Beautiful day at Wareham, Dorset, England.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Keinton Mandeville, Somerset, England.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Birmingham, England on May 19th!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Mt. Meru Hike... the animals

The last day of our 4 day 3 night hike up Mt. Meru was really great. Our park ranger Dominic agreed to take us on a route that went through an area where we would see a waterfall and a high chance of seeing some of the animals that call Arusha National Park home.

We were woken up at 6:30am at Mariakamba Hut. Had a good sleep and felt much better! Ready for the 6.8 km (4.2 mile) hike down to the entrance gate with a short detour to a waterfall along the way.

We had some breakfast and then had the "tipping ceremony" with the crew. 

Tipping is a bit of a sore point with us. We're not big tippers to begin with, much preferring the Australian or South Korean practice of having the employer actually pay enough money to their employees that customers don't need to tip. Without getting into a whole discussion about tipping, it is standard practice here in the Tanzania for foreigners to tip their crew.

But how much to tip? This is the big problem. The guidelines put out by some of the tour companies and the government would have you virtually doubling their salary. We were told that porter salaries are standardized at 20,000 shillings ($11 CAD, $8.75 USD) per day, and that not many companies pay more or less than that, despite the Kilimanjaro Porters Association saying differently. Keep in mind that the local economy is MUCH different than the tourist economy. For example, the locals can hire a full time maid for 10,000 shillings per day, and while the porters are essential to hiking in the area, most of it is simply physical labor. 

We spoke to our guide Mudy about it (who is also part of the tipping procedure) and he explained it quite well. Essentially, some people leave nothing. They feel they have paid enough for what is an expensive trip even by Western standards. Some people leave a lot. He said to tip from your heart, and anything is appreciated.

We ended up giving 410,000 shillings ($226 CAD, $177 USD) spread among the group. We gave the most to our guide Mudy, and the least to the three porters who were assigned to our group. Each group is allowed to bring their own chosen porters, but some have to be assigned at the gate. We're not exactly sure how all of that works, and it may be different between Meru and Kili.

Our guide Mudy in blue, with our waiter and porter Robert in the pink pants, our cook Bazili with the white hat and our other porter and generally all round helpful guy Shabiru in the red hat. The other three were Kanaal, Ibrahim, and Santael who were assigned at the gate.

Us, with the crew!

We set off hiking at 8:30am. It was another beautiful day. In fact, we found out just how lucky we were  with regards to the weather doing the Mt. Meru summit. We were speaking with the leader of that international group and he has climbed Meru 7 times. He said that the day we did it was the best weather he has ever seen up there! Some people climb up there in the fog and clouds and can't see anything from the top!

Heading downhill.

With a view of Kilimanjaro in front of us.

Looking back at Meru.

We stopped in at the Tululusia waterfall.

Mudy, taking a photo.

Kevin, Ruth, and Mudy.

From the waterfall, it wasn't long before we arrived in a big field. Off in the distance we could see some buffalo. We started wandering closer, and we saw a giraffe. It was pretty far away as well, but it looked like it was headed our way!

So cool to be out for a hike and come across a giraffe!

Ruth, with the giraffe in the background.

Another giraffe, hiding behind the buffalo.

The buffalo are big strong creatures and they can be very dangerous.
They are the main reason to be hiking with an armed ranger.

You don't often see a giraffe sitting down.

Out of the bush this warthog family came really close to us.

Warthog babies.

Us, with Meru in the background.

While we were watching the buffalo and warthogs, the first giraffe kept coming closer and closer to us. Dominic was telling us he was welcoming us to the park.

Dominic and our friendly giraffe.

I don't think he was that friendly, he just wanted some food!

Dominic, Ruth, and Jerome.
Do you remember Jerome the Giraffe?

James and Spencer were posing for a photo with Meru in the background when the giraffe decided to move into the photo...

What a great shot of Jerome, with James and Spencer!

We made it back to the entrance gate where we said goodbye and thanks to our ranger Dominic and between us and James and Spencer we presented him with a 60,000 shilling ($33 CAD, $26 USD) tip. He was really good at pointing out things along the way. Yes, he has a full time salary from the park, but they volunteer for the job of hiking with the tourists.

We were sitting at a picnic table waiting for our box lunch when a baboon started heading our way. We were all watching him, and he kept coming. Faster, and faster towards us. Baboons can be dangerous, and certainly annoying. This guy was moving fast and close, and ended up right on the corner of our picnic table! They expect food to be on the table, which they would grab really fast and run away. But there was no food yet! I was yelling at him, and he looked at us for a split second, and turned and ran as some of the rangers came to scare him away. It all happened so fast, and of course I couldn't get a photo.

Some baboons on the drive out of the park.

Well, we did it. It was expensive and tiring, but we're glad we did. 

We will rest up for a few days, but our guide Mudy thinks we are ready for our 7 day Kilimanjaro hike starting Tuesday morning!

Good deal on this Oversize Zero Gravity Chair. Maximum 6'2" and 350 lbs. The Brown option is also on sale, not quite as good of a deal.

And in Canada...


  1. Oh yeah, Jerome the Giraffe(lol)! I bet James and Spencer will be framing that shot of them. I just happened to have watched a repeat episode of The Nature of Things about giraffes a few days ago. Their numbers have dropped by 40% in recent years mainly because of habitat loss, poaching, disease and civil unrest. I even read that in Tanzania, some people think that eating giraffe could be a cure for HIV.

    1. We sent them the photo, so yeah I really hope that they do blow it up and frame it, it is a fantastic picture of them, the giraffe and Mt. Meru.

      We haven't heard mention of the Tanzanians eating giraffe meat but that may be possible. I was actually reading yesterday that Arusha National Park is home to the world's largest population of giraffes, not sure if that is true or not but we certainly did see giraffes! I know that the national parks and preserves do their utmost to protect the wildlife from poachers.

  2. Such an adventure! Love following you guys on yours! Thanks for bring us along.

    1. It certainly has been an adventure so far.

      Thank you for following along with us, we know that we still have a lot more interesting experiences coming up that you will be able to read about. :-)

  3. An all round wonderful experience that everyone would appreciate doing.
    Unfortunately if you don't Tip you are left to fend for yourselves.
    Not often someone gets Photobombed by a Giraffe.
    Great Photos.
    Be Safe and Enjoy your rest.

    It's about time.

    1. Even though our summit day was a really tough day we had an amazing time and it will certainly be a hike that we will never forget.

      I don't get your comment "If you don't tip you are left to fend for yourselves"?

      Nope not everyone can say they were photo bombed by a giraffe, lol!

  4. Awesome hike. I agree with you about tipping but I also think it might keep the price of food down. The restaurant owner could charge a higher price for food/labor to pay their employees and not require a tip. In the end, we decide how much we want to pay for service and not be charged a set least it's what I think.

    1. It was a great hike!

      We would rather pay up front by paying more for our food/service then having to worry about tipping! Employees should just be paid a decent wage and tipping should be thrown out the window, just our opinion.

  5. Congratulations on doing that awesome hike. Loved the shadow you captured of Mt Meru. We too feel the pain of tipping and were caught in a difficult situation when climbing Kilimanjaro as we ended up being just 1 couple with about 8 staff - not our plan.

    1. Thank you very much! Yep, that is a pretty neat picture of the Mt. Meru's shadow.

      We are going to be in the same situation as you were, we are only a party of two and I think we will have a crew of 10 when we climb Kilimanjaro. Definitely didn't expect to have to pay so much extra in tips. We will just have to chalk it up to the priceless experience.

  6. Again, incredible pictures from up above. I'm glad it all worked out and I think you got more than your money's worth.

    1. Thank you Chris!

      We are glad that it all worked out for us too and we can only hope that we can do as well on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

  7. Thank you for posting all the great pictures. Such a great adventure. On to Kilimanjaro. Rest up.

    1. You are welcome, it was our pleasure and we are glad that you have enjoyed the pictures and the blog posts. :-)

      We have definitely been resting up.

  8. OH!!!! Thank you SO much for this posting, it was an experience just following along!!! So many beautiful sights, What a wonderful memory and quite the accomplishment!

    1. You are welcome, we are so glad that you have enjoyed our pictures and blog posts from this fantastic hike.

      It is definitely a hike that we will never forget. Now we have to psych ourselves up for our hike on Kilimanjaro starting on Tuesday.

  9. Guides like Mudy surely know their stuff. They push you to stay on a schedule they know is needed, encouraging you when you think there's no more 'gas in the tank'.
    I was exhausted just reading day three. Thank you for bringing us along--and those pictures!
    When are you going to write a book about your amazing life?

    1. Yes, the guides definitely know their stuff and they watch you carefully to make sure you aren't going to overextend yourself to the point that you could cause yourself harm. They monitor your blood oxygen level to make sure it isn't too low, if it is then they will take you down the mountain right away. They are also very encouraging but they also don't try rushing you along, slow and easy in the motto.

      We don't need to write a book, it is all written down in our blog, it is just one big, continuous story with lots of chapters, lol. :-)

  10. I just can't imagine the thrill of encountering a giraffe on a hike. WOW! We feel the same as you about tipping. We never know how much is appropriate, and it's always an awkward thing. When I visited Japan for business way back in 2000, I was delighted by the fact that no one is expected to tip; it's just not part of their culture. Really took the pressure off! I would just rather pay the entire amount up front and be done with it.

    1. It was amazing to see that giraffe so close, as well as the warthogs and the buffalo.

      We totally agree with you, we would rather just pay the entire amount in the restaurant prices or the services delivered then to have to wrestle over the amount of tip to give and then look cheap if you don't tip enough. At least when the price is built right in then everyone pays the same and you know up front how much something is and if you can afford it. Employers just need to pay their employees a decent wage to start with.

  11. Replies
    1. Thank you, we are glad that you enjoyed our posts! :-)


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