The question: Our family wants to climb Kilimanjaro together - two adults, two boys, ages 12 and 10. We know this is not an easy trip, but is there a tour group that caters to families and what age restrictions are there for climbing in the park?
Wow. I can barely rally my brood to the park and back, and you four are contemplating Africa's highest mountain. This will be a holiday to remember.
It will have to wait, however, until the boys blow out a couple more candles, as the Kilimanjaro National Parks Authority ( tanzaniaparks.com) says hikers must be at least 12 to summit the mountain. Children are permitted on day trips that don't ascend too far up the trail, says Benjamin Stasiuk, Africa destination manager for Gap Adventures. But why go all the way to Tanzania and not scramble to the snow-capped top?
Gap offers five guided Kilimanjaro routes and Stasiuk suggests for your family the nine-day Machame route ( gapadventures.com, $2,219 a person), which passes through lush forest and moorland to alpine desert. "It allows for more acclimatization time and provides opportunities to witness stunning scenery."
He says you may want to wait until your youngest is 16, as the mental and physical challenges of high-altitude climbing could be tough for younger teens. "It will likely be special for a child, but I think this type of experience may be more satisfying for adults on an emotional level. However, there are exceptions, of course, and I'm sure many children could succeed, enjoy and benefit from the hike."
Whenever you go, be prepared for lasting memories. Stasiuk climbed Kilimanjaro with a close friend he hadn't seen in a long time, and says it provided an incredible feeling of accomplishment. "It also allowed us to bond and reconnect, all while escaping the distractions and chaos of daily life." Sounds like a good balm for the teen years.
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