If you’re planning to climb Kilimanjaro, one of the aspects of the trip you’ll no doubt be looking forward to the most is enjoying the amazing natural scenery and trekking in a wilderness environment.
However, as the popularity of the Kilimanjaro hike has increased significantly in recent years, it’s important to do all you can to make your holiday as environmentally-friendly as possible. Here are a few tips to help you on your way.
1. Choose your route carefully
You can give yourself the best chance of experiencing uncrowded trails and the wilderness on the mountain’s slopes by selecting one of the less-travelled paths to the summit. A Kilimanjaro trek on the Shira or Rongai routes will see you follow tracks that are not often frequented by other travellers and give you the opportunity to truly appreciate the natural environment.
There are six routes to the summit, though, of which two (the Marangu and Machame) are generally busier than the others.
2. Take your rubbish with you
You should always remember that Kilimanjaro and the surrounding National Park is a remote environment and, as such, you need to make sure that all you leave behind you on the slopes is footprints. Take all your rubbish down the mountain with you and make sure you have booked your tour through an operator that has a policy about rubbish collection and removal.
With more and more people climbing to the summit every year, it’s vital that those who hike on the mountain take care of it to ensure it is not damaged too much by traffic. On the same theme, make sure you pack reusable water bottles, rather than disposable ones, that you can use for the duration of your trek.
3. Don’t wash in streams or rivers
It might be tempting to have a wash in a stream or river that you come across as you’re walking, but doing so will mean that any soap or cleaning products you use will flow straight into the local water system.
Although you may think it won’t matter if just one or two people do this, consider what will happen if all the thousands of walkers who hike up Kilimanjaro each year do the same thing. Responsible travel operators will have a system in place that will allow you to wash using water in bowls, rather than contaminating the mountain’s streams.
Packing eco-friendly soaps and washing products is another good way to minimise any impact you have on the environment while you’re hiking.
4. Consider carbon-offsetting programmes
Flying can be very environmentally damaging, so you may want to look into ways to offset your carbon emissions from your journey to Tanzania. There are multiple schemes available that offer you the chance to contribute to an eco-friendly project to make up for the fact that you’ll be travelling by plane to reach the starting point of your hiking trip.
5. Pick a responsible tour operator
Before you decide which company you’d like to climb Kilimanjaro with, do a little research into their policies and ask questions to make sure they are one of the operators that treats the mountain with respect and promotes eco-friendly hiking.
If possible, choose a firm that employs local guides, as this helps the communities around Kilimanjaro and gives them a sustainable income, which means they need to rely less on exploiting natural resources around the mountain. By the same token, many travel organisations will also use local porters, again giving jobs to people from the region.
However, it is good to ensure your porters are taken care of well and that they are not overloaded with bags and equipment. You can help with this by packing as light as possible for your climb and leaving anything you don’t need behind in Moshi.
If you’ve climbed Kilimanjaro and have some tips about how to make your trek eco-friendly, let us know.