Tanzania continues to ease lockdown – but what does it mean for Kilimanjaro?
You may have read that the Tanzanian government is repealing many of the laws it introduced during the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
They have, of course, been under a huge amount of pressure to do so, in order to restart their dormant tourist industry, on which so much of the country’s economy is based.
Among the most significant changes is that tourists are no longer required to go into quarantine for two weeks before being allowed to enter the country.
Instead, tourists will be checked for symptoms (and their temperatures taken) on arrival. Manage to ‘pass’ those tests and you’ll be free to leave the airport.
You’ll also be tested at the entrance gates on Kilimanjaro, and other national parks. If you are showing any symptoms of having the virus (such as an abnormally high temperature or repetitive, dry coughing), then you’ll be refused entry into the park.
So does this mean everything is back to normal?
Far from it – for the moment at least.
The fact that you need to go into quarantine for a fortnight is a bit irrelevant when international flights to the country are currently still suspended. (Incidentally, on this matter, I received an email from KLM this morning – the gist of which can be gleaned by following this KLM-Coronavirus link.)
So do be aware that there are still restrictions in place. And these restrictions are likely to be in place for some time. So the Tanzania that you will see if you do come will be very different to the one that existed in March.
In some senses, it could be a good thing. For example, I very much look forward to hearing tales from trekkers about the animals that they have seen during their trek, which they would not normally see on the mountain. (Because, apart from monkeys and mice, most animals usually prefer to stay away from the trails.)
But, in other ways, it will be a very different place. The requirement for everyone to maintain social distance, for example, and for your mountain crew and your hotel staff to wear masks are just two highly visible ways in which this version of Tanzania will be so very different from all previous ones.
Apparently, there are also plans to put up SIX separate summit signs at the top of Kilimanjaro, to prevent people from all gathering in the same place.
There will also be separate ascent and descent routes on the way up to the summit from Kibo Huts and Barafu Campsite, via Gillman’s and Stella points respectively.
We will of course be taking all necessary steps to comply to the authorities regulations regarding COVID-19. This includes having our own COVID-19 Liaison Officer, and ensuring all contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized with approved solutions.
We will also be working only with those hotels, safari drivers and local transport companies (buses and taxis) who also comply with these rules.
Remember to check your own country’s rules regarding quarantine.
So you’ve booked a trip with Kilimanjaro Experts (or another, inferior trekking and safari operator), and you know that we are running treks again and will be complying with Tanzania’s new COVID-19 regulations.
Hopefully, in time, your airline will also confirm that they are operating flights to Tanzania again.
Does that mean that everything is in place to continue with your plans?
Well, not quite.
Firstly, you need to check with your insurer that they are still willing to provide cover for your trip, or if they have any amendments or exclusions to your policy. Travelling with insurance is not essential, of course – but it is a good idea.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to check your own country’s rules regarding foreign travel in light of COVID-19.
For example, here in the UK all arrivals are supposed to go into quarantine for two weeks (unless coming from Ireland). Again, this may seriously hamper your trip if, once you return back home from the holiday-of-a-lifetime in Tanzania, you can’t return to your place of work for another fortnight.
Only once you are happy with all the arrangements that are in place, and are aware of how these arrangements may have to alter as the situation on the ground changes, should you consider proceeding with the booking.
There is no doubt that the lockdown situation in Tanzania is easing, and the tourist industry in the country is beginning to slowly grind into action once more. And those of you who have booked a Kili climb and/or a safari should take heart from these positive developments.
But do please understand that this is only the first few steps on a very long road back to normality.
For our own part, we are happy to welcome our climbers to Tanzania again, as long as you are aware that the country they will be visiting, and the experience you will have, will perhaps be vastly different to the one you imagined you would be having when you first booked your trip.
But we will, of course, do our utmost to make your time with us as pleasant, safe and memorable as possible. We always have and we always will.
In addition, we will also try to keep you all abreast of the latest developments in the country (as we are doing now!). In addition, if anybody wants to discuss their future climb with us, or any aspect of their booking, myself and David are more than happy to chat over the phone or Whatsapp/Zoom/Skype etc to discuss your plans, and we’ll do our best to answer your concerns.