For those of you going to Kilimanjaro -
There are Tanzanian operators
that offer porters, guides, and lodging.
There are USA travel agents
that book through these Tanzanian operators.
These USA travel agents don't own or control the Tanzanian operators, but are simply booking agents. Examples are Adventures Within Reach (AWR), EWP, and Ultimate Kilimanjaro.
These travel agents do offer services, which cost you money, such as acting as a comfortable liaison with the Tanzanian operators, and organizing groups. To avoid extra cost, communicate direct with the Tanzanian operators.
This is neither "good" or "bad." All companies offer something for your money (even if on the backs of operators). Just be aware of the situation.
: Travel agents often populate these forums with feedback generated by their own agents that is positive about themselves as resellers and negative about competitors or product owners.
: Research the actual Tanzanian operators before you commit. Compare what you get and the price. Understand what a travel agent gives you for their markup. When you get to Africa, you are in the hands of the operators, not your USA travel agent!
: In 2007, National Geographic Adventure magazine listed AWR as the best kilimanjaro climb, but AWR was simply a booking agent for Zara Tours. Thus, Zara should receive credit for their high-quality, safe, and successful climbs.
: Zara no longer accepts bookings through AWR due to misuse of Zara's brand name (which is an acronym for the actual Tanzanian owners). If you want Zara, book direct, and get cost savings. www.zaratours.com
From my experience, Zara was of highest quality with a very low price. Tanzania is a great place to visit (easy & safe). Go there now before the glaciers melt!