Thousands of travelers come to Tanzania each year looking to join a group on safari or a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. These travelers – usually backpackers – are looking to save some money and join a fun group for their adventures. The theory is, the more people you have on a climb or on safari, the lower the price. In fact, it’s almost too expensive to go on safari alone (Kilimanjaro can be managed), as the cost could start at about $200 per day for a very, very budget trip – that’s if you are lucky and anyone is willing to take you.
The problem with arriving on your own, and looking for a group, is quite frankly it’s very difficult to find other single people looking to form a group. First off all, there isn’t one centralized place to find other travelers looking to join a group. Distances to other cities, and tourists areas are somewhat far, and there isn’t hoards of people walking the streets with your same situations. You need a lot of time and energy if you plan to arrive and find a group to join. You can’t expect to show up one day, find a group in just a day or two, and be on the mountain or on safari a few days later. It just doesn’t happen that much, unless you get lucky. A good portion of the travelers that come to Tanzania are with planned organized groups and, after one day in the city, they head straight up to the mountain. After their climb up Kilimanjaro, the next day they leave on safari.
Of course, you can walk around the city and villages and look for people, but it’s very, very difficult to just find a group and see if they would let you join their climb or safari. Most groups have different number of days planned for their climb, or might be going on a luxury safari tour, so matching budgets and personalities can be difficult. Many people have found groups in the past, but then realized that the next eight days difficult days climbing the mountain, they would be subject to the personalities of that group. You might be climbing the mountain with a church group, or a bunch of uptight German, or you might get lucky and join the Swedish bikini team. The point is, if you do find a group, spend some time with them if possible, and see if you actually could climb the mountain with them. Stress, cold weather, and altitude doesn’t always bring out the best of people and you really need to be connected with the people you climb.
If you absolutely need to join a group when you arrive, below are some strategies for making it happen. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done, you just need plenty of patience, persistence and time to make it happen.
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WAYS TO FIND OTHERS FOR YOUR ADVENTURE
1. Post fliers at backpacker hostels and hotels around town. This could be quite daunting as there are hundreds of hotels and few tourists, but if you ask around to find the most popular ones, this would be the best place to post your info. Don’t forget to leave an email address, as that would be the only way to find you.
2. Tell all the flycatchers on the streets that you are looking to join a group. Tell them where you are staying and to only contact you if they find another group. No exceptions. These guys can be somewhat annoying, persisitent, and a little bit sketchy, but they hang out on the streets all day, and generally know what other companies have tourists. They won’t lead your trip so you don’t have to worry, but will get a small commission for putting you with another group.
3. Stop by all the safari and climbing companies, which there are hundreds, and tell them you are looking to join a group. Don’t waste your time getting quotes for trips, just tell them if they have a group, or find a group, you would like to join – and give them your contact info and tell them where you are staying. The tourism community in these areas are quite connected, and love to gossip, and generally everybody’s brother owns a company. So that guys brother, contacts his other brother, who has a friend, who knows somebody that has a group. Some way or another, they will find you if you are persistent and talk to everybody.
4. One recommendation for joining a climb on Mt. Kilimanjaro is this – don’t join a group, just take a popular route, like Machame or Marangu, and each night you will meet other people climbing the mountain too. In the busy season, there are many people in the camps and you can go around to the different groups, talk, and see if there is anyone you can walk with on the trail.