It may come as a surprise to many to learn that the victims of scams on Kilimanjaro are not always the paid clients, and it always comes as an unpleasant shock for climbers to discover the willingness of the guides, who form the backbone of the Kilimanjaro mountain community, to turn on their porters and other guides for the sake of a few bucks.
Common advice given in the matter of tipping…
Never give the money directly to the lead guide of any climb to distribute to the support guides and porters, even though you will often come under relentless pressure to do this.
The reason for this is that invariably the money will remain in the possession of the guide, or if distributed at all, it will be distributed very unfairly. It is always better to either hand the money out yourself, or hand it to your tour operator at base to share out. Although, of course, in the case of some operators this might simply mean the money will find its way to neither the guides nor the porters, so watch out for that too!
Lastly beware of a finely tuned talent for playing on your sympathies to squeeze extra money out of your pocket. This can range form the usual pleas of poverty, suffering and mistreatment to actual tears. Give what you feel the job has been worth and no more.
At the very bottom of the heap on every climb is the lowly porter…
Porters are drawn from a pool of lowland workers who sign up for a trip or two to earn a few extra bucks. They are itinerant, usually not particularly mountain orientated, and often illiterate. They are limited by park regulations to a portage weight of less than 25 kilograms, or 55 lbs, but are often willing to carry much more for the opportunity to work.
Operators are always keen to save money by loading more than this on the heads and backs of their porters, despite park regulations. How this is done is to provide the correct legal number of porters at the gate, but then as soon as the porters are beyond the gate, doubling up on the loads of a few with the rest leaving the park by pathways known only to themselves.
Clients are rarely ever the wiser to this, and a few credulous and unfortunate porters end up with crippling loads to carry up to dangerous altitudes. To complete the deception the ‘disappeared’ porters will reappear a few hours before the end of the trip and reclaim their loads for the triumphant march out of the park.
The bottom line is take more control over the situation yourself…
These types of problems happen mainly at the bottom end of the market where trips are sold below cost and corners have to be cut.
A few things to avoid:
Never hand the tip money over to the lead guide to distribute
Get proactive in greeting and getting to know your porters
Don’t take the word of any one on your crew at face value
Don’t hand your kit over at the end of the trip to guides pleading poverty.
The Kilimanjaro guides are arguably some of the best supplied developing world mountain guides on the planet, and what will frequently happen is the boots or the fleece that gave you a warm fuzzy feeling to give away will not be given to the nearest needy porters, but sold to him, or someone else, which is probably not what you had in mind
East Africa is one of the most corrupt regions of the world. Tanzania is not as bad as Kenya is as an example, and inland it is not as bad as it is at the coast, but tourists are usually an easy mark, and if you want the game played fairly the best thing to do is to act as ref yourself.