Help us summit Kilimanjaro in 2010!
June 16, 2009 12:24 PM   Subscribe

We want to 1) climb Kilimanjaro (Western Breach route) and 2) go on a safari afterwards. Looking for advice, personal stories, and information about planning for the trip and training for a high altitude hike.

[asking on behalf of my boyfriend] I’m planning a trip for myself, my brother, and my father to climb Kilimanjaro in July or August of 2010. We would like to do a safari after the climb as well.

(I’ve already read these previous questions, but unlike the previous posters, we are willing to invest more money and time - both training and trekking - for this trip).

So my questions falls into 3 categories: Kili questions, gear and training questions, and safari questions.

Kilimanjaro questions
1. Are there outfitter suggestions from anyone who has climbed Kilimanjaro before? I’m looking at two companies now but would love to hear personal experiences about different groups. Budget is not our primary concern in this trip - we are prepared to pay more for an outfitter whose route takes more time and is trained to recognize and respond to altitude sickness.

2. We would like to climb the Western Breach Route. I’d love to hear impressions and advice from anyone who has climbed this route.

3. Is there anything you didn’t know when you were planning your trip that, in retrospect, you wish you knew?

Gear and Training questions
4. Can you climb wearing contact lenses? I am concerned the reduced oxygen levels would be dangerous, but I would rather not purchase prescription sunglasses unless I have to.

5. Another sunglasses question: do you really need glacier glasses or are regular sunglasses be sufficient?

6. What kind of training did you do to prepare for the trek? Previous answers centered around doing lots of hiking, but one of us does not live in an area where frequent, intensive, hikes are possible. He does, however, have access to a gym.

Safari questions
7. If you’ve been on safari in either Kenya or Tanzania what did you like best?

8. Is it worth the extra cost for a private safari?

Other general information: I am in my late 20s, my brother in his 30s and my father in his 50s. Brother and I are in good health, father is working on losing some extra weight. We all hike occasionally but have minimal experience with multiple-day hiking trips and none with high-altitude hiking.

[Mr. Kitkat can provide more detail and follow-up information if necessary]

posted by kitkatcathy to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Kili-specific questions:
1) The Kili guides have to go through some kind of certification, and they should be proficient in noticing altitude sickness. I went through a bit of a 'budget' outfitter (the Marangu hotel) but I was very pleased with them (I was going to track down the link, but it looks like I responded to one of the questions you linked) . Don't know about the Western Breach route unfortunately. What I would say that is probably true for all guiding companies is that you should definitely try to develop a personal rapport with your guides and porters if you can. It will make the trip more enjoyable, and I would guess it might make them care a little bit more about your comfort. Also, read up on the effects of altitude sickness so you can recognize some of it's minor symptoms yourself. It is likely that one person in your group will get sick or otherwise feel adverse effects, and it can cut down on the anxiety if you know what to expect. Most altitude related illness is not life-threatening, it just sucks. However, you want to be able to know when it has gone too far.

3) I wish I would have brought a hacky-sack or other simple thing to play/do during downtime. I wish we would have taken an extra day at one of the high-camps to acclimitize. We made it through alright, but it was painful (and glorious). I wish we would have allotted more time to see more of the communities around Kilimanjaro.

4) If you sleep in your contacts on a fairly regular basis, you will be fine. I rocked one pair of contacts the entire time I was in Africa (3 weeks) which is probably not recommended but also didn't seem to affect me too badly. Take them out your first night back, perhaps. Bring drops if you're someone likely to get dried out.
5) Regular sunglasses with UV protection will be fine. you might want to put a string or whatever on them so you don't lose them. Losing sunglasses up there would be awful. What's more important is sunblock. Every day. Even when/if it's overcast.
6)Training: I thought I was in pretty good shape. I could run a 5K in 20 mins, worked out on a very regular basis, etc. But you can't train for altitude any way other than being at altitude. There are plenty of people on the mountain who are not very physically fit at all, and I saw most of them at the top. If you're not a veteran mountaineer, summit day is going to be challenging no matter what shape you're in. I recall slight hallucinations. I don't know about western breach however, perhaps it is more rigorous. A normal work-out routine including cardiovascular exercise and a focus on leg strength should be sufficient. I would think that bicycling or 'spinning' could make up for shake-down hiking. Remember that you probably won't be carrying very much gear.

Extra note on gear: You will want gaiters (for the rockslide down, if nothing else). You will want a down jacket for summit day. You will want snacks and treats (chocolate!) that your guides might not have. You will not need insect repellent on the hike, but will want it on the safari (ask your safari guide about tsetse flys). You will want rain gear because when it rains, it comes down pretty good. You might not need heavy-duty boots for the approach, but on summit day you will be more concerned with warmth than comfort. Take two pairs of shoes if necessary. You will want to be prepared to bathe with minimal water. You will want to bring Immodium. You will want to bring a little bit of toilet paper. Are you staying in huts or tents?

7) I went in Tanzania. Couldn't say for Kenya though I've heard Tanzania is better. Ngorongoro Crater is fantastic. Decide on which animal would be the most exciting for your crew to see, and base it on that. There may be places where you will see more of one kind of animal than you might at another location; however, if you go to a few preserves you will likely see everything.
8) Not sure what you mean by 'private'. Do you mean just you and your crew in one Landcruiser? If that's the case, I would think you probably want a private one. Though the kinds of tourists that are in Africa on safari are generally pretty great to deal with.

Feel free to DM me if you have any other questions, it's a complicated trip to put together from half-way around the world, but certainly worth it.
posted by nameless.k at 12:52 PM on June 16, 2009

I climbed Kilimanjaro last August. We did the Lemosho route. I saw the Western Breach but did not ascend the mountain that way. It looks difficult and risky. The Lemosho route was great and brought us through lots of different climates at a somewhat leisurely (8 day total) pace. Are you sure about the Western Breach? Here's a quote:

"While we feel unable to recommend the Western Breach as a safe ascent route to the summit it is recognised that the nature of adventurous expeditions to hostile wilderness environments is such that a number of climbers, despite familiarising themselves with the contents of this website, will nonetheless continue to opt to attempt to summit Kilimanjaro via the Western Breach assault route. Where this choice is made, we would request that climbers ensure that all published material pertaining to the route be carefully considered and that the accident investigation report be read thoroughly."


Here are some tips:

1. Be sure you have a visa credit and/or debit card. Most ATMs in Tanzania/Kenya do not take Mastercard. (I saw Barclays bank the most if that helps.)

2. You can get a multi-country visa to allow you into East African (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi). This will probably be a confusing experience, at least, if it's anything like mine - just know that you don't have to buy more than one visa and you should be fine. If you're american, expect to pay $100 for it. For some reason, Americans and Irish have to pay double what everyone else pays *shrug*

3. I went to Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara. I'd recommend going on safari in Kenya - it's cheaper and I hear you see more animals and have an all-around better experience. However, I really enjoyed Ngorongoro, and I recommend going there - if you do, splurge and stay at a place on the rim of the crater. Awesome views. I stayed at the Serena, and it was amazingly nice. And expensive. Very expensive.

If I was going to East Africa this summer, I would plan on seeing more of Kenya than I did last summer. Nairobi is not nearly as scary as people make it out to be. In fact, I spent about 5 days there at the end of my trip, mostly by myself (30, female, American), and loved it. You can go to the National Park in Nairobi and see black rhinos, ostrich, zebra, etc. as well.

4. Zanzibar - specifically Stone Town - is amazing. You should definitely check it out. Wonderful huge spice markets, and the food market at night (all night!) is crazy good.

5. Be careful with your wallet in the markets especially. Also, don't expect the beaches to be safe. I was warned off them many times in Zanzibar (near Stone Town at least) and Dar Es Salaam. I wasn't expecting sandy beaches to be dodgy...

6. Preparing. I did a lot of various exercise to prep for Kilimanjaro. You'll want your overall conditioning to be good, but I'd recommend one thing in particular: stairs. Practice climbing stairs A LOT, preferably with a backpack with some weight in it. Summit night is hard - think climbing uphill for 8 hours or more in sandy gravel - and the more practice and endurance you have the better.

7. Altitude. You should try to see how each of you responds to it. Since money isn't much of a limitation, could you go to Colorado and try a summit of a 14k mountain? Of the 12 of us that attempted the summit of Kilimanjaro, the two who did not make it were also the most athletic of the group. They came down with symptoms of AMS and had to turn back. Bring hard candies to suck on for that night. It'll help with your stomach and the sugar will keep you awake :)

8. Stuff: you definitely want a camelbak, several pairs of gloves with varying thickness, base layers, mid layers, outer layers.

9. Guide. I used and they were great, although they use another company - Zara - which is Tanzanian. You might be able to book directly with Zara. I'm not sure if they do the Western Breach.

Have fun and be careful! Feel free to MeMail me if you have more questions or want more info.
posted by jacquilinala at 1:37 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah - bring lots of wet wipes (dust!), toilet paper and resealable plastic bags :)
posted by jacquilinala at 1:41 PM on June 16, 2009

Been there (Kili) done that (almost).

First, you may land in Nairobi, Kenya and spend the night. My girlfriend (later my wife) and I went with GAP. Lots of good and bad points about GAP. We spent the night in Nairobi and planned on leaving the next day on a bus. Next morning absolutely nobody knew which bus was the GAP bus (about 5 parked outside the hotel). We were told to "just get on" and it would be sorted out later. Half of me wanted to go with the flow the other half flashed warning signs.

We found an Irish couple who had the answer: GAP had subcontracted us out to a local tour group (makes sense) so we were supposed to get on that bus (I forget the name). It was all in the e-mail that the Irish couple got but we did not. Lesson learned: get this sorted out before you get on the plane.

We went up the "tourist route" a.k.a. the "coca-cola" route. Not as easy as it sounds. We spent I think three days going up to Kibo hut (last stop before you summit) and prepared ourselves for an early turn in time with a wake up planned for midnight followed by a final climb to the summit but it was not meant to be due to a combination of altitude sickness and fuel fumes. We decided to end it at Kibo Hut so with that in mind this is what I would do differently if/when we go again:

If price is no problem consider spending an extra day at Kibo to better acclimate (makes all the difference in the world). I think if we would have just spent one more night at Kibo we would have made it.

Really familiarize yourself with altitude sickness: Bad insomnia, racing heart (even when laying down--a sign that your body is catching up), pounding headache. I'm very familiar with hypoxia but these symptoms combined with the fuel fumes (more on that below) made both of us feel like we were coming down with something pretty terrible which meant that ascending the summit might not be safe so we called it quits.

Watch your stuff! You'll probably have porters carry a lot of your stuff up the trail. They'll get there WAY ahead of you and (no kidding) stop along the way for a smoke break. You can't keep track of your stuff the whole time but make sure your stuff is always on top of someone elses stuff like while it's being transported in a van or a bus. The fuel fumes which ended our trip as much as altitude sickness came from our stuff being on the bottom of everyone else's in a baggage compartment. Our sleeping bags soaked up a small pool of diesel on the floor and made us sick at Kibo. So just make sure your stuff isn't soaking up any fuel spills or other bad crap. We had no trouble with stuff gone missing but it's good to watch your stuff for that as well.

We did meet back up with the Irish couple who made it to the top but not to Point Uhuru (the very top). After taking a look at them here are a few other items I'd consider:

Glacier glasses! A must. Or ski goggles.

Cover every bit of your face. Next time I'll bring a light weight neoprene ski "masque." The Irish guy was badly burned on his lips and nose just from the ascent.

Keep the drinking tube of your camel back warm. If it freezes during the ascent you won't be able to hydrate.

And finally on a lighter note: find some kind of accurate USGS quality topographical map of the area, mark it up with your route and rest stops, and use a compass to track your progress. Do NOT believe your guide even once when he says, "We're almost there!" You are NEVER almost there (or so it seemed).

All in all, it was fantastic! I'm envious and wish I were going. Have fun!
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 1:49 PM on June 16, 2009

Never climbed Kili, so can't help you there, but I am a Kenyan born and bred - mefi mail me if you want ideas on safari / things to do after your climb.

I would agree with other posters that starting your journey in Nairobi is fine - it isn't nearly as unsafe as it's made out to be. Zanzibar is a must-see, and if you've never been, it would be a shame to go all the way to East Africa, and not go on safari.
posted by darsh at 2:03 PM on June 16, 2009

4) I specifically got monthly-wear lenses so that I didn't have to faff around with them whilst up the side of the mountain without usual hygiene facilities. Worked perfectly.

5) Our group had a wide array of different sunglasses, and I don't recall anyone complaining that theirs weren't good enough. You don't actually walk on the glacier, so you won't need specialised ones for that - I just took my skiiing wraparound Oakleys

7) Ngorongoro crater is amazing; be prepared to see everything close up and on top of each other (virtually) - it's a bit like a Disney cartoon, in a way.

Other things that I found invaluable:
sun block
muscle rub/linament
wet body wipes (lots of them; much easier than soap+water) - mine had tea tree oil in them which made a startling difference to the recovery rate of run burn, chapped lips, scratches, etc.
wet toilet wipes
sealable plastic bags for nasty clothes (when you get caught in a downpour and are covered in mud)
antiseptic cream
A pillowcase or similar - roll tomorrow's clothes in it and use for your pillow; bonus - when you get up, clothes are warm already :)
head-mounted torch
if you like photos, a camera that can cope with wide and long zoom shots is handy

A camel-back water thing would have been very handy; we carried 2x 2l bottles of water each day, so you'll probably need a rucksack that's capable of attaching things like this. Mine wasn't, and it was a right pain.

For what it's worth (and to help alleviate any fears) I went up - via Lemosho route - as a part of a group of 30, of varying age and fitness. All bar one made it to the very top; the one who didn't make it got to the edge of the crater - so very near the summit.

My trip was paid for, so I have no clue about cost I'm afraid! I'd expect that some of the hotels around Ngorongoro are pretty expensive - I'd hate to guess the cost of the one we stayed at...

MeMa me if you need any more info!
posted by Chunder at 2:04 PM on June 16, 2009

I did Kili two weeks ago and had a fantastic time, or as fantastic a time as can be had without oxygen ;) We'd just come from doing Mount Kenya as well, which I think gave us a little better perspective on what these trips can be like.

Your questions:
1. We used Destination Tanzania ( and were extremely pleased with the quality of the gear and the service. The guide (John Simon, ask for him if you consider these guys) was wonderful and all the people involved from beginning to end were very helpful. It was a little pricier than some of the cheaper operators, but not so much as some of the ridiculously priced ones. I was 100% comfortable with the safety precautions and completely confident that our guide would be able to handle any problems. Having said that, I think that many people don't realize how much of the trip is organized and controlled by the guide, and that really matters more than the specific operator. Having great and hygienically prepared food matters a lot too; being dehydrated from diarrhea or hungry because you're sick of the food will not help you.

2. We did Machame so I can't comment specifically on the Western Breach except to say that it looked like fun ;)

3. Retrospectively, I would say mostly what I wished I knew is that Kili is not as scary or difficult as it sounds. I think anybody of moderate fitness can do it, provided they are determined to get to the top, and they take their time. Don't get me wrong - it was extremely tough both physically and mentally, but absolutely doable. Nothing as far as planning goes; just do your research. Technical tip: drink water like you've never drunk before. Drink every time you think about drinking. We did not do this on Mt. Kenya and it made part of the trip hellish - until we figured it out. Pay the extra money to take your time and get a good guide and you will be fine.

4. My climbing buddy wore his contacts the entire trip.

5. I did not need glacier glasses, but you may on the Western Breach route. That's a question I would ask the outfitter once you've settled on a good one. My guess is that you can get away without them.

6. A lot of running (about 15-20k a week) and occasional hikes. I'd suggest anything that will get you in better cardio shape and give your legs a workout. Stairmaster/elliptical would be great, but it's really too hard. What you need is light stairmaster for 3 hrs ;) I think swimming would have been good because it would help you get used to holding your breath and the reduced oxygen somewhat.

7. Seeing animals in the wild is wonderful. We didn't really do any 5-day safaris or anything, just game drives in the national parks. This is a lot cheaper than the huge trips that many tour operators offer. The tourism industry is suffering at the moment because of the global economy, so you should be able to find these things at reasonable prices.

8. Can't really answer this question, sorry!

Feel free to email me if you want more info on the outfitter or in general. My throwaway is at gmail. Good luck!!
posted by bone machine at 2:41 PM on June 16, 2009

Oh, additionally useful stuff: Definitely the camelbak; I was getting pretty annoyed with myself for not bringing one, because you need to drink so often that there was no point in putting my water bottle back in my backpack and I ended up carrying 24/7. On Mt. Kenya summit night, my sister put her water bottle in her backpack, and so ended up not getting enough to drink, and nearly didn't summit as a result. Although the camelbak tube WILL freeze at the summit, so you need a water bottle as well.

We didn't need gaiters, but it was mostly dry.

You will want the warmest socks and mittens you can find. I had three pairs of socks on summit day on Kili and my toes were still numb. Also, don't underestimate how cold it can be generally. It doesn't matter how warm it is at the bottom or in the sun, you'll want a lot of layers for the evenings or times when it's cloudy.

Have multiple plans for getting money out. Visa (with PIN), debit, travellers cheques, etc. Many banks will not take travellers cheques in Kenya at least, and you don't want to be stuck without money.

SPEND ALL YOUR MONEY WHEN YOU'RE THERE! Most foreign exchanges (at least in Canada and US) will not take Tz money, and many won't take Kenyan money. I'm trying to Craigslist my extra money right now.

Ngongorong has a great rep for being a place to see animals; it was recommended to us by everybody, but we were running out of money and time when we had the opportunity. A couple of days there would probably get you all the animal sightings you might want. One hidden gem that we discovered was Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya - plenty of animals and a great tour through the gorge, with tons of interesting info from a Maasai guide, for relatively cheap.

Chunder has a good list!
posted by bone machine at 3:01 PM on June 16, 2009

Hiking poles are also a great idea.
posted by bone machine at 3:05 PM on June 16, 2009

Depending on which outfitter you end up using, you might be able to rent some of the equipment needed to do the climb. I am not bringing this up for financial reasons - I bought some great hiking poles but ended up not having enough room for them in my luggage. Of course, I was looking at 6 or 7 weeks traveling in Africa including Kilimanjaro and didn't want to have to walk around with hiking poles... but they wouldn't have been much fun on safari either. I was able to rent a pair for a few US$ and they were great. You should ask your guide company what they offer as far as rentals go.

I just thought of something else - if you can, check out the giraffe sanctuary in the Karen area of Nairobi. You'll find yourself nose to nose with a giraffe - it's really awesome!
posted by jacquilinala at 4:23 PM on June 16, 2009

I'm just back from Tanzania in May. My daughter and I hiked up to the first camp on Kilimanjaro and went on safari - Ngorongoro and Serengetti on a camping safari. Up to the first camp was a very easy hike but I can't speak to the rigor of the rest of the way (others had more relevant experience). Many people coming down the mountain that we meant had hiking poles and that seemed like it would be a very good idea. A guide is required and we used a tour group located in Moshi - and they were very good for our small hike.

Our safari was in Tanzania and it was among my all time favorite travels. We ended up having a private safari which worked out extremely well. We did a camping safari to save on costs but I wouldn't have done it any other way -- sleeping in a tent in the serengetti was amazing. I know it is possible to combine lodge and camping accommodations if you want both. The wildlife in both Ngorongoro and Serengetti was simply amazing. The safari company we used was Easy Travel ( and they were excellent. The manager said he would extend discounts to people referred by us so if you are interested (or want more details on our itinerary), mefimail me.
posted by bluesky43 at 5:54 PM on June 16, 2009

My question is the 3rd one you linked in your OP, and I made the summit last August, full story here (short version: my guide got AMS and I had to evac him after the summit).

1. Are there outfitter suggestions from anyone who has climbed Kilimanjaro before? I’m looking at two companies now but would love to hear personal experiences about different groups. Budget is not our primary concern in this trip - we are prepared to pay more for an outfitter whose route takes more time and is trained to recognize and respond to altitude sickness.

I went with a local outfit because I prefer to patronize locals who are trying to build a business, which is what Adam of Ringo Expeditions is trying to do. He had to bring on an extra guide for me as he was already guiding another group that week, so I chalk up that guide's issues to growing pains for Adam's outfit. That said, they won't be the guys with the most modern, sleekest camping gear, or with western guides to keep you entertained. They are on the cheaper side, but if you want to spend a little more to climb in a bit more comfort, just google around a bit and you'll find plenty of upscale outfits - most of them based out of the UK. Here's a brief guide to get you started.

2. We would like to climb the Western Breach Route. I’d love to hear impressions and advice from anyone who has climbed this route.

I took Machame and it was gorgeous - I'd highly recommend it. Can't speak to WB.

3. Is there anything you didn’t know when you were planning your trip that, in retrospect, you wish you knew?

One thing that someone pointed out that I was thankful for was to schedule my climb so that I'd have a full moon on summit night. It made the first half of the climb or so very beautiful, before the moon set. Here's a guide to when the full moons are out.

Definitely have gaiters, a head-lamp for summit night, and hiking poles. On summit night, whether you use a camel-back or water bottles (they should be the metal ones, like Sigg makes), fill them with fresh-boiled water from your porters, that way it will stay warm while you're hiking. Wrap them in a spare fleece or something inside your pack. Also I took candy bar / energy bar pieces already broken up into bite-size as they get hard to chew when cold - put in a pocket inside the jacket.

You'll want a spare bandanna / handkerchief for the potential nosebleeds at altitude. And take some spare cash with you on the mountain if you want to get a coke or a konyagi at the ranger huts on-mountain. Take some playing cards and spare change for gambling, a journal for the hike, something to read, and anything else you might like for the plenty of down-time that you'll have. Your guides should pack toilet paper but I had my own just-in-case for emergencies. Proper rain gear is also a must. Also a small first aid kit.

4. Can you climb wearing contact lenses? I am concerned the reduced oxygen levels would be dangerous, but I would rather not purchase prescription sunglasses unless I have to.

I don't wear contacts, but when it comes to climbing gear, better safe than sorry is the rule - you don't want to find yourself on the summit wishing you could actually see the view.

5. Another sunglasses question: do you really need glacier glasses or are regular sunglasses be sufficient?

Not if you're climbing in July or August, absolutely not. The only glacier is inside the crater, which you'll be well above, and a stretch of a quarter mile or so leading up to the summit, which you shouldn't be around for more than an hour, max, depending on your speed and how long you stay at the summit. Normal sunglasses are fine.

6. What kind of training did you do to prepare for the trek? Previous answers centered around doing lots of hiking, but one of us does not live in an area where frequent, intensive, hikes are possible. He does, however, have access to a gym.

Doesn't matter. I run 6-8 miles a day and have climbed tons, but climbing at elevation is more about genetics and acclimatization (both long-term and short). For long term accl. the best thing you can do is live at a higher altitude (Olympians often do this or sometimes even live in pressurized houses), just getting used to less oxygen in the air. For short term, that basically means good management of your water intake on the mountain, and pushing yourself to stay at the higher altitudes long enough to be ready to summit. Your guides will be key in helping you estimate how ready you are for the summit. Drink TONS of water / tea, you should be downing minimum 3-4 liters a day. Many people bring along altitude sickness pills too.

There was a 78 year old man on the Machame route the same week as me - if your in basic shape without any major medical conditions, you've got about an 85% chance of getting up top, regardless of your conditioning. One thing to try to do is to hike up and above where you're camping, spend some time just chilling a few hundred feet above, then come back down to rest, if you have the energy/time for it. Every little bit helps.

I think I could easily summit and descend in 4 days, doing the same route but camping a little differently. As it was, I descended from the summit to our high camp by 9am or so, and we decided to get off-mountain same day, hiking from 10am-5pm down a porter access trail. My legs were jelly by the end and I couldn't have done it without the hiking poles, but it was nice to be off-mountain and have a proper shower and bed.

Safari questions
7. If you’ve been on safari in either Kenya or Tanzania what did you like best?

I haven't been on safari in Tanzania (yet), but I live in Nairobi now. The best safari in Kenya is Masai Mara, in south western Kenya on the border with Tanzania. You'll see pretty much everything, if you're lucky, with a few days there, and there's a ton of ways to see it, from doing the dirt-cheap camping and taking a driver in your own car (I'm doing that next week), to staying in the mid-range camps just outside the park (next to Masai villages, which are cool to tour), to flying directly into the park and staying at a luxury resort there. The park is incredible, and huge, I highly recommend it. There are (I think) 13 other parks around Kenya, and I've been to a number of them, but Mara is the place I take friends/family when they are in town. If you're interested in more remote safaris where you'll only see maybe 2 or 3 other groups in an entire weekend, hit up Meru. If you're interested in something maybe halfway between that and the massiveness of the Mara, hit up East and/or West Tsavo (where the lions famous of Ghost in the Darkness hail from). East Tsavo boasts a black rhino reserve, where, if you're really lucky, you'll see them. Also a good spot to catch an elusive leopard.

8. Is it worth the extra cost for a private safari?

I'd say no. Getting to know the others in your group is kind of fun, plus its more eyes to spot the cats in the grass and whatnot.

Feel free to MeMail me with any further q's.
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:53 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's one more good link to check out, and it reminded me of a couple more things:

1. Tipping. Read up on it a bit ahead of time and plan to have the amount you want to tip on hand to do so on the last day. Sadly, the porters / cooks, who do the lion's share of the work on the mountain, also get paid the very least (practically next to nothing, but hey, its a job, which is more than most people have in their country). You need to tip each person individually, as nice as your guide may seem, and as much as he may promise you to take care of things, there are pretty typical situations of the tips getting lightened on the way to the porters, or the tips being distributed in the local bar, under the conditions of buying the guide a drink or two, etc.. If you can take some clothes / gear that you won't need anymore after the hike, it can also be a nice gift to the porters and cooks - most of these kids are climbing with a single set of gear that they've been piecing together for years from westerner's discards, many don't even have a sleeping bag and just use old blankets instead.

2. Acute Mountain Sickness. If you're not already familiar with it, get familiar. This goes for everyone in the group, as you'll all be looking out for each other. It will be your guide's job to do this too, but as I learned, you can't always count on your guide to not get AMS himself and be unable to do his job. Know the symptoms, know how to respond. Its not usually deadly but it can be.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:03 AM on June 17, 2009

I did Kili with a good friend (to cap off a 45-day long overland tour through south/east Africa). My friend was not at all affected by the altitude while I was. I think it can be a fluke; we both had been "training" in the same exact way.

But the reason I felt compelled to write was to warn you about what happened to us when we joined up with other English-speaking tourists in Kenya for a safari: we ended up sharing the SUV with a very elderly Australian and his child prostitute (he'd hired her for the trip). We were so traumatized by how powerless we felt (and how awkward it was) we couldn't have cared less about the fabulous photos we took.

Also, Nthing Zanzibar and Tanzania for safari. Zanzibar ended up being my favorite part of the whole trip. I wish I could've stayed there for a few weeks.
posted by ohyouknow at 10:15 AM on June 17, 2009

Thank you everyone for your answers! The information is exactly what we are looking for and we are overwhelmed by the detail and enthusiasm in your answers.

We will likely follow up on the kind offers to DM/MeMail in the next few months as trip-planning progresses. Thank you again! And please feel free to keep the stories and advice coming.
posted by kitkatcathy at 6:28 AM on June 18, 2009

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