Very soon we'll be taking off for Tanzania.
It's been about 10 months since I first began digging into the planning for this trip. First it was deciding which route to take up Mt Kilimanjaro. There are 7 established routes, each with some pros and cons. We ultimately decided on the Lemosho route. It's one of the longer routes, 7 or 8 days (we picked 7), on the mountain. The scenery is supposed to be spectacular and the longer route will give us extra time to acclimate to the high altitude.
Hiking Kilimanjaro doesn't require any technical ability, but still something like 50 percent of people who attempt the hike do not summit. This is mostly due to the high altitude and how well the body handles the lack of oxygen. Through some research I've learned some key things that can help your body adjust. Going slowly is a big one which is why we picked the Lemosho route - it would suck to go so far and not make it to the summit - and I also picked up a prescription for Acetazolamide, commonly referred to as Diamox. The drug helps prevent altitude sickness. I opted not to take it for the Inca Trail, but Mt Kilimanjaro is considerably higher at 19,341 ft (5,895m). By contrast, the highest point on the Inca trail is 13,828 ft (4,215m) and we just passed through it, on Kili we'll be well over 13,000 ft for a considerable amount of time. My body definitely felt the altitude on the Inca Trail. So let's just say, this time I'm not fooling around - hand me the drugs.
After we picked our route, it was an agonizing few months sifting through all the various tour companies to book the hike and safari. Like the Inca Trail, Mt Kilimanjaro is highly regulated by the government and you have to hike with a registered guide and team of porters. The market is flooded with companies, prices vary wildly, some people warned of fake reviews on sites like Trip Advisor, some companies were better for the hike, others were better for the safari, some local companies, and some foreign. We searched high and low, asked for advice and recommendations from friends and family, and vetted multiple companies. Ultimately we booked with two different tour operators, we just couldn't find one we liked that specialized in both the hike and safari that remained within our price point.
We booked the hike through Karibu Adventures. They are a a Tanzanian company which means all our money will go towards supporting the locals, which was important to us. They have high safety standards (clearly important), good reviews, over 10 years of experience, and were the right price. However, they did not seem as experienced for the safari and did not offer the type of mid level accommodations we were looking for - many safari companies offered either a really low budget public campground option or a super lux option, neither of which worked for us.
Ultimately, we booked a 5 day safari with Good Earth Tours. They consider themselves to be one of the most ethically-responsible tour operators in East Africa and expressly state the importance of animal welfare on their site, which is something that was really important to us for a safari tour operator. They also offered the mid level accommodations we were looking for and came personally recommended from a family member who did a safari with them a few years ago. Choosing to book with two different tour companies created a bit more logistics to sort out but ultimately worth it for us.
After our 18 hours onboard two airplanes we'll arrive in at the Kilimanjaro Airport and have one day in Moshi before starting our 7 day Kilimanjaro hike via the Lemosho route. After the hike we'll spend a much needed night in a hotel in Moshi (we'll be looking forward to a bed and showers by this point!). Then we'll head to Arusha, about an hour away. We'll have a day to recoup and then we start our 5 day safari. We'll head to Tarangire, the Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater. After summiting the world's tallest freestanding mountain (hopefully) and starring in awe at epic wild animals (most likely), we'll fly over to Zanzibar to check out Stone Town and enjoy a little R&R by the beach.
Put me on the plane.