Mount Elgon National Park
The secluded splendor of Mount Elgon National Park in the high mist-wreathed hills of Eastern Uganda. Mount Elgon has the largest intact mountain caldera in the world making it a treasure in Eastern Uganda, which is a few hours from Kampala offering the best getaway from the crowded noisy city into a place of natural bliss with its waterfalls, forests, caves, animals that are still virgin to tourist discovery.
Encounter the true African Nature at its best at Mount Elgon National Park during the exploration of the forest, through mountain biking, mountain hiking and rock climbing on the eighth highest mountain in Africa. Although Mount Elgon National Park is mostly visited for its hiking activity, they are many activities in and near Mount Elgon for those who want to simply explore and discover this region.
Mount Elgon National Park is situated at the eastern part of Uganda covering an area of 1,121km2 bordering Uganda from the east and Kenya from the west. Mount Elgon at 4,321 meters high is an extinct volcano with Wagagai as its highest peak, which several thousands of years ago it stood higher than today’s Mountain Kilimanjaro.
Mt. Elgon National Park consists of an untamed wilderness consisting of mountainous regional landscape with its higher slopes protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive Transboundary Conservation Area which was declared by UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve.
Wildlife & Birdlife
Mt. Elgon National Park possess varied vegetation cover along its slopes which support a variety of wildlife within its boundaries. Although the park has the beautiful scenery as its primary attraction, it has a diversity of animal species including; elephants, buffaloes, Oribi, Defassa waterbuck, duiker, squirrels, spotted hyenas, white colobus monkey, blue monkey, rock and tree hyraxes, bushbuck, forest hog, bush pig, leopard, civet and serval cats, serval cats, aardvark and several rodent species.
Though these animals are rarely observed in the forest setting, visitors may be lucky to catch a glimpse of the black-and-white colobus; baboons; red tailed, vervet, blue monkeys, duiker, tree squirrel, leopards, buffalos, hyenas or elephants.
Mt. Elgon is home to 300 birds including 40 restricted range species including the Jackson’s Francolin and Black-collared Apalis,the Black-shouldered Kite, Tacazze Sunbird and the endangered Lammergeyer that can be seen, soaring above the caldera and Suam Gorge.
Other birds species include; Blackcap, Common White throat Cape Robin-Chat, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Little Rock-Thrush, Northern Anteater Chat, , Mountain Yellow Warbler, Nightingale, Spotted Morning-Thrush, African Reed Warbler, Little Rush Warbler, Upcher’s Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, the Uganda and Brown Woodland Warblers, Green Hylia, White-browed Crombec, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, the Stout, Thrilling, and Rattling Cisticolas.
Mountain Elgon is an enormous watershed with its slopes supporting a rich diversity of attitudinal vegetation areas that range from the lush Montana, the mixed bamboo-belt forest to the intriguing high open moorland, dotted with the really uncommon worldly plant species such as the large lobelia plus the groundsel plants unusual to Africa. The thick shrubs and luminous wild eternal flowers are another major attraction to enjoy on your tour to the park.
The lower slopes are clothed in tropical montane forest with extensive stands of bamboo. Above 3000 m the forest fades into heath and then afro-alpine moorland, which blankets the caldera with rare plant species like the giant groundsel and the endemic Lobelia elgonensis. The higher altitudes of the mountain provide diverse habitats for flora and fauna and its cool heights offering respite for humans from the hot plains
The Local People: Along the slopes of Mt Elgon is home to majorly two tribes; the Bagisu, and the Sabiny inhabiting the forest margins. The ethnic groups living around Mt Elgon perform customary ceremonies like circumcision ceremonies during which they initiate or induct young women and men into adulthood. Incase your safari includes Mt Elgon, you may have the opportunity to enjoy the locals dancing, singing and get a glimpse of their local circumcision techniques.
Mount Elgon National Park is not often visited by travelers as most tourists opt for the western part of the country that has more parks.This Park has various activities that will keep a traveler busy as they enjoy the adventure on their safari.
Hiking and Climbing Mount Elgon: Mount Elgon today is the fourth tallest mountain in East Africa and the best time of the year to climb it is during the dry seasons.Hiking Mt.Elgon is not as hard and technical as it’s counterparts of Mt.Kenya and Mt.Kilimanjaro as climbing it can be accomplished in 4 days with other lower elevation trails where you hike for half or full-day.
Mountain Biking Trails: Opt to enjoy mountain biking as you blaze down the trails on both Mount Elgon and around Sipi Falls.
There is nothing comparable to the satisfaction you will experience at the top of the trails especially during the dry seasons of the year.
Birding: Along the various trials on the foothills of Mount Elgon, you will enjoy the best birding adventure. Birders travelling to Mt.Elgon National Park will enjoy spotting bird species here such as Hartlaub’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Dusky-Turtle Dove, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Thick-billed Honey guide, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike.
Rock Climbing: Rock Climbing in the Mount Elgon and around Sipi Falls is a safe activity that is guided, supervised and is an exhilarating activity that is mostly enjoyable by the adventure lovers.
Sipi Falls: The northern and western sides of Mount Elgon rise in a series of massive basalt cliffs over which the mountain’s rivers plunge as three beautiful waterfall just outside the park. The lowest of these falls is the most spectacular as it cascades over a 100m cliff. The second, known as Simba, plunges 69m over the entrance to a cave. Visitors can stand in the cave and enjoy a view of the back of the falls. The third waterfall, also known as Ngasire, gushes over an 87m high ridge.
Other activities you can engage in on your visit to Mt. Elgon National Park include; Trout Fishing in Sipi Falls, Budadiri Community Walk, Bagisu – Imbalu Circumcision, Nyero Rock Paintings and Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve.
On your travel to this park, you will be amazed at the range of accommodation facilities catering for both up-markets, medium range and budget visitors are available. Though it is usually advisable to book well in advance to eliminate the possibility of unavailability of the facility. Below are some of the establishments in the park that can be considered for accommodation.
- Mount Elgon Hotel
- Mbale Resort Hotel
- Sipi River Lodge
- Mt Elgon view Hotel
- Sunrise Inn.
- Suam Guest House (UWA),
- Kapkwata Guesthouse (Along the Piswa trail),
- Forest Exploration Center Bandas,
- Masha Hotel in Kapchorwa,
- Sasa River Camp along the Sasa trail
How To Get There?
Mt. Elgon National Park is accessible by road as it is located about 235 km from the Kampala which is about a 3-4 hour drive. The road from Kampala to Mbale is well tarmacked running through Jinja town, then a number of murram roads lead off to the various trail routes.
When To Visit?
The park can be visited at any time of the year though the best time to visit is in the dry season – between June and August and later from December to March. Mount Elgon National Park is not as popular for mountain climbing as Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya, but though its numbers are readily increasing.
Mount Elgon National Park has moist to moderately dry climate and is a water catchment area for several million people receiving 3000 mm of rainfall annually. Mt Elgon.
The period of April to October is the wettest period which gets extremely cold during the rainy season with snow and hail storms that make the trails muddy and slippery undermining the volcano climbing experience.