself have seen the incredible results that Diamox can have on some people (and it’s worth noting here that it doesn’t work for everyone) who are suffering the effects of being at altitude. From being poor, aching, nauseous wretches one minute, often the sufferer will be leaping around 30 minutes later with all symptoms of altitude sickness – the headaches, nausea and, in some cases, ataxia – having been alleviated thanks to the consumption of one, small tablet of Diamox.
But how does the pill actually work? Well this is where Mr (or possibly Dr) Cliff Wener, comes in. Cliff contacted me this week regarding our write-up of Diamox on the website and in the book. In particular, he took issue with my phrase “Diamox works by acidifying the blood, which stimulates breathing, allowing a greater amount of oxygen to enter into the bloodstream.”
According to Cliff, Diamox actually works like this (and I am goingto quote him verbatim now, as a) I think he explains it very well; and b) if I interfered with his explanation, I might well introduce other errors into his work):
“As you ascend to higher altitudes, pressure decreases. The composition of air (21% Oxygen) remains constant but the number of O2 molecules inspired in each breath becomes less and less. The body reacts by increasing our breathing rate (ie hyperventilation) to try and get more O2. So far… easy to understand.
As we breathe faster, we exhale more and more CO2. the corresponding level of bicarbonate (used as a buffer by the body for CO2) remains constant. This causes our blood to become quite alkalinic – and bingo – onset of symptoms of Altitude Sickness.
Solution is get rid of that bicarbonate.
Diamox acts by instructing the kidneys to rapidly excrete that bicarbonate hence turning the blood acidic and compensates for the respiratory alkalosis. The rapid excretion of the bicarbonate is accomplished through more frequent urination and alleviation of symptoms.
Despite multiple mentions of the Internet that use of Diamox results in an increase in blood oxygenation, this is not true. Only way to do that is with an oxygen mask or Gamov bag.”
I am, of course, very grateful to Cliff Wener for this explanation, and for making us all feel slightly cleverer than we were before we’d read this – cheers Cliff!
Ever since I began writing about Kilimanjaro at the start of this millennium, I’ve been writing about the demise of the glaciers. Experts in such matters – in particular, Lonnie Thompson and his team from Ohio State University, Massachusetts – have largely been in agreement that the iconic ‘snows of Kilimanjaro’ were in fact melting faster than ever before; and the causes behind this disappearance were largely man-made. The topic then received worldwide publicity in Al Gore’s 2006 oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.
Now, however, there appears to be a growing number of people who believe that, actually, the glaciers are here to stay. An article in a recent edition of Tanzania’s Daily News is typical. In it, various local ‘experts’ are asked for their opinions on whether the glaciers are diminishing and whether, as Prof Thompson once predicted, they really will disappear altogether by 2020. Most of those in the article who give their opinion tend to disagree with Prof Thompson’s predictions, and indeed think that the glaciers are indeed here to stay!
So who do we believe?
Well, looking again at the article (http://www.eturbonews.com/44420/mount-kilimanjaro-glaciers-nowhere-near-extinction) and all the evidence over the last twenty years or so from Professor Thompson, I have to say I still side with the latter. For one thing, of the experts quoted in the article, the one with the most authority is perhaps Imani Kikoti, the ecologist at Kilimanjaro National Park. He is quoted as saying that “Much as we agree that the snow has declined over centuries, but we are comfortable that its total melt will not happen in the near future.”
But while I would love to be able to agree with Mr Kikoti, the fact is that the weight of evidence would suggest otherwise. Furthermore, as an employee of KINAPA it could be argued that he does have a vested interest in saying that the glaciers won’t melt; it reminds me a little of a former Minister for Tourism in Tanzania’s government a few years ago, who said exactly the same thing. Her argument seemed to come out of nowhere and contradicted all the scientific evidence that was been produced at the time – which could only lead one to conclude that she was merely saying this in order to ensure that tourists would still come to Tanzania to witness the African snows for themselves.
The other main expert the article cites is Victor Manyanga, a tour guide with
over a dozen years’ experience on Kilimanjaro, who says that (and apologies for the syntax – I’m just quoting verbatim from the article) “For naked eyes you cant tell if there’s any changes on the ice quantity from what we’ve seen ten years ago”.
In response, I am afraid that I just have to flatly disagree with this argument. Victor and I have been visiting and climbing Kilimanjaro for about the same length of time, and I have to say that recently the depletion of the glaciers has been markedly more evident than previously. The Furtwangler Glacier is little more than a small lump on the western side of the crater now, where before it was quite a formidable wall of ice, and everywhere you look on the summit the ice has clearly shrunk, retreated and melted considerably.
News January-March 2014
Missing German woman rescued on Kilimanjaro
Posted 25 March 2014
A woman who had gone missing with her guide over the weekend were found by KINAPA staff at the weekend.
Details are only just emerging about the rescue but it appears that the woman in question, 32-year-old German Jeanne Trasca, became lost after diverting from the main trail. Ms Trasca, who had signed up with the local company Nordic Trails for her climb, was heading to Mawenzi Peak with her guide, Athumani Juma, when the pair lost their way.
According to TANAPA (the Tanzanian Parks Authority), it is unknown when whether they deliberately diverted from the trail or became lost due to the terrible weather conditions prevalent at the weekend.
The poor weather also hampered the subsequent search for them, with a helicopter search unable to locate them due to poor visibility. However, the two were eventually located and taken to Horombo Huts, on the Marangu Route, late on Saturday evening, arriving back at Marangu Gate later that same night. Ms Trasca was described as being shaken by the ordeal but was otherwise unharmed.
Such events do happen occasionally on Kilimanjaro, perhaps the most famous in recent times being the case of the South Korean man who disappeared near Barafu Huts shortly after summitting and was never seen again. All of which proves that, despite the large numbers of people who hike up and down its slopes every year, Kilimanjaro, like any mountain 5895m high and populated by some of Africa’s man-eating residents, is still a dangerous place for those who are unprepared or poorly organised.
Kilimanjaro may be the biggest mountain in Africa – but where does it rank amongst the world’s highest mountains?
There is no doubt that one of the main attractions of climbing Kilimanjaro is that afterwards you can boast to your friends that you have stood at the highest point on an entire continent with Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro, a magnificent 5895m above sea level. Indeed, it’s pretty much the easiest of the so-called Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each of the seven continents) to conquer: Everest in Asia (8848m; 29,029ft)and Aconcagua (6980m; 22,837 ft) in South America are both at least a kilometre higher (and in Everest’s case, almost 3km taller!); Mount McKinley (aka Denali) in North America may be only slightly taller than Kili at 6168m (20,237 ft) but is more inaccessible, positioned as it is in remote Alaska, and is a more technical climb too; inaccessibility is also a major problem with The Carstenz Pyramid, in the heart of Irian Jaya, Australasia’s highest peak at 4884m/16,023 ft, and Vinson in Antarctica (4897m, 16,067ft); while Mount Elbrus – Europe’s highest peak at 5,642 metres (18,510 ft) – is a straightforward climb but is also a little remote (being in the western Caucasus mountain range) and, being in Russia, the permit situation can be a little tricky too.
But while Kilimanjaro may be the highest peak in Africa, where does it rank amongst the world’s highest mountains. The answer is, I’m afraid, not that high at all. Indeed, given that the individual peaks in the Himalayas and the neighbouring Karakoram and other central Asian ranges account for all the top 100, and that lofty Aconcagua in the Andes only comes in at a lowly 189th according to one source, you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t even rank in the top 200(!) of the world’s highest mountains.
Given the different ways that people measure a mountain, and that people have different ideas as to what is a mountain and what is a peak (ie a second summit on the same mountain, such as Mawenzi on Kilimanjaro), it’s actually quite difficult to determine where exactly Kilimanjaro comes in the list of the world’s highest mountains; the best guess we can come up with is position 234. But this, of course, is open to debate. For example, Jill Neate’s book “High Asia: An Illustrated History of the 7,000 Metre Peaks” , lists no less than 400 peaks between 7000 and 8000 metres – which obviously means that Kilimanjaro wouldn’t even feature in the top 500 if we were to use her definitions and measurements.
So far, so bad for those of you who thought that by conquering Africa’s highest mountain you’d also conquered one of the world’s highest mountains too. But don’t despair just yet: for as we said above, there are many ways of measuring altitudes and the height of a mountain. For while Everest and co may be the highest mountains above sea level, they are not usually the highest mountains above the surrounding terrain. By this measurement, Mount McKinley, Nanga Parbat and, yes, Kilimanjaro, are said to be the highest – though with no precise definition of what the grounde level should be, there is no way of accurately deciding which of these is the highest of them all.
What is more certain is Kilimanjaro claim to be the tallest free-standing mountain in the world (ie one that is not part of a mountain range: Nanga Parbat is at the western end of the Himalaya range, while McKinley is part of the Alaska range). And this, we think, is very important. For while Everest and her neighbours may be a couple of kilometres taller than Kili, because they’re surrounded by peaks that are almost as high they look somewhat less impressive because of it; while Kilimanjaro stands all by itself in the middle of the East African plain, it’s nearest neighbour, Mount Meru, over 60km away and, at 4566m, over a kilometre shorter too.
And with beautiful cloud forest bearding its lower slopes and a crown of snow at the summit, no mountain, in this author’s humble opinion, is more magnificent than the Roof of Africa.
New guidebook now in the shops
Posted 14 March 2014
The latest edition of our bestselling guide to climbing Africa’s highest mountain is now in the shops in the UK and should be with Amazon and other US outlets by the middle of next week. This fourth edition has been completely updated but still includes all the information that anyone looking to climb the Roof of Africa would want.
As always, the book contains everything you need to take you from your sofa to the summit, including a comprehensive reviews of all the major trekking agencies both in Tanzania and abroad; details on what to pack for the mountain, how to get fit for the mountain and how to prepare for your climb; a study in how to get to northern Tanzania, and a comprehensive guide to the towns and cities that will be your base before and after your climb; plus, of course, a thorough look at the mountain itself, its geology, history, flora and fauna, plus in-depth descriptions of all the routes.
You can read more about the book by clicking on the following link – about the Kilimanjaro guide – where you can also find links so you can order your copy through Amazon UK and US.
East Africa moves step closer to monetary union
Posted 11 March 2014
In a move that will, in time, have enormous consequences for tourism in the region, the citizens of the five nations that make up East Africa can now travel to their fellow East African nations without having to change money at the border.
The development has come about thanks to the introduction of the Payment and Settlement Systems Integration Program (PSSIP). This allows the citizens of each nation to use their credit and debit cards in the other East African nations.
Launched in Arusha on Monday, at the moment the system will have little impact on tourism, of course; but PSSIP is widely seen as the first major step on the road to full monetary union – which will, if it ever comes to fruition, enable tourists to use the same currency in each country. Bad news for the moneychangers, of course, but good news for those travelling around the region who will no longer have to change money at every new country.
Kenyans dominate Sunday’s Marathon
Posted 4 March 2014
As the experts predicted, Kenyans dominated the marathon on Sunday, winning all the medals in both the men’s and women’s events. David Ruto took the top prize in the men’s event in a time of 2 hours, 16 minutes and 4 seconds, with Julias Kilimo and Victor Serem in second and third respectively.
While in the women’s evening, Frida Lodepa stormed home in 2 hours, 40 minutes and 11 seconds, beating off the challenges of fellow Kenyans Joah Rutich and Jackline Kithia.
The host nation Tanzania didn’t leave entirely empty-handed, however, with Jackline Cynthia winning the half marathon – though only after stiff competition from the chasing pack that included an Ethiopian and another eight Kenyans!
Man leads 26 people to the summit – in their shorts!
Posted 18 February 2014
News has just reached us that Dutch daredevil, guru and all-round show-off Wim Hof has successfully led an entire team of 26 people to the summit of Africa’s highest mountain. According to reports, all 26 people are said to have miraculously made it safely without suffering any effects of altitude.
Perhaps even more remarkable, however, is the fact that 11 members of the team, who were aged between 28 and 65, joined Mr Hof in making it to Uhuru Peak in their shorts!
Mr Hof is renowned for such exploits in which he claims to be able to exert an unusually high level of control over his mind and body in even the most extreme of conditions. Indeed, his nickname is the Ice Man after he successfully broke the world record for sitting in an ice bath, managing 1 hour and 13 minutes.
Using just the power of his mind, he claims, he is able to control the temperature of his body.
We do of course congratulate Mr Hof and all his team on a truly incredible achievement.
Boss of KINAPA warns that mountain is being ‘overwhelmed by climbers’
Posted 14 February 2014
According to a story in the Daily News, Erastus Lufungulo, the boss of KINAPA (the National Park Authority that controls the mountain), warned that too many people were visiting the park and could cause damage to the mountain.
His statements were backed up by the boss of Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), Allan Kijazi, who said that while the 50,000+ tourists who climb every year was a manageable number, the damage to the environment arose from the estimated 200,000 porters and other crew members who accompany them.
Backing up his words with actions, Mr Kijazi stated that this year measures would be taken to limit the size of the crews taken up by trekkers.
Mr Lufungulo actually has some form on this matter, having introduced restrictions on the size of the crews on neighbouring Mount Meru, where the park fees for crew members was increased.
A similar measure may be difficult to introduce on Africa’s highest mountain,however. For one thing, the trekking agencies who make a living on the Roof of Africa will argue that a reduction in the number of crew members could reduce the chances of people making it to the summit and risk their safety too.
Furthermore, many of the surrounding villages rely on the mountain for their livelihoods, with many of the men working as porters and guides on the slopes. A reduction in the numbers allowed to climb may have a significant impact on their income.
It could also be argued that the measures introduced on Meru had mixed results: though we have no official figures to back this up, in our experience fewer people seem to climb that mountain these days, leading presumably to a loss of revenue for both TANAPA and the local villages.
Climb for 160 Girls Project charity
Posted 14 February 2014
This March, Eve-Anadel Coronado, a lawyer from Montreal in Canada, and three friends will be attempting to reach the top of Africa’s highest mountain. The quartet are climbing for the charity 160 Girls Project.
As Ms Coronado explains: “As you may know, a child is raped every 30 minutes in Kenya. One of the reasons is the misguided thinking of many men in sub-Saharan Africa who believe that having sex with a virgin will cure them of HIV/AIDS.
“The 160 Girls Project is a legal initiative that represents 160 Kenyan girls between the ages of 3 and 17 that were victims of rape and were ignored by the police when they reached out for help. With the help of the equality effect, these 160 Kenyan girls brought a constitutional challenge against the Kenyan state, holding it accountable for the police treatment of their rape claims.
“On May 27, 2013, the High Court of Meru in eastern Kenyan found in favour of these 160 Kenyan girls. The 160 Girls Project is now monitoring to ensure that the police follow the court’s ruling and is also bringing similar suits in Malawi and Ghana.”
You can follow the progress of Eve-Anadel and her friends by visiting the website she has set up: www.160girls.com.
We will of course keep you up to date with their progress and wish them luck with their Lemosho climb.
Bad weather hitting climbs
Posted 11 February 2014
It appears that there has been some unseasonably bad weather over the past few days. February is normally a great time to climb – quieter than the ‘summer’ months of June-September and yet with (usually) clear skies and dry conditions.
This year, however, there has some unseasonable ‘precipitation’ with the mountain slopes being lashed by some torrential downpours.Of course, further up the mountain on Kibo this precipitation falls as snow and last week we heard of one group having to turn round at Gilman’s Point due to the snow being so deep.
Usually I hear stories like this in late December/January after the short rainy season but to happen now – almost exactly half way between the two main rainy seasons – is unusual.
Unfortunately, the forecast is for more to come for the next week at least. One hopes this doesn’t prevent too many people from reaching the summit – it’s a long way to come – and a lot of money and effort spent – just to be turned back before your goal.
One month left to register online for marathon
Posted 22 January 2014
The Marathon is once again almost upon us. This year the race will be run on 2 March and this year, for the first time, it’s been possible to register and enter online. Online entrants must register by 18 February at www.kilimanjaromarathon.com.
Last year there were 400 foreign entries, with the USA boasting most foreign runners, with the UK second. The race has been run since 2003 and this year, once again, there will be four different events including a half-marathon, disabled race and 5km ‘fun run’ in addition to the main marathon. The mountain keeps an eye on events from above but doesn’t actually have much to do with the race itself, with the course never reaching more than 1150m in altitude.
Kili an ‘economic lifeline’ for local community
According to a report out this month, Africa’s highest mountain is believed to be contributing about Ts80 billion (US$50 million) to the national coffers.
A magnificent amount, but even this vast figure doesn’t really explain just how much the mountain contributes to the local economy. It is estimated that 30,000 people directly earn their living from the mountain, with the mountain providing Ts20 billion per annum (US$12.5 million) to the local economy.
Indeed, according to one NGO, the Dutch-based SNV, the mountain provides the most successful transfer of resources of any world attraction into its local communities.
The report, “Making success work for the poor: Package tourism in Northern Tanzania!”, was written for SNV and ODI by Jonathan Mitchell, Jodie Keane and Jenny Laidlaw, who interviewed locals, tour operators and other concerned parties.
Much of the Ts20 billion earned by local communities is derived from the wages of the porters and guides, though over 90% of the food consumed on the mountain is also sourced from the local markets, where the overwhelming number of beneficiaries of the expenditure are poor local farmers and stallholders.
Interestingly, though the park fees of any trek are about US$1000 on average per person, only 5% of these are said to be ‘pro-poor’ – that is to say, the money directly benefits the poor of the local community. The percentage is so small because, of course, TANAPA and KINAPA staff are all very well paid, as anybody who has seen their cars (and stomachs) will testify.
Still, the study on the whole seems largely positive – though the US$13 million ‘pro-poor’ earnings still seem fairly measly when compared to the US$103 million spent by tourists on the whole Northern Circuit.
Latest ecological news on the mountain
Posted January 3, 2014
As much as I would rather write about something more cheery, hot on the heels of Monday’s news that scientists predictions that the famous laciers will be gone within 30 years comes another doom-laden ecological report.
In the UK’s Guardian newspaper yesterday there was an article on the warnings issued by climate-change expert Prof Willy R. Makundi. There are nothing new in what he said – the thrust of which was that the number of tourists visiting the mountain is likely to fall in the near future as ecological damage depletes the glaciers (this we are already aware of) and human activity ravages the forests that beard the lower slopes.
The professor goes onto explain that the fires that occasionally rage in Kili’s cloud forest – and which are nearly always the result of human activity – leads over time, by a convoluted process, to a downward shift in the treeline as a result of a drier (warmer) climate.
All of which is pretty familiar to those of us who make our living on the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain; but which makes it no less depressing.
Hopefully I’ll have some happier news to bring you in the coming weeks and months.