Mount Elgon National Park, Uganda
Mount Elgon National Park covers an area of 1121sqkm located in the eastern side of Uganda at the Kenya border. The park is named after a mountain which was once the tallest in east Africa before it faced denudation. Currently, mountain Elgon is ranked as number four of the tallest mountains in East Africa at a level of 4321m above seas level. Mt Elgon still remains the largest standalone mountain in east Africa and has the largest intact mountain caldera in the whole world at 42km2 the base of this volcanic mountain stretches up to 4,000 km2 making it the largest in the world. Mt Elgon fully became a national park in 1993.
Mt elgone has for long been a home of the Sabiny, Bagisu and Ndorobos. These tribes have got rich cultural attachments to the national park, the Bagisu refer to Mount Elgon as Mount Masaba since they believe their ancestor Masaba originated from this mountain. This mountain features various water streams which are intercepted by the basalt clips to form beautiful water falls-most notably the Sipi falls. Mt Elgon National park features great flora species because of the various vegetation zones which pose many diverse encounters. Other geographical features in Mt Elgon National Park include; mesas, hot springs, cliffs, gorges and caves.
How to get to Mount Elgon National Park
There are various routings that visitors to this park can use and these include;
From Kampala, Mountain Elgon can be reached covering a distance of 255km.approximately 3-4 hours.
From Mbale town, Mountain Elgon is located just 20km (1hour drive)
From Kidepo Valley National Park, a drive takes you for a distance of 505km to reach Mt Elgon National Park.
Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon is East Africa`s largest and oldest standalone volcanic mountain and ranked as number four of the tallest mountains in East Africa. This mountain has rich history attached on it as a once Africa`s tallest mountain before it was affected by denudation which left the mountain in the eighth position of Africa`s tallest mountains. At the peak of Mount Elgon is the 42km2 mountain caldera with a length of 8km. this mountain caldera is the largest in the world. Various peaks like Mubiyi (4,210m), Koitobos (4,222m), Sudek (4,303m) and the highest Wagagai standing at (4,321m) all represent Mt Elgon. Besides the mountain caldera, there is a deep Suam gorge with its hot springs. All this and so much more make Mont Elgon a thrilling destination for safari undertakers in Uganda.
Vegetation in Mount Elgon National Park
The different vegetation zones of Mount Elgon that occupy the different altitude levels make Mount Elgon a must visit destination. At the base of the mountain, Mount Elgon is covered by the dense forest featuring epiphytes, lianas which resemble vines and lichens. The floor is covered with ferns, flowering plants and orchids. Some of the common tree species include; prunus africanas, podocarpus, Cordia, Elgon teak, Neoboutania, cedar, allophyllus tombea, Aningueriaadolfi-friedericii and Oleahochstetteriand. The vegetation of the mountain changes as the altitude levels increase, from 2500-3000m is an open woodland, from 3000-3500 the mountain features healthy grass marked with everlasting pink and white flowers, from 3500-4321m, the mountain is covered with tiny blue flowers, hairly leaves and giant lobelias among others. All these vegetation ranges attract many visitors to Mt Elgon national park.
Wildlife in Mt Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is a dwelling area for various wildlife such as; elephant, buffalo Defassa’s waterbuck, spotted hyena oribi, bushbuck, and leopard. But sighting some of these animals in the park is unusual, except common species like black and white colobus monkey, and tree squirrel duiker.
Birds in Mt Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is a birder`s paradise with over 296 species of birds of which 40 species are endemic to Mt Elgon. Some of the birds that dwell in this park include; Hartlaub’s turaco, bronze-napped pigeon, black collared apalis, tacazze sunbird, Jackson’s francolin, moustached green tinker bird, and the rare Lammergeyer.
Local people around Mount Elgon National Park
Various tribal communities surround Mount Elgon National Park and these include Bagisu, Sabiny and the Ndorobos. The Bagisu and Sabiny are world known for their circumcision and genital mutilation rituals. The famous Imbalu of the Bagisu is a big festivity that attracts many people from around the world to come and witness. The Malewa-traditional cuisine of the Bagisu also offers one of the unforgettable experiences to travelers on a Uganda safari. Traditional bull fighting experience is also a common practice among the Ndorobos.
Sipi Falls near Mount Elgon National Park
Sipi falls is one of the key attractions that give a remarkable thrill to Uganda safari undertakers although Sipi falls is found outside Mount Elgon National Park. Arrange of basalt cliffs exist in the northern and western sides of Mount Elgon with many streams of water that flow like waterfalls. Sipi falls is located along the Kapichorwa road just outside the park. Other attractive falls include; Simba falls plunging at 69km over the entrance of the cave with breathtaking views. The Ngasire falls which flows over 87km high ridge. Other water falls around Mt Elgon include Bulago, Sisiyi, Chebonet and Wanale. From Mbale, Sipi falls is located about an hour drive. All the falls and water streams allow impressive views to visitors on a safari in Uganda.
Over 296 species of birds have been recorded in Mt Elgon National Park of which 40 species are endemic in the area.
Key birding spots in Mt Elgon National park include; the Loop trails that push to Cheptui falls and Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre where counts of birds such as Chinspot Batis, African Goshawk, Luhders Bush-shrikes, White-chinned Prinia, Baglafecht Weaver, Blue Fly-catcher, Hartloub`s Turaco, Chubb’s Cisticola, Cinnamon Bee Eater, African Dohertys, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Moustached Tinker bird, Tacazze Sunbird, Bronze-naped pigeons, Black Kite Olive- and Black-collared Apalis.
One of the rewarding safari experiences in Uganda is the culture of the people around Mt Elgon National Park. The farming communities of the Bagisu and Sabiny as well as the Ndorobos pastoralists are rich in culture and tradition. The most pressing cultural activity is the Imbalu of the Bagisu with its entertaining dance and drama, like the Kadodi dance as well as the Malewa cuisine. They have got very impressive local coffee plantations and also to impress you are the bull fighting encounters of the Ndorobos.
Climbing mount Elgon is one of the key activities in the park. There are various nature trails that lead trekkers to the summit of the mountain. These include;
The Sipi trail which starts from the forest exploration Centre to Kapkwai-a few kilometers north of the Sipi falls. Using this trail takes 7 days for mountain climbers to reach the summit.
The Sasa trail which begins from Budadiri town opposite Mbale with aa direct path to to the mountain peaks and a steep climb of 1,600m on the start date. Users of this trail spend 4 days to reach the summit traversing through various areas of attraction like the largest Bamboo track, the impressive Jackson`s pool as your heading to Wagagai peak.
Piswa trail also takes 7 days to reach the peak starting from Kapwata which is 30km after Kapichorwa. The trail is long and starts at a high altitude. Expect to see beautiful fauna enroute like in the podocarpus forest.
Suam trail is the closest to the Kenya border in Suam village the use of this trail rewards trekkers with the views of Suam river through the steep suam gorge and the hot springs that are settled on the eastern direction of the caldera.
Biking in Mt Egon is another adventurous activity. Cycling is done using the bicycles from Sipi river lodge and the cycling route used traverse through the Sipi trading Centre to Chema hill in the town of Kapichorwa. The cycling activity take about 1.5 hours and it rewards with the impressive scenery of the water falls and Karamoja plains.
Accommodation/ where to Stay in Mt Elgon National Park
A range of accommodation facilities are available both with in and outside the park to extend accommodation services to visitors in the park. These valley from high end to midrange and then to budget facilities. Some of them include;
Suam Guest House, Kapkwata Guest House, Masha Hotel, Noah’s Ark Hotel, Savannah guest house, Sipi River Lodge, Crow’s nest campsite, Sipi Falls Resort, Moses’ Campsite, Twilight Sipi Campsite, Lacam Lodge, Rose’s Last Chance, Mbale Resort Hotel, and Mount Elgon Hotel among others.