Mount Elgon National Park, Uganda
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon is capped by one of the world’s largest intact calderas at 40sq km in size and the largest volcanic base in the world. It was created after an unusually violent volcano emptied its magma reservoir. It was once Africa’s highest mountains but thousands of years upon years of erosion have reduced it to being the 7th highest mountain on the continent. It still as the largest volcano surface area worldwide though. At the top of the mountain is the largest volcanic caldera in the world and is a massive solitary volcanic mountain.
Mount Elgon National park is home to over 300 species of birds including the endangered Lammergeyer. Small antelopes, forest monkeys, elephants and buffalos also live on the mountainside. The higher slopes are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve.
Mount Elgon National Park is situated at the eastern part of Uganda. It covers an area of 1121 sq. km on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Its vast form, 8km in diameter rises 3000m above the surrounding plains. Its mountainous regional landscape and cool heights offers respite for humans from the hot plains below and its higher altitude provide refuge for flora and fauna.
By road, Mountain Elgon National Park lies 235km east of Kampala on a tarmac road that runs through Jinja to Mbale town at the western base of Mt.Elgon. Dirt roads lead off the Mbale-Kapchorwa road to reach the various trail heads.
The park can be visited all year round and climbing the mountain can be done all year round though the best time to climb Mount Elgon is during the dry seasons between June-August and December-March.
Tourism & Activities in the Park
Travellers find Mt. Elgon an exciting alternative to the more strenuous climbs in East Africa. It has many of the same attractions, with a milder climate and lower elevation, and requires no special equipment or technical experience.
Mountain biking trails run from Sipi trading centre to Chema hill in Kapchorwa town. It provides views of various waterfalls.
Around Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre they’re excellent birding opportunities particularly the thick shrub along the trail to Cheptui Falls. Birds like the African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cistocola, White-Chinned Prinia and African blue flycatcher.
While hiking the tourists are able to enjoy the beauty of being amongst the birds and primates, waterfalls, trail leading past caves. Tourists also have an option of camping along the slopes of the mountain
Rock climbing takes place at Sipi outside the park. There are 14 routes requiring various levels of rock scaling techniques. The toughest is a 35m climb while the easiest is 15m.
Sights of Sipi Falls, the Walls of Death are enjoyed and on these peaceful walks just outside Mt Elgon National Park the African sunrise across the Karamoja plains.
Sport fishing in Mt. Elgon
Sport fishing is done above the highest of the three waterfalls at Sipi. It provides exciting challenges to anglers who take pride in battling with the rainbow trout because of its beautiful coloration and fighting ability.
Cultural Encounters in Mt. Elgon
Grown on the mountain side of Mt Elgon is Arabica coffee, the farmers along Mt.Elgon have a reputation for producing some of the finest washed Arabica in Kenya and Uganda
Mountain Elgon National Park has very many sights that will catch your eye and they are inclusive;
The Peaks and the Caldera
Mt. Elgon’s highest peaks are formed by high points around a jagged rim enclosing one of the world’s largest caldera at 40Km long and 8Km wide. The tallest peak is the Wagagai 4521m ,followed by sudek 4503m,koitobos 4222m and mubiyi 4210m
Forest Exploration Centre
At Kapkwal 13kms from Sipi town, there is an education Centre for school and a trailhead for climbers using the Sipi trail to the caldera. Three 3-7kms circuits run through the surrounding regenerating forest.
Mt .Elgon’s slopes are riddled with caves left by moving lava and erosion of soft volcanic deposits. The most accessible are Kapkwai cave near the forest exploration center and Khauka cave on Wanale Ridge. Historically, such features acted as shelter for locals and their livestock.
The peak stands at 4,050m and is a natural pool with shallow waters. It lies in the shadow of the 4165m high Jackson’s peak a free standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of the mountain.
Mt. Elgon’s vegetation is banded into broad zones whose characteristics are dictated by altitude and rainfall. The lower mountain slopes are covered with dense forest and regenerating forests, hung with vine like lianas, epiphytes and lichens. The floor is covered with a carpet of ferns, orchids and flowering plants. Common tree species encountered in the tropical montane forest 1500m-2500m are Elgon olive with a mixture of bamboo at 2500m-5000m.The bamboo merges into open woodland dominated with hypericum a giant form of St. John’s wort.
Nkokenjeru Ridge and Wanale
Nkokenjeru Ridge is a distinctive finger of forest extending outwards from the main mass of Mt.Elgon.It lies at an elevation of 2347 and covers 25km long tongue of lava that flowed out of the side of the volcano after the cone collapsed to block the main vent, Nkokenjeru ridge culminates at the Wanale cliff which towers above Mbale town where the seasonal Nabuyoga and Namatyo waterfalls are located. Atrail at this western end of the ridge leads you to Khauka cave where petrified wood can be found
Accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park
A range of accommodation facilities catering for both up-markets,medium range and budget visitors are available.
Mbale Resort Hotel
Is a three-star hotel located in Mbale 0.8 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters
Mbale Resort Hotel offers accommodation in Mbale. The hotel has a year-round outdoor pool and views of the mountain, and guests can enjoy a drink at the bar. This property also has one of the best-rated locations in Mbale.
Mt. Elgon Resthouse
Located 0.6 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters.It offers accommodation in Mbale. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free private parking is available on site. The basic rooms have a a private or shared bathroom
Crown Suites Hotel
Located in mbale 0.6 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters and 500 metres from Uganda Wildlife Authority Head Quarters. Offering free WiFi and a restaurant and other amneties
Mount Elgon Hotel & Spa
Is a 4-star hotel located 0.2 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters and 200 metres from Uganda Wildlife Authority HeadQuarters, Mount Elgon Hotel & Spa features a restaurant, bar and free WiFi throughout the property.
Is a 2-star hotel,Located 800 metres from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters in Mbale. Kayegi Hotel welcomes guests with a restaurant and bar. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant
A 2-star hotel located 0.4 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free private parking is available on site. Each room includes a TV with satellite channels.
Dream Palace Hotel
A 2-star hotel situated 0.4 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters and 400 meters from Uganda Wildlife Authority Headquarters. Featuring free WiFi throughout the property, Dream Palace Hotel offers pet-friendly accommodation in Mbale.
Located 3.3 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters,it features free WiFi, a restaurant and a children’s playground.
Mbale Travellers Inn
It is located1.9 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters and offers accommodation in the centre of Mbale. It features are restaurant, roof top bar and evening entertainment. Free private parking is available onsite
Lucia Villas Mbale
It is located 2.6 km from Mt Elgon National Park Headquarters and 1.2 km from Busamaga Primary School, Lucia Villas Mbale boasts a children’s playground and views of the mountain. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant.
Quick Mount Elgon Facts
Size: 1,279 square kilometres (494 sq mi) and is bisected by the border of Kenya and Uganda.
Location: Mount Elgon National Park is uniquely split down the middle by the Kenyan-Ugandan border. Mount Elgon is an important water catchment for the Nzoia River, which flows to Lake Victoria, and for the Turkwel River (known as the Suam River in Uganda), which flows into Lake Turkana.
Desc: The park is named after Mount Elgon, an extinct shield volcano on the border of Uganda and Kenya.
Areas of interest: Mount Elgon Caves, The caldera, The warm springs by the Suam River, Ngwarisha, Makingeny, Chepnyalil, and Kitum caves, Wagagai (4,321 metres (14,177 ft)), in Uganda, Elephants and buffalo can be found on the lower slopes.
When to Visit: Mount Elgon National park can be visited all year round and climbing the mountain can be done all year round though the best time to climb Mount Elgon is during the dry seasons between June-August and December-March.