Kilimanjaro Helicopter Rescue

In the rare case when a climber gets ill or seriously injured on Mount Kilimanjaro, a helicopter evacuation may be required. With a mission of “making Kilimanjaro the safest tourist destination in Africa”, there are several search and rescue companies to evacuate climbers to safety. Providing emergency evacuation from any feasible landing area, their high-altitude helicopters and fully-trained medical personnel are able to respond in a timely manner.

In the past, helicopter evacuations were rare on Kilimanjaro as there was no local operator and units would be deployed from major centers such as Nairobi, making for long delays. From their base in Moshi, search and rescue companies can have a chopper on the mountain. Of note, in the event of adverse mountain weather, a helicopter may not be able to land, and if this is the case, a manual evacuation will need to take place via a stretcher provided by the National Park.

We put your safety as our number one priority, read more about Kilimanjaro altitude sickness in our in-depth guide.

Kilimanjaro Travel and Rescue Insurance

The cost of medical evacuation from the mountain is expensive, which is why the right travel insurance is mandatory for all climbers. When purchasing your insurance, be sure that the policy covers emergency evacuation up to 6,000 meters above sea level and any associated medical treatment.

When you book your climb, we register a copy of your insurance details and passport copy with Kilimanjaro SAR, and they liaise with the insurance company on your behalf. We recommend that you read the fine print of your insurance carefully, to establish whether the policy covers you on a reimbursement basis and whether there is any pre-approval required.

In an emergency situation, you don’t want to waste valuable time getting approval from your insurance company.

Can a helicopter land on Mt. Kilimanjaro?

As this is a relatively new (established 2016, operational 2018) service, and not all areas of the mountain are conducive to helicopter landings, climbers may need to hike, or in the case where someone can’t walk, stretchered to a landing area pick up. At the time of writing, the highest Kilimanjaro Helicopter Landing Point area is at Kosovo Hut, 4900 meters.

Most rescues are conducted from Horombo or Barranco Huts, ambulance rescue by road is available from the Shira Huts.

Kilimanjaro Helicopter Rescue Safety Protocols

Each year, dozens of helicopter rescues are conducted on Mount Kilimanjaro. Our staff is well trained in working with the pilots and medical personnel to ensure climbers are safely evacuated in a timely manner should the need arise.

Having a helicopter rescue service on Kilimanjaro is reassuring for climbers, but it’s not an excuse to become complacent and neglect the proper safety protocols. It’s there as a last resort, not a reason to take unnecessary risks.

As part of our daily health checks, we test your oxygen saturation and heart rate with a pulse oximeter and use the Lake Louise Scoring System to determine how well you are adapting to the thin air.

Our guides carry supplementary oxygen on every Kilimanjaro climb, strictly for use in emergency situations.