Mount Elgon national park is found in the eastern part of the country covering an area of 1,110 kilometers squared at the border of Uganda and Kenya, the park was established in 1992. The first European to circumnavigate the mountain was C.W Hobley in 1896. In the year 1890 Jackson Martine and E. Gedge ascended to Sudek peak and In 1911 Stigler and Kmunke were the first to make it to the Koitobos and Wagagi peaks.
Mount Elgon national park derives its name from the extinct shield volcano found within the park, Mount Elgon is said to have been the highest mountain in Africa before millennia of erosion reduced it to 4,321 meters above sea level. The mountain is said to have first erupted 24 million years ago making it one of the oldest physical features in Africa. Mount Elgon boasts with the largest volcanic base in the world, the mountain has got unique vegetation patterns from Montane forests, bamboo zone, moorland zones, groundsels, and giant lobelia.
Climbing Mount Elgon
Mount Elgon has got four peaks the highest being Wagagi at an elevation of 4, 321 meters, the second peak is Sudek peak at 4,303 meters, the third being Koitobos peak at 4,222 meters and lastly Mubiyi peak at 4,210 meters. there are three established trails in mount Elgon that can lead you to the peak with each providing its own unique experience this can be seen below.
Sipi Trail. The Sipi trail starts at Kapkwai forest exploration center taking four to six days depending on the phase of the hikers, you will pass through many of waterfalls, caves like Tutum cave, the caldera and greater views, the climb is gentle though it gets tougher on the top.
Piswa Trail. This trail starts from Kapkwata village, this is the longest and the easiest route to traverse as it gives you views of Kapenguria and Nandi hills in Kenya with the stunning views of the endless Karamoja plains north of Mount Elgon. There are a lot of wildlife and hot springs along this trail. This takes about seven days round trip.
Sasa Trail. The Sasa trail starts from Budadiri village and its the shortest route taking only four days yet the toughest, you will pass through the Bamassaba settlements and farms and get into the tough climb on day one before passing Jackson’s pool then to Wagagi peak.
The natural beautiful pool was named after Fredrick Jackson who was the first to ascend to Sudek peak, the pool is at an elevation of 4,050 meters above sea level in the low land of Jackson’s peak which is 165 meters high.
The park is home to various animals such as; Civets, leopards, bush pigs, bushbucks, Oribis, waterbucks, duikers, spotted hyenas and Aardvarks with several primates like the black and white Columbus monkeys, De Brazza monkey, Olive baboons, blue monkeys, squirrels, and red-tailed monkeys.
Mount Elgon national park is home to over 300 species of birds with 40 species restricted to this area, some of the examples of birds at Mount Elgon national park include; mustached green tinker bird, moorland francolin, alpine chat, black collared Apalis, Jackson’s francolin, lammergeyer, black shouldered kite, tucazze sunbird, chubbs cisticola, white-chinned prinia, African goshawk, African blue flycatcher, chin spot batis, Mackinnon fiscal, luhders bush shrikes, Baglafecht Weaver, and many others.
Forest Exploration Center
The forest exploration center is found at Kapkwai center near Sipi town; this is important for studying and research especially for schools. The hike to the caldera also starts from here through Sipi falls and there lots of birds to be seen on this trail such as; Grey cuckoo shrike, dusky turtle dove, Black-throated wattle eye, eastern bronze napped pigeon, yellow warbler and thick-billed honey guide among others.
The slopes of Mount Elgon are home to the Sabiny and the Bagisu people also known as the BaMasaba who refer to mount Elgon as mount Masaba. The Bagisu people are well known for their Kadodi dance that is always danced when a man is being circumcised to show he has entered manhood, the Sabiny people on the other than do women circumcision. You can explore the villages and learn the process of coffee making from farm to cup.
The rivers of mount Elgon plunge as beautiful waterfalls on the basalt cliffs, the famous of this waterfalls are the dramatic Sipi falls which are three in number the highest cascades at a 100-meter cliff, another at 87 meters and the last one at 69 meters. These waterfalls are found in Kapchorwa town which an hours drive from Mbale town. Tourists can also hike to the Tewei hill with breathtaking views of the Wagagi peak and Karamoja plains.
Mountain biking in mount Elgon is very interesting as you ride from Sipi trading center to Chema hill in Kapchorwa town with beautiful views, the unforgettable experience is climbing mount Elgon on a bike. For those interested in biking they can hire bikes and equipment from Sipi River lodge. Nature guided walks at mount Elgon can be taken o the Mudange cliffs also known as “walls of death”. The views there are panoramic as you come across many primates like the black and white Columbus monkeys and olive baboons not forgetting several bird species.
Mount Elgon has got a lot of uniquely set up natural caves that can be explored like the Kapkwai cave, Tatum cave, Mude cave, hunters cave, and Siyo cave are the most recognized among the rest. There isn’t really accommodation at the park but there are good hotels you can sleep in from Mbale town or Kapchorwa like Mount Elgon hotel and Spa, Sipi river lodge and Mbale traveler’s Inn among the rest. Mount Elgon national park can be reached from Kampala the capital of Uganda within four hours drive through Jinja town.