Emergency evacuation off Kilimanjaro

You have trained for months to Climb Kilimanjaro. You have gathered all of your gear. You have flight tickets, all services booked, passport in hand and ready to fly. But have you bought Travel Insurance?

Yes it is not just a buzz word that agents use to try to get you to part with your well earned pennies. It is sometimes the difference between life and death. No matter how fit and healthy you are, things can go wrong and a mountain is not the place to have that happen.

The cost of a medical evacuation from the mountain is expensive, which is why adequate travel insurance is required on all climbs booked through us. Adequate, means you must be covered for

1) Trekking or hiking – this may sound strange, but many insurance list that as an exclusion.

2) Altitude up to 6,000 meters. Most travel insurance providers do not include this under their standard cover and often limit it to 3500m or less.

3) Sprains strains and physiotherapy – yes, many insurers exclude this; though ironically, this is what you will most likely need cover for.

4) Personal accident – this is the horrible part of insurance. Yes, you need to be covered in the case of death. We are often told by clients – “if anything happens to me, just leave me there.” It is not that simple. Bodies need to be brought home or laid to rest overseas, and this can run into thousands of dollars, creating a huge burden on family members.

So what evacuation services are there on Kilimanjaro?

As part of your Kilimanjaro Park Fee, emergency evacuation services are included. This means that you will be carried down to the base of the mountain as quickly as possible, on a mountain stretcher.  In many cases, a foot evacuation is quicker than waiting for insurance cover to arrange the logistics for a helicopter.

Then, thanks to the new Search and Rescue (SAR) service in Moshi, there is now an emergency helicopter evacuation service available. There are helicopter evacuation points on all of the major routes at specific locations, namely Horombo, Barranco, Barafu, Kosovo, Stella, Millennium and Shira. All points are within less than five hours from the crater by stretcher and SAR emergency medical service can be deployed within 5 minutes from Kilimanjaro or Meru, regardless of the season.

Of course, nothing is free and deployment of this service is contingent on you already have an insurance covers for evacuations to 6,000 meters above sea level.

In addition, Shira and Horombo are also accessible by rescue vehicle.

Another option to consider is AMREF Flying Doctor via Intensive Care Air Ambulance but as with all policies, ensure that you read the fine print on what exclusions there are.

Remember too that very few insurers will cover you for pre-existing conditions,

Of course, the need for good cover applies to all hikes and treks worldwide, so, in additional boots and gear, don’t leave home without it!


by Debra Bouwer


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