Climb Kilimanjaro with Team Maasai

We are delighted that you have found the website of Team Maasai, a unique and revolutionary company that, (with the possible exception of unlicensed street catchers and dubious operations that own no specialist equipment and have questionable accounting practices), we believe achieves the very cheapest fully supported climbs available on Kilimanjaro, while offering a  transparent and confidence inspiring booking experience with experienced Kilimanjaro climb coordinators.

Until now, budget-conscious visitors to Tanzania who want to climb Kilimanjaro cheaply have been faced with a dichotomy. On the one hand they know in principle that such is the breadth of the market with some 350 different operators offering climbs, that it certainly ought in theory to be possible to climb cheaply, and yet when researching these possibilities on the Internet they end up stumped, with nothing concrete available that they may pre-book and which will guarantee a departure, and little of value more than the recommendations of some fringe traveller who one day achieved a very special negotiation in the low season, at a time when the company approached was desperate for any income being offered, and when park fees were probably substantially cheaper than they are today.

We hope that the launch of this website conclusively ends this era of uncertainty, and heralds the dawn of a system of climbing Kilimanjaro cheaply that may be booked with total confidence.

“Your prices look too good to be true. What’s the catch?”

Our operation is founded on traditional values of honesty and transparency and our attitude towards our reputation is long term: we are not interested in high-volume short-term first generation bookings. Rather, we want our clients to be happy with our service and to return to their homes with a love of our country and affection for the staff that have been instrumental in realising your dream. With such considerations in mind, we wish to state very frankly that there are indeed ‘catches’ and that the following are the principal reasons why we are so cheap.

Subsidised Operational Costs

Most operators have to add an operational overhead surcharge to pay office rent, to purchase and maintain vehicles, to pay office staff on full-time contracts, and regularly to renew their stock of expedition equipment. Team Maasai are free from these costs as they operate under the aegis of an a successful Arusha-based operator that enjoys a high volume of climbs and kindly allows the benefits of this situation to filter across to us.

Second Grade Equipment

We choose to state unequivocally that while our equipment was originally designed to be fit for purpose (and indeed is nowadays deployed by the most expensive operators in the Kilimanjaro climbing industry), it is very far from being new or attractive. Generally, our tents have seen several generations of maintenance and repair and while we aim to keep them reasonably resistant to aggressive incursions of rain water while on the mountain, we require our clients to understand that one of the implications of a budget climb infers making do with passed-down equipment. Of course it stands to reason that other budget operations that purport to compete with us on price and simultaneously claim to provide new tents of a good standard are likely either applying a broad-minded definition of quality, or else they benefit from sponsors who are kind enough to progressively degrade their own first rate gear, while not drawing any income from this consumption, which while not impossible, would be very surprising to us, knowing what we know of budget operations in Arusha and Moshi.

Frugal Food Purchasing

We spend less than half of what up-market operators spend on food. This is achieved by a careful stewardship of resources and relatively frugal ingredient choices. We believe that in around 19 out of 20 cases, the food that we purchase will suffice for the climb group. In the event, however, that a group eats an unusually high quantity of food, they may discuss anticipated shortfalls with their guide, and in exchange for payment of the staffing, provision and transport costs incurred, the guide may arrange a resupply from Arusha to be sent to the mountain. Our more experienced porters (who are paid bonus-value contracts for short, difficult work such as resupplies) are usually able to reach any point of the mountain within two days of a resupply request, as we aim to limit resupply loads to around 15 kg per porter – as opposed to the standard 25 kg – and these porters are already pre-acclimatised from a recent climb.

We are aware that the prospect of food quantities being insufficient is not very reassuring to clients. We therefore strongly encourage you to read our dedicated Kilimanjaro Food post on the subject, where we detail our standard food shopping list.

Junior Kilimanjaro Guides

Guides who work for up-market operations command relatively high salaries, salaries that our budget obviously cannot afford to pay. We therefore allocate relatively junior guides to lead our climbs. However, unlike with budget operations generally, these guides are not ruthless mercenaries with no company loyalty or regard for their porters and colleagues; they are instead drawn from the lower ranks of our sponsor operation with whom we have an open sharing arrangement. As far as the guide is concerned, this therefore means that he will only be allocated to work for our lower salaries when he is not required by our sponsor. This is a good deal for him, as motivated guides – who are of course paid on piece-work basis – naturally dread inactivity, and the uncertainty of not knowing how long they’ll have to sit in Arusha or Moshi waiting for their next appointment.

Small Profit Margins

Most operations are required to add a substantial margin of profit to their climbs, in order to motivate their owners to devote themselves to the business. In our case, we are not reliant on this income and are therefore able to apply extremely small margins that frankly, none of our competitors would be motivated to work for. In the spirit of total transparency, we have no qualms in detailing our operational costs, and inviting propsective climbers to consider for themselves whether our costs and profits are fair and reasonable. On the basis of a 6 day Machame climb, our costs are as follows:

  • Kilimanjaro Park Fees payable to the Tanzanian tourism ministry (via KINAPA): $748

These park fees include daily entrance fees, camping fees, KINAPA rescue insurance, and staff entry fees.

  • Vehicle transfers costs for equipment, staff and client, from Arusha to Machame Gate: $101
  • Vehicle transfers costs for equipment, staff and client, from Mweka Gate to Arusha: $103
Vehicles are subcontracted from local owners. While around a hundred dollars for a 160km round trip may at first glance seem uncompetitive, readers should understand that  these vehicles suffer significant wear and tear on Tanzanian roads carrying heavy loads. Where a vehicle owner is willing to accept less than these amounts, experience amply demonstrates that the reason such vehicles will be available is that they are unreliable and nobody else is willing to hire them.
  • Food for Client and Staff: $125
  • Guide’s pay after deductions: $52
  • Cook’s pay after deductions: $34
  • Porters’ pay after deductions: $157
Note that these salaries are as low as busy staff could really be motivated to work for. We strongly encourage clients to please consider tipping as generously as their consciences will allow. Naturally, if we paid higher salaries, we would be entirely unable to compete in the Kilimanjaro budget market. Please also reflect on the fact that generally, after receiving salary and tips, guides working with our sponsor will generally take home around USD 200 after a 7 day climb on Kilimanjaro, whereas porters will typically take home USD 60 after tips. Of course, Team Maasai staff do not expect as generous remuneration than when working with a more upmarket operation. We supply these comparisons only because our experience demonstrates that clients prefer to know these things.
  • Gas cylinder refill: $16
  • Equipment cleaning and maintenance costs: $6
  • Overhead share (Eastern European-based technical operatives): $6

Total costs to run this climb are therefore $1,348

Readers will notice that for 1 person to climb the 6 day Machame Route we charge just USD 1,500. Our profit on such a climb is therefore just USD 152 or twenty five dollars a day. We do not believe that there is any tourism company in Tanzania that is motivated to work for less profit on a 6 day climb.

Eastern European Administrators

Most operators that aim to achieve a professional degree of organisation and an international standard of communication are required to employ westerners, usually from UK, US, Australia, Canada or South Africa. These administrators usually have high living costs and mortgages, and therefore require high salaries. Conversely, for delivery of technical services that we use to automate aspects of the expedition preparation process and which reduce manpower and reduce the likelihood of human error, we use motivated, hard-working Eastern Europeans. Living for many years on the ‘wrong’ side of the Iron Curtain has taught our Eastern team to know how to economise and to achieve a lot with a little. House prices in Eastern Europe are not inflated by the custom of mortgages and double-incomes, and most of them own their own homes and grow their own fruits and vegetables, minimising unnecessary expenditure and achieving a competitive edge in the international skilled labour market.

“Are You Not Competing with Your Sponsor?”

We are an overtly ‘budget’ operation so frankly, we absolutely cannot claim to offer the expertise, provisions, support, equipment, professionalism, and corresponding degree of summit success that our sponsor is geared habitually to provide. Prospective clients should please confirm to us that they are fully aware of our status in this regard, when booking. This website therefore enjoys their unreserved blessing (as well as the technical assistance of some of their staff) and indeed achieves many of the aims to which is our sponsor is committed through their support of Nanapai.

“Can We Trust Team Maasai with Our Money!?”

We are aware that with excellent justification, this is a very valid question when booking with budget operations. This is because in their effort to compete and to secure a booking, many budget companies will essentially ad lib their cost calculations, and deal with the consequences of what they have agreed once they have won the booking! Well-read clients will know that often the unfortunate consequences are that the business owner has had to decide not to pay their staff for the climb and instead ensures them that his or her clients will tip very generously (which they often will when they discover that the unfortunates are not getting paid at all).  So, while the answer is of course, ‘yes’ – since aside from questions of the reputation and morality of our leadership – we have an efficient, competitive operation for which we are very grateful and which we would not be willing to risk under any circumstances or for any short-term reward; actually, the reality is that you don’t even have to trust us with your money! This is because our sponsor – who operates on the behalf of a number of very well known international agents, and which has access to low-fee and tax-efficient international banking, and physical and virtual credit card payment facilities – handles all invoicing and payments on our behalf through their partner IBC in Europe.

Indeed, all we require you to ‘risk’ upfront, in order to secure your booking with us is a USD 300 per person non-refundable booking deposit – payable online in advance, and if you have any qualms about handing over your final balance, you can pay this in cash in US Dollars on arrival.

Food on Kilimanjaro

Climbers may certainly be excused for any skepticism with regard to how we keep our costs so low, so with respect to food purchases, we wish to advise exactly how much we spend on food, and where this money goes. The following,...

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