Look for flexibility when booking and planning your tour and ask for more flexibility if needed (most companies will be happy to help).
Not much has changed overall with the mountain itself but the way you book and plan for your tour will probably have changed for the better for you. Many companies are offering super flexible terms, no deposit required and special rates (at least for 2020) while it is quiet on the ground and there are uncertainties about you actually arriving.
Even if you are sure of travelling and climbing, rules are changing every day, flights changing, the pandemic situation and health policies adapting as required. Flexible booking terms will ensure you avoid and cancellation charges as no one wants to pay these!
Where previously companies such as ours were requesting a fixed deposit (around 20%) to confirm your tour, we all appreciate it is a difficult time to commit to your next adventure trip and no longer require this well in advance. We ourselves on our new standard flexible terms do not require a deposit until 31 days prior to your arrival and your full balance 14 days prior however can still offer more flexibly than this depending on what you need until around 2-3 days before you are expected to reach to allow us to plan for a high quality support team, obtain your permits without last minute delays, purchase ingredients and market goods for your trek and ensure everything goes smoothly.
Pre / post climb accommodation is usually booked only on a provisional basis and you can be even more smart and book your own accommodation (sometimes at extra special prices) yourself on a travel portal such as booking.com which have their own flexible terms with lodges. You can then still book the climb package with a reputable operator separate to this.
What we all want to avoid is cancellation charges, none of us like these but be careful of booking too last minute as the preparation and pre-climb operations are still important to ensure you get the best team and have no delays due to permits, equipment (checking and sanitising!), food purchasing etc.
Be sure to check (and keep checking) the latest travel guidelines and departure and re-entry rules for your own country, airlines, transit destinations and Tanzania.
Our ports and skies have been open since 18 May 2020 and the below are an outline of the latest rules for entry.
Be extra careful that your own country, transit countries, airlines rules are understood as these may be different to our own port’s requirements and you should check these before each departure.
- Commercial flights are still accepted and have been since 18 May 2020. Many airlines have already resumed their flights into Tanzania, on a limited schedule.
- A negative COVID-19 certificate is not required by our government for entry at a port however may be required by your airline or departure country so you need to check with them for any requirements for departure, flight and re-entry.
- All international and resident travellers should observe and adhere to infection prevention and control measures such as hand hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing as appropriate.
- Travellers are required to truthfully fill out a declaration form available onboard or at the port of entry and submit to the Port Health Authority on arrival.
- All travellers entering should dispose of single use masks at appropriate waste collection stations.
- Airlines are required to provide advanced passenger information which may be scrutinized by the Port Authority to identify high risk passengers.
You can check our website and social media for any changes announced and also find the full update here: https://www.shah-tours.com/hiking-trekking/updated-entry-requirements-to-tanzania-on-05-august-2020/
Pre-climb exercise and spending more time on the mountain.
It is true that Kilimanjaro is not a technical mountain, but that does not mean it will be an easy trek. This might be even more true after months under lock downs where you may not have had the opportunity to keep up your fitness levels.
There are many guides for technical training schedules for the mountain but really the hardest part will be the altitude and the only solution for this is to try to acclimatise before your attempt (ideally hiking to a near or similar altitude if possible). Other exercises such as running and weightlifting can help, but the bulk of training, if not all your training, should be hiking.
If you don’t have the opportunity (or are not allowed to even go for hikes in your own country due to various lockdowns) you can aim to do as much as possible and there is still plenty you can do from your own bedroom to maintain fitness (yoga, exercise, trampolines etc.). You may also be able to take advantage of the special prices offered and add extra days to your trek to give even more acclimatisation on the mountain itself.
It is always more affordable (before and after COVID-19) to add extra days onto your hike rather than travelling to Tanzania for a second time to try again!
Have your masks, sanitizers ready and the usual right gears.
All companies will usually send you a packing list or climb checklist. This should outline all the recommended items that we suggest you bring with you for the trek. Not much has changed here however we have added face masks (at least 3 layers and re-usable is best for the environment or disposable masks at a medical grade can also be used) and sanitizers (although we will provide you with some on the trek already to use at campsites).
Find our latest check list and more preparation info here: https://www.shah-tours.com/kilimanjaro-preparation/planning-your-kilimanjaro-trek/
Choose a good reputable company and be careful of extra cheap prices
It is tempting to choose a fire sale / cheap company and take advantage of the pandemic for a great price. This is a huge risk for your safety and may mean your support team have poor treatment standards from their company.
Firstly, a price of a climb should increase compared to before the pandemic as the need to sanitize everything under the sun is now required and new regulations mean we have appointed new staff for added safety measures and incur more costs compared to before. There are also small increases we have experienced due to splitting of packed items for the trek (no mixing of food and equipment) and also offering you your own separate porter for personal luggage (no mixing your items with other equipment not to be used by you personally).
Secondly, with or without the pandemic, there have not been any reduction in park fees, or the costs associated with the trek. The only place operators save are usually on the salaries for the support team as most other costs are fixed. This is unfortunate on a usual season / year but even worse at a time where employment opportunities are greatly reduced and many crew members struggling with basic needs take poor employment opportunities that can endanger themselves and yourself.
You can find a brilliant article written on ‘medium.com’ here that explains a little more: https://medium.com/illumination/climbing-kilimanjaro-and-covid-19-a5ba18cec81e
You can also find more information on proper porter treatment from KPAP here and check if the company you are booking with is monitored and approved: https://kiliporters.org/climb-with-a-partner-for-responsible-travel-company/
Be careful on arrival and throughout the experience.
Overall, we find avoiding COVID-19 seems simple. We advise you keep distance, wear masks as appropriate or directed, wash hands regularly with soap and keep at least 1m (or 2m where possible) distance between yourself and others.
You can also add private items such as your own room at the pre / post climb lodges, your own tent on camping routes and even your own private portable toilet so you avoid sharing the public facilities on the mountain. Even if you want to avoid your own group, you can choose to dine in your sleeping tent.
Remember that only our scheduled group departures are combined with other people and if you have booked a private experience, you will not be mixed or surprised last minute with others sharing your facilities (dining tent, private toilets, support crew).
You will see our crew practicing a lot of these techniques and more during your trek. You can always ask your operator for a guide on what is being done to help protect you and the support team. Our own policy can be found here: https://www.shah-tours.com/hiking-trekking/covid-19-safety-measures/
Remember high altitude may be even more dangerous than COVID-19
Really, we still feel that the most dangerous part of a trek on Kilimanjaro is the high altitude and your body’s ability to adapt to the altitude change. To reach the top of Kilimanjaro still depends more than anything on how you cope with the altitude (no matter how many masks and sanitizers we have!).
The percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere at sea level is about 21%. As you climb higher up the mountain the percentage remains the same but the number of oxygen molecules per breath is reduced. At 5895m (or 19,341ft) there are roughly 50% fewer oxygen molecules per breath. The body therefore finds it hard to adapt and function as normal with less oxygen. Altitude sickness is caused by a failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to these lower levels of oxygen although you may be surprised yourself what you are capable of when under this extreme pressure and properly acclimatised.
You should not make the mistake of going too high (altitude) too quickly (rate of ascent). Remember mild altitude sickness is not uncommon on Mount Kilimanjaro but you can minimize the effect of more major sickness by having the right itinerary for the right Kilimanjaro route; climb high sleep low, drink a lots of water, climb slowly and on your own pace. Everyone’s ability to adapt can depend on several factors and you should plan the appropriate trek according to your experience.
Severe symptoms of altitude sickness such as wet coughing, chest congestion, extreme fatigue, fast, shallow breathing, blue or grey lips or fingernails, inability to walk and confusion can be fatal. That is why it is always important to communicate your symptoms immediately to your mountain guides if you are feeling unwell.
We always conduct a twice daily health check using a high quality medical device to ensure we are checking your ability to acclimatise and are safely continuing to the summit.
Always listen to your body, guides and stay hydrated!
As much as you prepare and hear stories, the most important thing is to listen. Altitude and the ability to acclimatise effects everyone in different ways, so listen to your guides, your body and pay attention to the mountain. If you are tired, stop and take a break. If you are dizzy or have a headache, drink water, rest as appropriate.
Water is your best friend at a high altitude! Keeping yourself hydrated is extremely important. Your body dehydrates much quicker at altitude. Therefore, you need to replenish your fluids and drink a lot more water than you may do back home. We recommend drinking anywhere from 3-4 litres a day and this will be provided (boiled) to you on the mountain from your first camp onwards.
Enjoy the privacy!
There usually are thousands of people trekking Africa's highest mountain, especially during the dry season which is the best time to climb. With the pandemic still going, only a handful can make it to climb meaning you have extra peace, privacy, and uninterrupted scenery.
Those routes which we usually define as high traffic have not really had anyone this season and it is one of the best times to climb (dry weather, no people, beautiful uninterrupted scenery).