As a company we place a lot of emphasis on the safety of our treks, and are not prepared to compromise on the safety of our clients in order to keep our prices in line with other operators who do not offer a product of a similar quality.
We have spent the last 5 years working with our Tanzanian local agent and our medics to bring our Kilimanjaro ascent profile as close to that recommended by the British Mountaineering Council as possible, without making the trip prohibitively expensive. We added an extra 2 days to the itinerary to allow more time for trekkers to acclimatise, and have found that this has greatly increased our summit success rate. We have also changed our staffing ratio from 1 ATD staff member for every 15 participants, to 1 ATD staff member for every 10 participants. We have also worked to become members of the IMEC Partnership for Responsible Travel by meeting the porter protection guidelines set by the Kilimanjaro Porter’s Assistance Project.
Across the Divide does not claim to be the cheapest operator of Kilimanjaro treks, but we do pride ourselves on being one of the safest operators on the mountain. If you are looking at other suppliers who offer a cheaper Kilimanjaro trek than we do. I would ask that you consider the following points before making a decision as to which operator to use:
- We take 7 days to summit which is 1 day more than our competitors. This makes us more expensive than those who offer a shorter itinerary; however the additional day allows participants more time to acclimatise and therefore dramatically increases their chances of summiting.
- We ascend the mountain using the Rongai Route on the north-eastern side of the mountain which, unlike some of the other routes, retains a true sense of wilderness. The Rongai Route benefits from fewer trekkers (usually one-tenth of those on the Marangu – or “Coca-Cola” - trail, which is the route that Classic Tours take) and is generally considered to be one of the easiest of the quality routes on the mountain. We believe that by taking 7 days to climb the mountain via the Rongai Route, we offer the best chance of summiting and are confident that this is the best choice for those looking for a quality Kilimanjaro experience with the least chance of difficulties.
- We have a ratio of 1 member of ATD staff per 10 participants. Any staff we send on Kilimanjaro treks have prior altitude experience. This helps to dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury or death due to altitude related illnesses. We also carry a fully-equipped high altitude medical kit inc. oxygen and a Gamov bag, which allows for the immediate treatment of life-threatening cerebral and pulmonary oedema, reducing the risk of death. I would clarify the situation with regards to other suppliers participant-to-staff ratio and their use of “volunteer doctors”.
- We have a 100% safety record on the mountain, even with some incidences of serious illness, including one participant who had a suspected heart attack at 5,600 metres. Our doctors have saved the lives of people trekking with other operators that did not have the same high level of support. We believe we offer the highest level of medical support should you fall ill on the trek.
- Our summit success rate for 2011 is 93%, with 97.5% of trekkers reaching Gilman’s Point (on the rim of the volcano). 2 of our trips this year have had a 100% summit success rate: the average for Kilimanjaro is just 42%. We believe that the quality of our staff and the time we have built into the itinerary for acclimatisation contribute to our high success rate.
- We care about porter protection and we ensure that local staff are paid a fair wage. We are proud to be a member of the International Mountain Explorers Connection’s Partnership for Responsible Travel Program which recognizes those tour operators committed to fair treatment of Kilimanjaro porters. I note that not all operators are not a member of the porter protection / responsible travel programme.
- We use a local agent with 30 years’ experience.
- Our groups fly into Kilimanjaro Airport, saving 7 hours of overland transfers. This means that participants have more chance to recover from their longhaul flight before starting the trek, leading to a better chance of summiting.
We strongly believe that budget is not necessarily best when it comes to climbing Kilimanjaro. Whilst we could reduce our costs by losing the acclimatisation days, reducing our staffing levels, using a local agent who does not meet porter protection guidelines, and so on, we will not compromise on the safety of our trekkers, and feel that we offer a quality, ethical trek at a reasonable cost.