Advice for organising a group trek on Kilimanjaro
Are you planning on climbing Kilimanjaro with a group of friends or family?
Are there at least four of you in your group?
Have you been nominated as the person to organise everything?
In which case: you have my sympathies.
Why? Because the truth of the matter is that you’ll be working harder than anyone to make your trip a reality.
Organising any trek on Kili is always a little complicated. Buying flights; organising insurance; purchasing equipment; finding and booking the trek itself; sorting out visas and inoculations….. Indeed, there’s so much stuff to do before you even get to Tanzania that we’ve written a timetable for preparing for your Kilimaniaro trek.
But if you’re planning on taking a group up Kilimanjaro, that work is multiplied.
Most of your time will be spent sorting out your group – getting them to buy kit, get fit, buy flights, provide passport numbers and other personal details to the trek. And that’s before you even approach them for money as their share of the deposit and final balance – in my experience, often the most difficult thing of all.
So to help you, here are a few tips to help you organise a group trek on Kilimanjaro – to make your roles slightly less taxing.
Organising a group trek on Kilimanjaro: 11 invaluable pieces of advice
1) Plan your trip far in advance
Hopefully, arrange your trek at least a year in advance. True, you can organise a trek at the very last minute. At Kilimanjaro Experts we can arrange a trek in as little as 24 hours. But it’s not ideal. And if you organise a group trek late in the day, the chances are you may have to take different flights (as there aren’t enough eats left on the same flight). You may have to stay in different hotels (because no hotel has enough room to accommodate you all).
At the beginning, you’ll need to meet up with the entire group several times. On the first occasion, you can just find out who’s interested, and maybe get some idea of when you can all go. Other details such as what route up Kilimanjaro you are going to take and which company you might go with (and what sort of budget people are comfortable with) can also be discussed. It’s also a good idea to see if anyone wants to go on safari or to Zanzibar afterwards.
Given all these things that need to be sorted out, it’s a good idea if you already know something about climbing Kili so you can lead the conversation. This website is obviously a good place to start. At the risk of sounding like a salesman, getting hold of a copy of the Kilimanjaro guide book, perusing it beforehand and and maybe even bringing it with you to the discussion makes a lot of sense too.
On this first meeting, it would also be good if you made sure your fellow climbers know what they are signing up for; and making sure they realise that climbing Kilimanjaro is not your regular holiday.
2) More than four of you in your group? Then have a private trek. Three or less? Then join a public trek.
And if there are exactly four of you…well, it’s up to you really. If there are more than four of you in your group and you join on a public trek, then it can be uncomfortable for other people to have a large team of people who already know each other in their group. If there are three or less of you, in your group, however, then having a private trek can feel slightly quiet and isolating – so we think it’s better to join a public trek on this occasion.
And if there four of you exactly in your group? Well, it’s up to you, really.
By the way, do make sure, if there are four or more of you and you want a private trek, that the company you are trekking with doesn’t charge you more because it is a private trek. That would be silly – though plenty of companies do charge more for a private trek!
3) Approach trekking companies
After that initial meeting, you should have a rough idea of the numbers in your party and the amount they are willing to pay for a trek. It’s now time to make that initial approach to suitable companies.
The first thing to remember is this: you are in a strong bargaining position. After all, a group brings in more money for an agency, and for only a little more effort.
Remember, too, to arm yourself with the advice we give in the guide book and on our Booking your trek section.
So it’s always worth negotiating with the company you’re talking to. Now most companies, including Kilimanjaro Experts, offer a cheaper per-person price for groups – and the bigger the group, the lower the person price.
With these companies, it’s unlikely that they will drop their price any further. But they may be flexible in other ways; providing, for example, some rental equipment free of charge. Some companies may even send someone to meet you and talk through the trip. This is a great way to encourage people to join, and to reassure those that have signed up that there’s little to be scared of.
4) Make sure your company is flexible
The larger the group, the more likely it is that the numbers of people in the group will change. If you have a group of 50, for example, there’s every chance that some will drop out because of injury or other misfortune. So make sure, when you choose your company, that they are willing to be flexible.
Ideally, find a company that won’t charge you if one of your party drops out- and will also drop the price if someone else joins.
If I can recommend our own company here, Kilimanjaro Experts, we have what I believe is the most flexible policy of them all. If someone drops out, for example, and they’ve already paid a deposit, then that deposit remains with the group and can still be used when paying off the total balance. In other words, you lose nothing. Similarly, if someone is added to the group, we are happy to offer the discount that comes with having more people in your group.
5) If it’s a charity climb, check the company very carefully
Some companies say they specialise in charity climbs, and even offer big discounts to people who raise a certain amount of sponsorship money.
But I must say that in my 20 years of writing the guide book, I have received more complaints about companies that advertise charity climbs than any other sort of company.
It’s got to the point where, to be honest, I wouldn’t go near them.
But if you do, because you find their offers irresistible – well, just be careful, and look at their conditions closely. In particular, ask yourself whether you really can raise the amount of money they want you to. Because if you can’t – and many people don’t – you’ll probably end up paying a lot of money for what is, at the end of the day, a pretty average (or worse) trek.
6) Study, learn, take responsibility and make decisions (but do still have regular meetings)
Eventually, you’re going to have to make a call on the big decisions. With most of your choices, such as when you’re going to climb, for example, it’s pretty straightforward to come to some sort of agreement.
But other decisions, such as which company you’re going to go with, for example, or which route you’ll take, are less straightforward. To make the best decision, you need to read up on the subject. You can look on this site for a comparison between the routes. While for a choice of suitable companies, you can look at the reviews in the guide book.
Now assuming you have some consideration for your fellow trekkers, you’ll seek their input. But remember: you probably know more than anyone else in the group about Kilimanjaro, the companies that work on it and the routes that go up it. So, in all probability, it’s you that should have the final word on these decisions.
7) Set up a WhatsApp group (or similar)
Setting up a social media or WhatsApp group just makes sense. By doing so, you’ve made it easy for your fellow trekkers to ask questions, and for others can answer them. It will also help to develop a strong esprit de corps by helping ‘outsiders’ – ie those who aren’t part of the core group, such as a partner or friend of someone – to get to know the others and feel more of a part of the team.
Setting up a group like this also enables you and the rest of your team to see what other people are up to, whether they’ve started buying kit, got their flights, had their inoculations etc. (And if someone isn’t joining in, you can decide whether they just don’t like social media, or whether they’re just not preparing properly.)
8) Tell them to send in questions
Your group will only feel truly comfortable about the idea of climbing Africa’s Highest Mountain if they know exactly what it entails. So encourage them to send in their questions, either to you (so you can forward them to the operator) or, perhaps better, directly to the operator.
9) Remember to distribute all documents you receive
If not, there’s a chance you could be liable should anything go wrong, as you won’t have passed on all the information to your group.
10) Make sure everyone has everyone else’s email addresses.
Again, if nothing else this will help to foster a team spirit amongst your group.
11) Ask people to send in their medical conditions, personal details, and dietary requirements to the operator themselves
People may be too shy to share ‘personal stuff’ with other members of the group. They may not want to tell you of their injuries, illnesses, complaints or dietary peculiarities. And it’s only sensible not to share passport numbers and other personal details unnecessarily.
But your operator does need to know this stuff – so ask your group to send in such details to your operator themselves.
The above rules make it all sound pretty straightforward. But trust me, it probably won’t be. With large groups, people are always joining the trek, leaving the trek, wanting to add a safari, forgetting to book their flights – all manner of stuff.
Indeed, it’s fair to say that you’ll be working harder than anyone in your group. And harder than anyone in your Kilimanjaro company too (and I write this as someone who’s been organising treks for almost two decades).
But at least you know that, once you have managed to get your team to Tanzania, your work is pretty much done. Because at the airport, it’s time for your trek operator to take the reins.
You probably won’t be paid anything for all the effort you’ve made. You may not even receive much in the way of gratitude for all the extra work you’ve had to do. But you can, at least, take some satisfaction from a job well done.
Because without your endeavours, your group won’t have even got to Tanzania – let alone stand at the very highest point on the entire African continent.