Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is 234 kilometers east of Kampala and can be accessed through the tarmac roads of Jinja to Mbale in the west before reaching Kapchorwa in the North West. The park covers an area of 1,110 square kilometers it is named after Mount Elgon, an extinct shield volcano on the border of Uganda and Kenya. It is a home for over 300 species of birds and endangered mammals. Joining with the fauna and flora, the park has a variety of attractions that includes cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and the mountain peaks. The most popular areas are the four explorable, vast caves where frequent night visitors such as elephants and buffaloes come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. Kitum cave, with overhanging crystalline walls.
Activities done done at the park
Lying on the border between Kenya and Uganda, Mount Elgon is said to have the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world and a caldera which covers over 40km2 at the top of the mountain. The highest peak, Wagagai, sits at 4,321m and is the second highest in Uganda (after Rwenzori) and the eighth highest in Africa, though millions of years ago it was the continent’s tallest.
Its cool heights offer respite for humans from the hot plains below and its higher altitudes provide diverse habitats for flora and fauna. The lower slopes are clothed in tropical montane forest with extensive stands of bamboo. Above 3000m the forest fades into heath and then afro-alpine moorland, which blankets the caldera. Rare plant species present here include the giant groundsel and the endemic Lobelia elgonensis. As far as mammals, the duiker are more commonly seen, but lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of leopard, buffalo, hyena or elephant. Birdwatchers will enjoy the endangered Lammergeier vultures, Jackson’s francolin, and white-starred forest robin.
Mountain Biking takes about 1.5hours and provides a scenic view of the water falls.
Birding is a brilliant exploration through forest and thick scrub that support, African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Fly-catchers, Chin-spot Batis, MacKinnon’s Fiscal, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes and Baglafecht Weaver.
Mountain Climbing : visiting Mount Elgon presents an interesting alternative of climbing to the peaks with milder climate and lower elevation.
The Forest has three trails ranging between 3 and 7 km. These trails offer an excellent opportunity to experience Mt. Elgon’s unique plants and wildlife. A fourth trail has recently been opened to reach the enormous Tutum Cave, 11 km from the center. This trail offers an opportunity to see wildlife such as Black and White Colobus Monkeys and a variety of birds. The other activities present are Mountain biking, Nature walks which exposes you to flora and fauna, Sport fishing and Rock climbing as well as cultural encounters such as the Embalu cultural dance and their livelihood.
Trekking to the Top
Mt Elgon is considered a good alternative to climbing Rwenzori in Uganda or Kilimanjaro in Tanzanis since it offers a milder climate, lower elevation and much more reasonable prices. The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes five days to complete, following either Sasa or Sipi trails.
Impano Adventure Safaris organises this tour to start from Sipi Falls. Full-board accommodation before and after the trekking is included at the great Sipi River Lodge overlooking one of the many waterfalls. A day of hiking to the falls (1800m) is also included to help you adjust to the altitude and climate. Hence, you will need to allow a total of six days for this option.
All equipment is included, so you only have to bring good clothes, your camera, and… eh… yourself!! The best times to climb Mount Elgon are during the dry seasons of June-August and December-March. No technical climbing equipment or skills are required to reach the main caldera or the peaks. A choice of trails are available, making for interesting and unique flora, fauna, waterfalls, lakes, caves, gorges and hot springs.
Accommodation facilities are available in the park as well as outside include Sipi River lodge positioned outside sipi trading center along Kapochrwa road for luxury stay, kayegi hotel for standard stay and Mt Elgon View hotel, suam guest house and Lacam lodge for budget accommodation.
Best Season : although the park is open all year round, the best months to visit are the dry months of June- august and later from December to February.
Mountain Biking Trails
Mountain Biking Trails opened up in Mount Elgon National Park and it and the nearby Sipi Falls area have become a most popular for those who love mountain biking.
Blaze down the trails on the the fourth tallest mountain in Africa, there is nothing that is comparable. Add on top of that the trails nearby Sipi Falls and you will be most satisfied with a variety of trails that you can enjoy, especially during the dry seasons of the year.