Beyond my Expectations - 7 Day Summit via Rongai (Advantage Series)
TK Contact: Bianca
Main Guide: Leo
Assistant Guides: Guido, Benny, Peter, Oscar (plus others who were there temporarily for certain parts of the climb)
Our representative (Bianca) and everyone that was part of the TK hiking team displayed an excellent degree of professionalism. Bianca was very informative in her e-mails and answered all of our questions; each e-mail was also addressed properly and written without overstepping the boundaries of professionalism. Leo and his team were very organized and efficient and handled any problems or issues encountered with ease (e.g. when someone was sick or had to slow down or go at a different pace). They were also very patient when we selfishly wanted to pause and take pictures.
Bianca was very courteous in her e-mails always replying with "Many thanks" and ending with "Best wishes" and in a timely manner. Leo and his team were all very polite and well-mannered, even at times where you might think it might be enough to make a person sigh or slightly annoyed they stayed very calm and addressed issues politely.
Value for Money:
Excluding tips and thinking of just the raw cost of the trip - I felt the value for the trip was just as much as I would have expected for the package we took (advantage series). The tipping value (about 10-15% of package cost, which is not mandatory) was definitely worth paying for as TK did a great job and deserved it.
Aside from a change in our hotel which was never mentioned (final payment e-mail listed a different hotel compared to the initial itinerary), communication was quite clear between our rep and there were no major issues. There were no issues when communicating with the hiking team, Leo and his guides were very fluent with their English and we were able to understand each other easily.
Attention to Detail:
Bianca showed attention to details by answering only what we asked without giving unnecessary details. She also included all of the minor details in the itinerary, which saved time by having us not to e-mail her more questions about our trip.
Leo and his team showed attention to detail by noticing when someone was tired or ill. They also paid attention to dangerous, wet or slippery parts of the trail and gave us a fair warning. They periodically made sure everyone was going at the same pace or was present - if someone was slowing down they would call for a short break or have a guide stick with them so they can keep going at their own pace. They even noticed when I had forgot to close one of the smaller pockets on my day-pack.
Bianca was very efficient with her e-mails by keeping them short, informative and easy to read. Leo and his team was very efficient by having the porters have the camp set up and ready by the time we reached each camp. We would leave the camp to hike without having to worry about packing our tent up (only our personal belongings), the porters would then pack up everything and move ahead of us during our hike and have everything setup and ready by the time we reached the next camp. We would always reach camp with warm beverages ready for us.
Bianca was very helpful by addressing all of our questions and requests, there was nothing that went ignored. Leo and his team were very helpful at all times: they spotted us through difficult parts of the hike/climb, carried our packs if needed, warned us of any dangerous or slippery parts of the hike/climb, had medication ready if people fell ill, and offered a helping hand if someone was tired or sick (by helping them out by supporting them or even offering an alternative way down if applicable at certain points of the hike)
Leo as a guide leader was also very helpful by being able to gauge our progress easily and providing us with suggestions or alternative choices during our hike. He was also very good at keeping our morale up by encouraging us during our hike/climb.
Bianca and David were very flexible with any changes or even sudden changes that occurred during our trip. I had requested a time change to be picked up at a certain time on the day I was leaving and they were able to respond within a timely manner to meet the request.
Leo and his team showed flexibility by being able to split guides when there was a split in our pace while hiking at certain points (e.g. when climbing the summit and when going down or if someone had to go slower due to sickness or fatigue). They also showed flexibility by allowing us to choose between two alternative ways to acclimatize and summit based on how we were doing (we chose pick a higher altitude route on day 4, which allowed us a full day worth of rest at base camp and summit later in the morning as opposed to having to wake up at midnight). They were also flexible in changing pace when we needed it or allowing us to take a break whenever it was needed.
In terms of physical quality, the equipment provided (tents, cutlery, chairs, etc) was more than adequate and well maintained. The sleeping bags we rented from TK were also well maintained and adequate for the climb.
The quality of food was exceptionally good for something served in a camp: this included soups, pasta, pancakes, fruit, beef steak burritos, vegetable casserole, vegetable stew and rice, fish and chips, Tuna sandwiches, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, popcorn, Spanish omelettes and more. A special thanks to Anaeli who was our chef. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate was served at every meal as well.
The quality of the staff and services were excellent as well (see Empathy and 'The Extra Mile')
The TK staff showed great empathy by being helpful, professional, by going far and beyond what one would expect. Never did I feel that the TK staff worked hard only for the tips, and instead they worked really hard that I felt they definitely deserved their tips.
Accessibility of services: The TK website was quite easy to navigate and very informative to answer most of the common questions one might have about planning.
The Extra Mile:
Guido literally ran an extra mile at 3600m altitude for me when I had realized a light jacket I had kept in a side slot of my day pack had gone missing (luckily I noticed early). Just as I was ready to go jog back towards camp, he told me to "wait" and ran back towards the camp himself. He later emerged from the direction of the camp a few minutes later with my jacket in hand. This was only one such example where the members of Team Kilimanjaro go far and beyond their professional duties to provide the best quality of service and really distinguish themselves from just another guide company. I have seen them help carry people up and down, or chase after hats that have gone flying due to a gust of wind, or bring out a can of Red Bull when you've reached Gilman's point so you can muster the energy to a final push towards Uhuru Peak.
Therefore I conclude this review by saying I do not have any regrets or seconds thoughts of picking Team Kilimanjaro as the guide for my trip. They were far more than what I was expecting from a guide and I would definitely recommend them to others.
Keep up the good work TK!
Corroboration of Service Usage
February 13, 2017
Value for Money: 9
Attention to Detail: 10
The Extra Mile: 10