How Many Days?
Everyone is going to ask this question, whether they are going on safari or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. On safari, there are two main considerations: 1) how many days you have, and 2) can you get to the places you want to explore in that many days? The main goal is to see what you want to see. With a Mt. Kilimanjaro climb, the goal is to summit. There are three considerations for Kilimanjaro expeditions: 1) how many days you have, 2) what do you want to see on the way to the summit, and 3) how many days do you need to acclimatize to the altitude? We will go through some of the considerations for each activity below.
Without considering how many days you actually have for safari, then the number of safari days depends on what you want to see. Driving distances really dictate the length of a safari, considering out and back driving times. The best safari itineraries stage their way through various parks and experiences along each daily route, to maximize the experience. Some parks have fly-in/fly-out options (but that adds significant costs). If time is limited (and funds available), fly-in/drive-out (FIDO), or drive-in/fly-out (DIFO) safaris can be arranged. Most safaris are drive-in/drive-out (DIDO). So, what do you want to see?
1 day available:
Arusha National Park is possible. A smaller game drive experience is only possible with one day.
2 days available:
Two of Tarangire, Lake Manyara, and Ngorongoro Crater are possible, but not all three. The one overnight allows some travel distance and time to get to one or two of these parks and do game drives there. A visit to a cultural experience might also be possible if visiting Lake Manyara, such as visiting the Maasai, Hadzabe bushmen, or the Datoga tribe, but a cultural visit will cut down on animal viewing.
3 days available:
All three of Tarangire, Lake Manyara, and Ngorongoro Crater are possible, giving a good amount of time for animal viewing. Cultural options could be worked in. It is possible to visit the Serengeti with three days, but two days of the three would be just driving, as it is a 9 hour drive to the Serengeti from Arusha. This is not recommended. A FIDO safari to the Serengeti can be arranged, but you pay for an extra day for the guide and van to get to the park on top of the flight costs.
4 days available:
Four days allows for a combination of Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti. Cultural options can be substituted in for one or more game drives in one of the parks, but the backbone of four or more days is visiting the Serengeti.
5 days available:
Five days really opens up more options for visiting parks and seeing more of the Serengeti. Serengeti National Park is huge, and the animal migration covers the entire park. Being able to cover more ground in the park increases the chances of seeing some of the more rarely seen animals, such as the leopard. The rhinoceros is viewable in Ngorongoro Crater only. If your goal is the big five, you simply need more time to increase your chances.
6 or more days available:
Six or more days is highly recommended. If you want to visit the Serengeti, look for the big five animals, which means Ngorongoro Crater, and experience some of the cultural and historical diversity of Tanzania, then you need six or more days. Six or seven days really gives a full and rich experience of Tanzania, but going beyond about nine days starts to also be overwhelming, unless the safari is broken down into mini-safaris with a rest day or two between game drives and cultural experiences. GO-GO-GO isn’t always BEST-BEST-BEST. For longer trips and safaris, plan in “catch-up-with-myself” days to make the trip more enjoyable and memorable.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro takes between five and nine days. Although Mount Kilimanjaro’s terrain is not technical, in other words, it is not a climbing mountain, but a hiking mountain, all the way to the summit. But the risks are real, and they mostly come from the altitude. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park‘s own 2006 statistics show that the summit rate is not great:
All routes 45%
5 day routes 27%
6 day routes 44%
7 days routes 64%
8 day routes 85%
9 day routes (no data)
The longer you spend at the higher altitudes, the greater your chances of summitting. Each route has a minimum number of days just to walk through, but we also give a recommended number of days for each route. We encourage our clients to take seven or more days to increase their acclimatization, and have an optional Mt. Meru climb to 4,600 metres to begin the acclimatization process before even going near Mt. Kilimanjaro.
You can see from the statistics that taking more than seven days dramatically increases the chance of summitting. No company can guarantee a summit, and companies claiming over 85% summit rates should be looked at with some doubt. If you are seriously looking to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, you should only be considering companies that are recommending longer routes that help you acclimatize and those companies that clearly take care of their guides, cooks and porters. If a company is not willing to look after its own people, it will probably not really look after you properly. Your safety and the safety of everyone on the mountain should be the highest concern of everyone in the company you choose. Our guides sometimes have to make the uncomfortable decision to take someone off the mountain as soon as possible. This is hard for a guide knowing that thousands of dollars have been paid to reach the top. Our guides know we back them up in their decisions for being safe.
We pre-screen our climbers and suggest ways to help them meet the challenges of Mt. Kilimanjaro. That still does not mean we have anywhere near a 100% summit rate. We will not mislead you with false claims. Each individual reacts differently at altitude, and can react differently at different times.
All this being said, we recommend 8 or 9 days for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.