Kilimanjaro Expedition Itinerary
What to expect?
For an account of a Mount Kilimanjaro expedition via the Machame Route, this informative NY Times article offers a perspective of a climber on an expedition led by US guide Jason Merle. This account mirrors the type of experience each climber can expect on our trip.
This page is designed to provide a basic amount of information. A successful expedition to Kilimanjaro requires some meticulous planning, as well as some considerations about fitness and health.
Kilimanjaro expedition requires a significant commitment of time and expense. It is, in many ways, an experience of a lifetime. We are grateful for the chance to lead these trips and proud of our team members in Pacific Northwest and Tanzania.
Tanzania is a beautiful country, filled with passionate and friendly people. The mountain and the Serengeti are simply magnificent. We look forward to this trip and will enjoy taking time to answer any questions you have.
(departing USA. If traveling from Europe please subtract one day at the start of the trip).
Sunday: Amsterdam - Tanzania (JRO).
After the hustle and bustle of Kilimanjaro Airport we'll travel by bus (45 minutes) to Moshi, arriving late in the evening.
Monday: Rest and pack. Our first dawn in Tanzania will be met by birdsong, sunrise at 6.00 and, if we are lucky, a view of Kilimanjaro from our hotel courtyard. This is a free day. For those who want, we'll hang out, take a swim, and go into town to visit the market and drop by to see friends at Msamaria Center for Street Children. The kids get off school around three and will be excited to have some wazungnu (white people) to entertain and play with. We'll be taking some duffel bags of supplies for the kids and the school nurse. After a lovely dinner back at the hotel we'll get our packs ready for an early departure in the morning.
Tuesday: We'll breakfast early and load up for an hour-long bus ride to the Kilimanjaro National Park Machame Gate where we'll check in with rangers and receive our permits. Our climb starts right here at the gate and we'll hike for about six hours through the rain forest. It's a steady climb and we can do some bird and monkey spotting. We sleep at Machame Camp tonight.
Wednesday: Leaving the rainforest behind, we climb steeply into the highlands and towards the Shira Plateau. We'll aim to reach camp during mid afternoon, then take a well earned rest after a beautiful day's hiking.
Thursday: This is a long, arduous day as we climb up to a high-point of 15,000 feet, before dropping down to my favourite camp in the Barranco Valley. This camp is surrounded by giant scenacio plants and is situated at the base of the Barranco wall, our objective for the next morning.
Friday: We immediately climb over 1000 feet straight up the paths and ledges of the Barranco wall to the north of camp. It's fun and exciting, the trail taking us high over a ridge before dropping into the Karanga Valley which is full of ancient lava and expanses of dry, sandy terrain. A short leg-burning climb brings us up to Karanga Camp, where we'll look out east towards the lights if Moshi. On clear days it's possible to see the Indian Ocean.
Saturday: Moving at this height takes time. We'll hike for only four or five hours to Barafu Camp at 15,000 feet. Barafu means 'ice' and we'll be thankful for our warm sleeping bags and down parkas. Bedtime will be 5 p.m. as the next morning we climb to the summit.
Sunday: Departing around midnight with headlamps on, we'll begin the long climb to the crater and then on to the summit. We'll be well rehearsed and organized, so climbing an hour at a time, we'll nudge our way up the mountain, and before we know it, the sun will be rising to our right and over the jagged peak of Mawenzi and the Indian Ocean beyond. One step at a time we'll patiently navigate the gravel and rocks of the trail until we reach Stella Point on the crater rim. The crater is enormous and our view will be one of red rocks and diamond white glaciers on both sides of the crater rim. From here, the summit looks about 20 minutes away, but in the thin air at 19,000 feet it will take about an hour to travel the last mile. We'll have myself, a lead guide, two assistant guides and one or two apprentice guides. We all carry radios and I believe that our past summit success (100%) is in part due to the team work of guides and our ability to provide close support. Some people will be stronger than others, and during the last hour it's nice to be able to walk at different paces, to take a rest, if needed, and to get some personal encouragement.
After spending some time at the summit, we retrace our steps to Stella Point before taking a quicker descent route back to Barafu Camp. At this juncture, most people want to sleep and refrain from moving, but we'll do the right thing and keep descending on tired legs. As we drop down, at around 2,000 feet each hour, the air will become thicker and warmer, we'll breathe more easily, and look back over our shoulders to the mountain behind. Mweka Camp (pronounced 'm oik a') is at 10,000 feet. We'll eat, sleep and wake up in the morning to the sounds of the rainforest.
Monday: No need to pack today, just stuff-and-go! We'll walk down through dense rainforest on a good, but likely muddy, trail all the way to Mweka Gate, where we'll be met by our porters and drivers. After a celebration ceremony and grateful gifts to our guides and porters, we'll drive back to Moshi and spend the rest of the day relaxing.
Tuesday: Rest day in Moshi. A chance to unwind, do some shopping, swim and/or go visit Msamaria.
Wednesday: This is a travel day. 2 hour bus ride to Arusha, where we'll have lunch before going to Arusha Regional airport for a 2 hour flight that will take off from a bustling city and most likely need to buzz the dirt landing strip to get the animals out of the way before landing. Our wilderness guides will be be waiting with a couple of Toyota Forerunners equipped for rough terrain. We'll go in search of some lions and buffalo before finding our camp for the night. We'll dine outside around a fire and listen to the night.
Thursday: We'll spend this whole day in the Serengeti National Park and trust our guides to give us an amazing tour and educational experience. We can expect to see lions and other big cats, along with giraffes, elephants, hyenas, zebras, some amazing birds, crocodiles and more monkeys than you can shake a stick at.
Friday: Up early and we'll drive fast across a desert landscape towards the Norongoro Crater. We'll have time to stop at Ouldivi Gorge where 'Lucy' was discovered along with many significant archeological findings that changed our understanding of human history. We'll spend all afternoon viewing wildlife in the crater before heading to the Sopa Lodge, a beautiful hotel perched on the edge of the crater rim. Watching the sunset over the crater is a magical experience and although this is a four star modern hotel, the first time I stayed there, my friend Tony and I experienced some disbelief at finding a buffalo on the walkway outside our room. The concierge led us in another direction and apologized, saying politely, "Sorry gentlemen, this is Africa." It certainly is.
Saturday: Drive, coffee, shop, drive, eat, get stuck in Arusha traffic and arrive at the Arusha Hotel around mid-afternoon. We'll say goodbye to our wilderness guides and then have a few hours to sit by the pool, use the internet, go shopping or relax before we head to JRO airport for our evening flight to Amsterdam and our final destinations.
Sunday: With an early arrival in Amsterdam, most people will be back in UK or USA by early afternoon.