Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is located in Eastern region of Uganda near Mbale City sharing borders betweein Uganda and Kenya and it is divided into two parts that is Uganda part and Kenya part. The Uganda’s part of Mount Elgon National Park gazetted in 1992 covers 1,110 square kilometers and the Kenyan park gazetted in 1968 covers 169 square kilometers.
Mount Elgon acts as source of water for rivers like the Nzoia River which flows to Lake Victoria in Uganda and the Turkwel River which is known as Suam River in Uganda side, also ascends and pours its water in Lake Turkana in Kenya and the Susa River. The Sipi River also originates from the Mount Elgon forming the Sipi Falls which is the most visited falls in the Eastern region.
Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano and is one of the oldest physical features in Uganda, the volcano is said to have erupted 24 million years ago. The volcano was once the highest mountain in Africa exceeding Mount Kilimanjaro of Tanzania the current tallest volcano in Africa with 5,895 meters, but due to constant erosion, the volcano’s height was reduced to its height of 4,321 M making it the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th on the African continent.
Mount Elgon has several peaks with the highest being the Wagagai peak with 4,321 m followed by the Kiongo peak with 4,303m, Mubiyi peak at 4,210 m and jackson’s summit at 4,165 m.
Mount Elgo n has the largest volcanic base in the world especially at 4,000 square kilometers and is the oldest and largest solitary Volcanic Mountain in East Africa.
According the Bagisu and Sabiny – the native and inhabitants of Mount Elgon, the volcano is locally referred to as the Mountain Masaba. It is because the Bagisu believe that there ancestor Masaba comes from one of the caves of the Mountain thus the name. Both the Bagisu and Sabiny have established a strong cultures and beliefs over time and visitors who make it to Mount Elgon during the season of these ceremonies will be trilled, they perform yearly circumcision ceremonies for Bagisu boys turning them into men and sabiny induct women (though it is abolished).
The slopes of Mount Elgon supports a variety of vegetation varying from Montane forest to high open Moorland with giant lobelia and groundsel plants, the mountain slopes are covered with Olive trees , at higher altitude changes to bamboo forest zone and the higher zone consists of Moorland with heaths.
The higher slopes of Mount Elgon are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area which has been declared by UNESCO.
Mount Elgon National Park hosts a wide range of bio diversity including 300 species of birds and forest mammals.
Birds in Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park hosts over 300 species of birds including the endangered Lammergeyer, Jackson’s spur fowl, eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Hartlaub’s turaco and Tacazze sunbird and 56 of the 87 Afrotropical highland biome species and 40 Uganda species whose range is limited. Other birds in the park include Lammergeyer, Tacazze Sunbird, African Blue Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Hartlaub’s Turaco, African Goshawk; Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Dohertys and Luhders Bush-shrikes, Baglafecht Weaver, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Moustached Tinkerbird, Hartlaub`s Turaco, Tacazze Sunbird, Black Kite, Lammergeyer, Jackson’s Francolin, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, and Black-collared Apalis. Among others.
Wildlife in Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is home to many animal species found on the lower slopes but rarely seen in the forest setting, these animals include Defassa waterbuck, Elephants, Oribi, Bushbucks, Buffaloes and Spotted Hyena, also black-and-white monkeys, Colobus monkeys.
Safari activities to do in Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon is the best alternative and most accessible and easy mountain to climb in East Africa throughout the year with Wagagai peak as the highest peak at 4,321 meters that can be reached in 4 days climb to the top. Climbing Mount Elgon does not require special experience or equipments.
Climbing Mount Elgon is done on 2 major trails such as the Sasa trail accessed from Budadiri which is quite steep with a climb of 1600 m on the first and the Piswa trail which starts from Kapkwata near Siam which is gentler.
For climbers who wish to have less strenuous climbs, there are alterative walks ranging from easy hikes to hard climbs, there are also the Sipi trail which is developing.
The sasa trail is the shortest and tough route to the peak and it starts from Budadiri, this trail takes you through the community land via the farm fields and plantations, explore the Bamasaba cultures and settlements. This route will also take you through the largest areas of bamboo forests walking from the Jackson’s pool to Wagagai peak.
The Piswa Trail is long and gentle and needs at least 7 days to reach the peak with 49 kilometers to and from the peak, it starts from Kapkwata villages near siam which is gentler. The trail passes through the northern side of the mountain and visitors will be able to view soft woodland plantation up to the podocarpus forest. Clombers will be able to see a lot of wildlife, views of Kramoja plains in Uganda, Nandi and Kapegura hills in Kenya and it passes via the hot springs to the caldera and the peaks.
The Sipi trail is the longest trail covering 56 kilometers to and from the peak and its starts at Kapkwai Forest Exploration centre at 2,050 m above the sea level. It passes via the northwestern side of the Mountain and visitors will be able to see the Tutum cave to enter the caldera and then reach the Wagagai peak. The trails starts gently but it becomes tough on the third day from Kajeri camp.
A four day Elgon hike can start from Budadiri Bumasolo to Sasa River Camp which is about 1,110 walk then from Sasa River Camp to Mude Cave camp then you will climb the Wagagai Peak then back to Mude Cave and finally will descend from Mude Cave (3500 m) to Budadiri (1,250m).
Bird Watching in Mount Elgon
Mount Elgon National Park hosts over 296 bird species including 40 bird species that are only limited to Mount Elgon that is why it is listed among the must visit birding destinations in Uganda. Some of the birds you will spot in Mount Elgon National Park include black collared Apalis, Jacksons Francolin, Lammergeyer, Black-shouldered Kite, Tacazze sunbird, white chinned prina, African Goshwak, Chinspot Batis, Chubb’s Cisticola, African Blue fly-catcher, Olive and Bronze-naped pigeons, Black kite, and Cinnamon Bee eater among others.
The best birding spot in Mount Elgon are the forests of Kapkwai which is composed of thick shrubs and extends up to Cheptui falls which attracts a variety of bird species.
Hiking and Nature walks
In Mount Elgon National Park there are both long and short hour hikes making it a great destination for all types of hikers, hiking and nature walks are done of several trails forexample on Mountain bamboo trail leading to Khauka Caves and short day hike in Budadiri.
The mountain bamboo hike covers 7 kilometers to Kapkwai caves and passes via tropical and bamboo forest, it offers hikers a chance to see primates, birds and rare tree species like Elgon teak and Elgon Olive. Hikers can also visit Chebonet falls covering a distance of 5 kilometers and Kapkwai caves for 3 kilometers via the ridge view trail and the Tutum Cave for a distance of 11 kilometers and there is an option for camping overnight on the mountain slopes.
Short hikes can be done and visitors are able to visit Mudagi Cliffs, Sasa River camp and Drigana lower falls, this route is favorable for bird watching, nature walks and camping.
Cultural encounters in Mount Elgon national park take you on a visit to the local communities of the Bagisu and Sabinyi and their Arabic coffee plantations on the slopes of the mountain.
During the visit you will experience the magical coffee process from picking the beans up to the finished product that is a cup of coffee, you will also be entertained by local dances and drama, take part in the circumcision ceremonies for bigishu through which boys are initiated into manhood, taste of the local cuisnes and how to prepare them among others .
HOW TO GET THERE
Mountain Elgon National Park can be accessed via Kampala, Jinja and Mbale road then Mountain Elgon covering 230 kilometers and 5 hours of drive to reach the park. This routes offers an opportunity to visit Sezibwa falls which have cultural relation to Buganda Kingdom, Mabira forests for nature walks and zip lining and white water rafting in Lake Victoria in Jinja town and a boat cruise on the source of the Nile among others.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodations in Mount Elgon National Park are got from Mbale Town and Kapchorwa Town, accommodation options include
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