Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon national park is UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve located along the border of Uganda and Kenya, the park stretches along the slopes of Mount Elgon on Uganda side covering an area of 494 square miles. Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano said to have erupted about 20 million years ago with the largest intact Caldera in the world of 40 square kilometers. Mount Elgon was once the highest mountain in Africa but due to erosion it was reduced to 4321 meters with Wagagai as the highest peak and currently is the 4th highest mountain in East Africa and 8th in Africa, the volcano is the largest solitary volcanic mountain in East Africa and has the largest base in the world of 3840 square kilometers.
Peaks of Mount Elgon include Wagagai at 4321m, Sudek at 4303m, Koitobos at 4222m and Mubiyi at 4210m. The slopes of Mountain Elgon are dominated by vegetation varying according to the altitude that is montane forests in the lower areas, bamboo forest on the higher grounds and alpine-moorlands towards the summit.
Mount Elgon national park is a home to a variety of wildlife inhabiting in the lower slopes though they are rarely seen, these animals include Defassa waterbuck, Elephants, Oribi, Bushbucks, Buffaloes, potted Hyena, black-and-white monkeys, Colobus monkeys among others.
Mount Elgon national park is a good habitat for bird species recorded to be over 296 species including 40 species limited to ranges of Mount Elgon, these birds include African Blue Fly-catchers, African Goshawk, Baglafecht Weaver, Black and White Casqued, Chin-spot Batis and the Baglafecht, Weaver, black collared Apalis, Black-shouldered Kite, Chubb’s Cisticola, Crowned Hornbills, eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes, Golden Winged and Tacazze sunbirds, Hartlaub’s turaco, Mackinon’s Fiscal, Ross’s and Hartlaubs Turacos, White-chinned Prinia among others.
Safari activities to Mt Elgon National Park
Climbing Mountain Elgon is the major safari activity done in Mount Elgon national park, Mount Elgon offers some of the best and less strenuous climbs in East Africa when compared to Mountain Rwenzori and Mountain Kilimanjaro and the temperatures of the mountain are very favorable.
Climbing mount Elgon is done using various trails used to reach the Wagagai peak and the largest caldera on earth on the top of the mountain, the climb takes a number of days basing on the trail you are using. These trails include
- The Sasa Trail – this is the shortest trail one can use to climb mountain Elgon, the trail takes only 4 days of climbing through bamboo forestsand the Jackson’s pool.
- The Sipi trail – this trail takes approximately 4-6 days of climbing, this trail starts from the forest exploration center at Kapkawi – tutum cave
Alternatively you can combine these two trails by ascending by Sipi trail and descending along the Sasa trail and descending along Sasa trail, combing these trails gives you enough time to experience more features of the mountain.
During Mount hiking/ climbing experience, local porters are available to assist you with carrying your luggage and supplies, they also collect water, cook and prepare the camp for you. Before embarking on the climbing safari hikers should consider getting treatment for hypothermia and other forms of altitude sickness which affects anyone regardless of the age, fitness and previous mount climbing experience most especially above 2500m.
Abseiling is a thrilling safari activity you can do during your safari in Mount Elgon national park, this activity is done on one of the cliffs of the Sipi falls and involves going down a cliff 100 meters overlooking the ridge next to the pool of water with a firm rope-like device fastened around the harness. While on this activity you will enjoy watching different scenery and take a dip in the pool of water below.
Rock climbing is a popular activity to do in Mount Elgon national park, this activity takes place at Sipi falls area with 14 climbs. This climb is very demanding requiring climbers to have rock-scaling techniques, the toughest climb in this area is 35 meters and the easiest climb is 15 meters. Generally this activity offers an exhilarating experience.
Mount Elgon national park is recognized among the best birding destinations in Uganda, the park is a home to a total of 300 bird species including species only found in this area that is the endangered ackson’s Francolin and lammergeyer thus being a great destination to visit for bird watching. Birds in Mount Elgon national park can be spotted in several places of the park including thick shrubs, Cheptui falls and the Forest Exploration center in Kapwai
Birds to look out for during bird watching safari in Mount Elgon national park include African Blue Fly-catchers, African Goshawk, Baglafecht Weaver, Black and White Casqued, Chin-spot Batis and the Baglafecht, Weaver, black collared Apalis, Black-shouldered Kite, Chubb’s Cisticola, Crowned Hornbills, eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes, Golden Winged and Tacazze sunbirds, Hartlaub’s turaco, Mackinon’s Fiscal, Ross’s and Hartlaubs Turacos, White-chinned Prinia among others.
Sport fishing in Mount Elgon national park is a fascinating experience to anglers as you get to catch beautiful colors of fish and it is mind blowing to watch them struggling when they are caught. Sport fishing is done in the Sipi area and it is perfect for those interested in rainbow trout, this is best done in the morning and guides know the best sport for fishing.
Nature and Hiking walks
Nature and hiking walks in Mount Elgon national park are fascinating activity connect with nature, this activity is done using trails inside and outside the park running through the vegetation of Mount Elgon. The walks last for about 2 hours to the whole day, during the walks you will enjoy views of the Karamojong region and Sebei region. Alternatively a full day hike through Budaduri to Mudange cliffs situated in a tropical forest at boundary of Mount Elgon national park, these cliffs are known as the walls of death. During the hike you will encounter black and white colobus monkeys and baboons.
Visiting the Water Falls
Mountain Elgon consists of main rivers plunging over massive cliffs on the northern and western sides of the mountain to form some of the beautiful waterfalls including Sipi Falls, these falls are situated outside the park and consists 3 falls that the lowest at 100 m over the cliff, Simba at 69m and Ngasire at 87m.
There are other falls to visit in Mount Elgon national park and they are found in Wanale, chebonet, Bulago and Sisyi.
Exploring the Caves
Mountain Elgon consists of caves formed as a result of moving lava during the formation of the mountain, some of the most caves include Kapkwai cave and Khauka cave situated o Wanale Ridge. These caves are visited during nature walks in the park.
The mountain Elgon region is a great site for mountain biking experience, the region has various biking routes with one route starting from Sipi trading center to a hill in Chema Kapchorwa. Another trail runs near the Sipi area, while on mountain biking experience you enjoy beautiful views of Karamojong plains and several waterfalls.
The mountain Elgon region is famously known for being the best coffee farming area which is the most dominant activity, guided walks in the coffee plantation/shambas on the slopes of mountain offers you an insight in the whole coffee farming experience including coffee picking, grinding, storage and washing.
Cultural encounters and Community trails
The slopes of Mount Elgon are home for the Gishu people who you can visit for cultural encounters, while in the community you an opportunity to witness the traditions, norms and culture of the bagishu people. You are entertained by Gishu dances and songs and the embalu ceremonies, in which young men are initiated into adulthood through circumcision.
Getting to Mt Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon national park is situated in the Eastern region of Uganda and from Kampala the capital of Uganda the park is about 230 kilometers, the park is accessed by road and air means of transport. By road it is a 4-5 hours drive from Kampala to reach Mbale through Jinja and Iganga using Kampala – Jinja highway. For air means of transport chartered flights are offered from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airstrip to Soroti airfield near Mount Elgon, from the airstrip it is about one hour’s drive to reach Mbale town or Kapchorwa.
Accommodation in Mount Elgon national park
In Mount Elgon national park accommodation facilities are situated inside and outside of the park and they are categorized as luxury, midrange and budget. These include Kapkwai Forest cottages, Mbale Resort Hotel, Mount Elgon Hotel and Spa, Kayegi Hotel, Mount Elgon View Hotel, Noah’s Ark hotel, Masha Hotel, Sipi River Lodge among others