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Food and Water


Tap water is generally regarded as questionable to drink in East Africa. If you ask whether the water has been chlorinated, as some guidebooks suggest, you will either get an emphatic yes, regardless of whether it has been chlorinated or not, or no answer at all, as many local people are not sure what chlorination is. These days, most travelers, including climbers, rely on bottled mineral water, which is readily available throughout the region.

High on Kilimanjaro the water is extremely clean, except for those few places where it has been contaminated by human waste. The lower you are, elevation-wise, and the closer you are to campsites and popular trekking routes, the more likely it is not. Wherever you are, it’s a good idea to boil or treat your water at all times.

Water is readily available at most camps and huts. At worst, such as Barafu Huts on Kilimanjaro, it’s a half hour’s easy hiking away.


Food prepared on the mountains of East Africa by the porters and guides is like the food in the cities, towns, and villages: good, but it takes some getting used to.

It’s amazing to watch the local porters and guides lug pots, cans, and bottles up East African mountains, then prepare meals in the most basic way. Often, the food is set out on a picnic blanket, and it is always served with tea, a throwback to the colonial days.

Mountain meals are a mixture of traditional and western food. Examples include:

Breakfast - 'Bed tea' (with a smile), chapatti, oat porridge, sausages, scrambled eggs, french toast with honey, toasted bacon and cheese sandwich, fresh fruits or fruit filled pancakes.

Appetizers - vegetable soup (e.g. leek and potatoes, pumpkin, carrot and lentil with coriander), spicy chicken soup, or fresh salad vegetables with mayonnaise

Main Course may be one of the following - Fried tilapia fish fillet with French fries and salad vegetables, beef goulash, spicy fried chicken with vegetable sauce and rice, pasta with mixed vegetables in a rich tomato sauce, Tanzanian banana stew  (Ndizi), beef and rice (Nyama na wali)

Desert may be - Fresh fruits, fried bananas with chocolate sauce, Tanzanian pancake with honey and yogurt.
Hot drinks with each meal include (tea, coffee, milo, chocolate).

Lunch boxes may contain - samosa, sandwich, fresh fruit, boiled egg, chopped salad vegetables (carrot, tomato, pepper), cashew nuts, chocolate bar, cake and fruit juice. A hot drink will be prepared at the stopping place. Energy snacks may be provided for the summit e.g. chocolate, nuts, popcorn or biscuits.

With most outfitters, you can request to bring your own food, or a special kind of diet. The servings are huge, and it’s all cooked to death, so there is little threat of contamination. If you do decide to bring your own special food on the mountain, bring it from home. There is no such thing as “backpacking” food or anything like it in East Africa.