The pandemic has decimated tourism across the world and Kilimanjaro has been no exception. But how can we avoid the over-crowded trails we saw pre-pandemic? By exploring the lesser-known ones, says Laura French, who took on the Rongai route shortly before COVID-19 struck.

“Forget everything you’ve heard about Kilimanjaro,” were the words of our guide, Makeke. “Go with no preconceptions.” 

It was September 2019, and I was sat in a hotel in Marangu, Tanzania, ready to start a six-day expedition the following morning—and I was feeling a tad anxious. 

Not just because of the -20 Celsius temperatures I’d been told to expect; nor because of the sleepless nights, or the high altitudes, or the strenuous inclines. 

But because I worried I was going to be just another dot on the 50,000-strong conveyor belt of people that, pre-Covid, had come flocking here every year.