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Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park, Mount Elgon National Park is found in the border of Kenya and Uganda whereby with the latter it is on the eastern side of the country and extends for over 1121 square kilometers. This National Park is found on the slopes of Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano believed to have erupted about 24 million years ago. The Ugandan side of this Park was gazetted in 1992 while the Kenyan side was established in 1968.

Mount Elgon from where the National Park was named used to be one of the highest Mountains in the African Continent, surprisingly higher than Mount Kilimanjaro that is now the most towering in the Continent at 5895 meters above sea level. It is said that the current height of Mount Elgon (4321 meters above sea level) is due to years of erosion, making it the 8th highest mountain in Africa and the fourth highest in the East African region.

Mount Elgon boasts of having the largest volcanic base in the whole World extending for 4000 square kilometers and 80 kilometers in diameter.

Attractions in and around Mount Elgon National Park

Flora

The varying altitude of Mount Elgon National Park gave room for the growth of different vegetation types that range from the montane forest on the lower slopes to high open moorland decorated with rare plant species especially the groundsel and giant lobelia plants. Common species of the Park are stands of podocarpus gracilior, Juniper, orchids, giant podocarpus and Elgon Olive trees among others.

Fauna

Several outstanding faunal species dot the slopes of Mount Elgon and they include buffaloes as well as forest elephants that occupy the lower slopes. As you progress higher the Mountain, you are likely to see red-tailed monkeys, duikers, black and white colobus monkeys and blue monkeys among others.

There are more than 300 species of birds in Mount Elgon National Park and these include the endangered Lammergeyer, Jackson’s francolin, blue flycatcher, Black kites, African Goshawk, Chinspot batis, Alpine Chat, Tacazze sunbirds, white-chinned Prinia, the white-starred forest robin, Bronze-naped pigeons, Baglafecht weavers and many others.

Tourist activities conducted in Mount Elgon National Park

Mountain climbing

Mountain climbing is the most popular tourist activity in Mount Elgon National Park and different climbing trails lasting varying number of days were designated in the Park to allow climbers explore the numerous attractions of the Park. The 49-kilometer Piswa Trail for instance takes begins from Kapkwata village on the northern end of the Mountain and takes up to 7 days to complete. This trail involves passing through the podocarpus forest and rewards visitors with the jaw-dropping views of the vast Karamoja plains, abundant wildlife species, the Nandi as well as Kapeguria hills of Kenya.

The other trail is the Sasa Trail which is considered the most difficult and shortest passing through community land, farming establishments. The round trip starts at Budadiri Town and usually lasts 4 days with the most challenging climb of more than 1600 meters completed on the first day. The Sipi Trail lasts 4-6 days and passes through Tutum cave, Calderas and ends with views of the Wagagai peak.

Nature walks

Nature walks in Mount Elgon National Park give visitors the chance to enjoy views of waterfalls, primates, birds, the walls of death, the far Karamoja plains and many others. A guided nature walk from Budadiri to the magnificent Mudange cliffs usually referred as the “walls of death” at the edge of the Park. This walk rewards tourists with an opportunity of spotting several primates especially the black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys.

The four-hour and 7-kilometer mountain bamboo trail to the Kapkwai Caves usually transverses the verdant bamboo and Tropical forest where unique bird species especially the Elgon Olive, primates and outstanding tree species can be spotted. Other walks in this Park are walks to the Mudagi cliffs, Sasa River Camp, Khauka Caves, Chebonet falls, Kapkwai Caves, Tutum Caves, Drigana lower falls where overnight Camping and birding opportunities.

Birding

Mount Elgon National Park offers one of Uganda’s best forest birding opportunities with hot spots being the Kapkwai Exploration Center, loop trail to Cheptui falls and shrubs of the Park. Species such as the Grey cuckoo shrike, Tacazze sunbirds, white-chinned prinia, Baglafecht weavers, Dusky-turtle doves, African blue flycatcher, Thick-billed honey guide, Moustached Tinkerbird, African Goshawk, African hill babblers, Black kites, Chubb’s Cisticola, Olive and Bronze-naped pigeons as well as Doherty’s and Luhders bush shrikes can be spotted in the mentioned areas.

Mountain biking/cycling

There are several mountain biking/cycling trails running from the nearby Sipi Trading Center until Chema Hill within the Town of Kapchorwa. These trails last between 1 and 2 hours with breathtaking views of the Sipi waterfalls and interested persons can hire bikes from the Sipi River Lodge.

Sport fishing

Mount Elgon National Park and the nearby Sipi falls are the only two places where trout fishing is conducted.

Rock climbing

Rock climbing is conducted within the Sipi falls area and there are presently over 14 rock climbing trails with different levels of difficulty and requiring varying rock scaling techniques. The easiest trail is only 15 meters long while the most difficult is about 35 meters long.

Cultural tours

Cultural tours around Mount Elgon National Park are centered on the Bagishu and Sabiny communities that are popular for growing Arabica coffee and the “Imbalu”-public male circumcision as a way of initiating boys into adulthood/manhood. Several community initiatives were developed to allow tourists explore these two unique cultures and these are the Budadiri Community walk and the Sipi Widows’ Group among others. During cultural tours, you will expect to visit coffee plantations, have a taste of the region’s signature dish-“Malewa”, watch and participate in their energizing cultural dances as well as visit some of the nearby attractions such as waterfalls and Caves.

Best time to visit 

Although Mount Elgon National Park is open all year round, the perfect time for enjoying majority of the Park’s activities is the dry season-December to February and June to September. However, for those interested in bird watching, the best time is the rainy season.

What to carry when visiting 

For your visit to Mount Elgon National Park you need hiking boots, long sleeved shirts, raincoat, a sweater, safari pants, Camping equipment for hiking and camping visitors, snacks, backpack, a hat, toiletries (hand sanitizers, toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion, hair clips, lip gloss, deodorants and tissue paper).

Where to stay

Mount Elgon National Park, Sipi falls area and the nearby Towns offer some of the best wilderness accommodation facilities ranging from budget to luxury. These places are the Noah’s Ark Hotel, Sipi Falls Resort, The Crow’s Nest Camp, Mbale Resort Hotel, Kapkwata Guesthouse, Masha Hotel, Suam Guesthouse, Savannah Guesthouse, Sipi River Lodge, Lacam Lodge, Sasa River Camp and Mount Elgon Hotel among others.

How to get there

Mount Elgon National Park is found in eastern Uganda, about 235 kilometers/5-6 hours’ drive East of Kampala. The commonly used route to the Park is Kampala-Jinja-Mbale-Kapchorwa. There are tarmac roads from Kampala to Mbale but thereafter followed by dirt roads to the Park.

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