Experienced mountain climbers know that porters are the heart and soul of a successful trek. Without their hard work and support, the ability to have a first-hand encounter with the magnificence that is Mount Kilimanjaro would be lost forever.
Unfortunately, this labor-intensive employment leaves many of these individuals impoverished. Porters that freelance or work for unlicensed companies are not well-paid, provided for during a climb, or given adequate clothing and footwear to protect them from the elements. Organizations like the Mount Kilimanjaro Porters Society (MKPS), supported by Zara Tours, are making a difference in the lives of the communities we serve.
Improving on a Solid Foundation
Porters that are provided through the MKPS come from our top-rated tour company. Tanzania officials have been working to make the standards upheld by the MKPS a universal guideline for all porter services. They have a lot of work ahead of them in order to put a stop to practices that have been going on unchecked for a significant amount of time. However, the partnership between Zara Tours and MKPS proves that it can be done successfully and offer ongoing benefits to both climbers and staff. In fact, this month we led the charge to improve the immediate conditions of porters on the mountain.
As a tour operator, we’ve gone to great lengths to provide our porters with the following:
• Fair wages
• Money management
• Medical care
The list also includes supplies like food and clothing that is appropriate for making the mountain trek. Like anything else, these supplies can wear out over time. Replacing the supplies properly is a process, but it is a process well-worth the time and expense when you consider the sustainability of these life-giving services.
An Investment that Pays for Itself
Realistically, a tour operator, Tanzania-based or otherwise, has to make investments in the well-being and livelihood of the staff that makes their business possible. At Zara Tours, we not only understand this, we do it independent of government support.
This January, we not only invested in new climbing equipment and supplies for our porter staff, we gave them a salary increase outside of what was proposed by the government. Our hope is that other tour outfits will follow this example as we begin to see the payoff.
That payoff not only supports our staff, it also makes their livelihood sustainable because tour companies have the power to preserve what makes Tanzania such a prized tourist destination.
Namely, the wondrous sights that you can see stretched and dispersed across the Serengeti. For example, this spring we will be hosting a cleanup effort to help preserve the beauty of Mount Kilimanjaro.
We hope to lead by example and show that stimulating a cycle of sustainability is possible. If you start by supporting the people of Tanzania, that action helps the economy grow, and that growth protects the natural beauty of the country. Action begets action, and it makes real, sustainable change possible.
Not to overstate the obvious, but trekking Kilimanjaro is a trip that takes several months to plan and prepare for. Travelers should expect to:
• Get required vaccinations
• Obtain or update travel documentation
• Select travel packages
• Pack appropriately
• Have a climbing route in mind
These are all good steps, but do you know what’s missing from this list? Answer: choosing your Kilimanjaro tour operators.
From 100 to 1: The Importance of the Company you Keep Tourists who come to Tanzania for the first time are entering an environment they are not familiar with. Many tour groups fail to realize just how many options there are for Kilimanjaro tour operators.
Realistically, there are hundreds of companies and independent climbers who will claim to be licensed operators. The danger is they may not be telling you the full truth. At Zara Tours, we believe in clear and honest communication with tourist groups, staff, and porters. This policy has made our company an industry leader in tourism for over 20 years.
Here’s what you need to know:
Thanks to independent organizations like the Mount Kilimanjaro Porter Society (MKPS), the conditions and welfare of the porters who trek the mountain routes has improved, but not every tour company is reputable or trustworthy.
Some guides are left to complete the climb with no compensation, inadequate personal supplies, and improper clothing. They can trek the mountain for days at a time relying on gifts and tips from climbing groups to make a living. It is not a pretty or safe picture for anyone involved. The best way to safeguard yourself and your guides from harm is to choose a tour company that complies with Guidelines for Proper Porter Treatment.
Fair and Equitable Treatment Every Climb, Every Time One of the frequently asked questions our company gets from prospective tourists is, “Why do you willingly include banking and payroll proof (of porters) on your corporate website?”
The MKPS was established in 2004 to ensure the fair and reputable treatment of Kilimanjaro tour operators. The goal is to have every porter that works for Zara Tours receive training, all necessary supplies, and a fair wage for the work they do.
In addition, the society gives each porter their own bank account and helps them learn money management skills. By changing the way these skilled, competent, and valuable workers support themselves, we continue to be a reforming element in the Tanzanian tour industry as a whole. The banking information you’ll see on the website is our show of credibility as a tour company.
When it comes to trekking the mountain itself, you’ll want Kilimanjaro tour operators that know the best routes to the summit and can match those routes to the skill of the climber.
There are six routes to choose from. The choice of route depends on:
• Experience level
• Weather conditions
• Size of the group
• Goal of the climb
• Safety and price
Whether you’re climbing alone or with a group, Zara Tours’ porters guarantee a memorable, safe, and unique experience.