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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

How to Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with a Clear Conscious

Elephants on the plains of Africa at Mt. Kilimanjaro. Photo by Juzer Khanbhai.

By Melissa Foley

Tanzania was just voted by industry experts and tourists once again as the number one safari destination in Africa. It’s likely experiencing the Great Migration of the Serengeti or basking on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar is on many people’s “bucket lists,” but if traveling to Tanzania is in your future, you must consider climbing to the Rooftop of Africa.

It’s surprising more people don’t attempt climbing Kilimanjaro, as it requires far less experience, training and physical conditioning than you’d imagine. A positive attitude, warm clothes and an excellent guide who demands a slow pace for better acclimatization are your major factors for summit success. With an average of 4-5 porters per climber, plus cooks, guides and crew, moving these mobile camps up the mountain is a massive logistical operation. However, experienced and professional companies make it look effortless.

Like many touristic destinations, the safari and Kilimanjaro industry provides the main source of economic security for thousands of people and their families in this region. While this provides visitors with endless and often overwhelming options in a competitive market, climbers should become aware of the impact of who they climb with, as it can change the course of people’s lives.

While human rights issues with the Sherpa on Mount Everest gained far more media attention, it’s important the public understands major porter abuses are occurring in this region also. The largest expenses of a climb are government-regulated fees allocated for conservation. Fortunately, Tanzania’s new government, with a zero-corruption policy, means tourists’ revenues will actually fund resources needed for National Parks.

However, last year, in a controversial move, the government implemented an 18 percent VAT increase on all park fees. Now, Tanzania is slightly less competitive as a safari destination, losing market share to neighboring countries and making an already price-sensitive market even more competitive. Companies now boldly underbid one another to win business. As a result, the porter’s work conditions and salaries are sacrificed, causing physical and economic suffering. Paying less financially means you are paying more for it ethically.

Fortunately, climbers can verify which companies legitimately offer certified climbs, ensuring they adhere to the highest ethical standards. You can identify which companies have demonstrated they are not participating in the exploitation of these hardworking men and women, who are the backbone of the mountain.

The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Program, locally known as KPAP, is an innovation of Boulder-based International Mountain Explorers Club (IMEC). Together they created the partnership for responsible travel to educate and advocate for the fair and ethical treatment of porters.

The KPAP team is led by a passionate American woman affectionately known as “Mamma Karen” who is a focused and tireless champion of the porters. Living in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, she has dedicated the better part of a decade to this cause and community. With limited resources, Mamma Karen and her team offer extensive guidance and oversight to ensure tour companies adhere to best practices, properly supporting the crew and the industry. KPAP has also implemented several educational, health and training outreach programs to improve the quality of life for porters and their families.

Because of the overwhelming abuses and exploitations of the crew, KPAP has a standard checklist of criteria and recommendations, which is consistently monitored and enforced on every partner climb. Proper government required salaries of $10.00 per day, adhering to park regulations of maximum 44-pound loads per porter, providing three meals a day, proper equipment, shelter, sleeping conditions and medical care when necessary, are the basic requirements that unfortunately are not standard industry practice.

While all operators are invited to participate in this free, voluntary certification, it’s perplexing to learn less than 10 percent of operators bother. Not only does this practice enhance their operations, but it has tremendous responsible tourism marketing value and will differentiate them from the competition.

Climbing with a KPAP partner company, you can be assured that you and your moral compass will be on the right path!

Other ways to Help:

Offset your trip’s carbon footprint: Carbon Tanzania

Accommodations that Advocate:

World’s Collide Africa House – A boutique bed and breakfast with all proceeds supporting the Pamoja Tunaweza Boys and Girls Club, a fantastic program of former street kids turned artists.

Karibu Hostel – A Backpacker’s paradise supporting Born to Learn, a village school built using recycled plastic bottles.

Eating with a purpose

More than a Drop – A hospitality vocational training program where young at-risk girls are given a second chance at life.

Maembe (Mango)– A great mix of local and western food, all proceeds support a local women’s health clinic.

To compare KPAP Members prices and packages, you can visit www.kiligate.com

Melissa has lived abroad for several years consulting for various NGO’s in Greece, India, Cambodia, Thailand and Tanzania. Primarily focused on women’s health, education, advocacy and wildlife conservation she has developed and implemented sustainable outreach programs integrating responsible tourism and voluntourism with local community development. Utilizing over two decades of executive marketing and business development expertise in corporate America, combined with extensive global travel experience; she provides a unique perspective on tourism development. Most recently as a marketing consultant to local tour operators, lodges and the largest safari vehicle manufacturing company in Africa, she has established international networks and is actively promoting the development of corporate social responsibility policies into the tourism industry. Having successfully climbed Kilimanjaro in 2016, she has a strong passion and commitment to the fair and ethical treatment of the hardworking mountain crew.

Find more travel destinations at greenlivingaz.com/travel


  1. Having climbed Kilimanjaro in August 2017 I am fascinated by ” Elephants on the plains of Africa at Mt. Kilimanjaro. Photo by Juzer Khanbhai” on your web page.
    I am just about to make up a presentation of my trip. It is like all my presentations about my trips all over the world designed for a charity-event in our small town (Germany). There is no entrance fee, but visitors are expected to give donations – and they do!
    I should very much like to show the above mentioned picture -of course with full copyright information.
    The presentation will not be published, except an invitation with that picture as an eye-catcher on the homepage of our municipal authorities and of the charity organization.
    Would kindly give me permission to do so?

    • Hi Cornelia! That is awesome that you are going to make a presentation of your trip! I don’t see why you wouldn’t be allowed to use the photo. Green Living doesn’t hold the rights so as long as you give credit, you should be fine. Thanks for reading!


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