Here is an unfortunate scam that happens to some people on Mount Kilimanjaro. We like to call it the “phantom porter.”
“I climbed solo with one guide and three porters. At the Machame Gate on the first day, amidst all the excitement and pre-climb preparation, an “extra” porter briefly was introduced to me. I did not see him again the rest of the climb, though I began to suspect something was up when I asked to take a picture of my guide and porters on the 4th day and my guide “reminded” me that the “other porter” wasn’t around, since he was SUPPOSEDLY moving gear and food between sites while we slept. Uh huh. I picked up on the scam and every time I asked to “get his picture” he was nowhere to be found. Then on the morning of day seven at Mweka camp when it was time to distribute tips, some guy who I have never seen appears and expects to be tipped with the rest of the crew who had worked so hard during the past week. Wise to the scam, I gave my guide ALL the tip money in front of the porters, which was a good tip for himself and the three porters I actually had, and told him to divvy it up the best he saw fit. He initially protested before agreeing.”
“While everything else about my experience was great, this encounter was very awkward and left a very bad taste in my mouth. I also met a group of other climbers after the climb who had a similar experience of “extra porters” suddenly appearing come tip time. Please make a posting about this on your site so that others are not caught unaware!”
While this aforementioned story is true, there are times when porters are working without having many interactions with the clients, transferring gear from one camp to another camp. The trick is, talk to the company where you are booking before your trip, find out the total number of porters, and make sure they are with you during the trip. Don’t pay extra tips if you don’t feel like they are warranted. Tips are to be earned but expected.