Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is located on the border between Uganda and Kenya, it protects Mount Elgon, a 4321m extinct volcano and is 1145 km2
One of East Africa's oldest natural formations, Mount Elgon initially erupted some 20 million years ago. The route up the mountain goes through peculiar altitudinal vegetation zones that are only found on the tallest mountains in Eastern Africa. When traveling through the arid Karamoja to or from Kidepo Valley National Park, Mount Elgon's cool slopes and dramatic, waterfall-strewn cliffs provide for the perfect getaway. Eastern Uganda's Mount Elgon, standing at 4321 meters high, is home to the 1,145 km2 Mount Elgon National Park.
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston is partially set in the park. The book also takes place in Kitum Cave. The famous book "King Solomon's Mines" by Henry Rider Haggard may have been influenced by the Mt. Elgon Caves. Wikipedia
The border with Kenya bisects the mountain and national parks in both countries to protect the flora and fauna on the higher contours. This transboundary conservation area has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. A massive, extinct volcano, 80km in diameter, Mount Elgon once stood far higher than Kilimanjaro’s current 5900m.
Its height was reduced when an unusually violent eruption emptied the volcano’s magma reservoir and the cone, no longer supported by underlying molten rock, collapsed inwards. Even so, Mount Elgon still rises 3000m above the hot dusty plains of Karamoja to provide a cool respite for humans and a refuge for flora and fauna.
A vital local water catchment is also represented by the protected woodland. Different levels of ambition are catered for in the mountain's tourist activities. Visitors can take day or half-day excursions in the forest on the lower border of the park, go on lengthy, at least 3-day climbs to the peaks, or simply unwind in resorts with views of lovely waterfalls at Sipi, which is just outside the park.
Wildlife in Mount Elgon National Park
Although they are rarely observed, large mammals like elephants and buffalo can be found in the forests of Mount Elgon. Over 300 species of birds, including the endangered lammergeyer Chubb's cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Goshawk, African blue flycatcher, black collared Apalis, Jacksons Francolin, and Tacazze sunbird can be found in Mount Elgon National Park.
THE LOCAL PEOPLE
The Bagisu and the Sabiny are two tribes that live atop Mount Elgon. The colorful Imbalu ritual, which takes place every two years and marks the circumcision of boys as they are introduced into manhood by the Bagisu people who inhabit Mount Elgon's southern and western slopes, is well-known. Mount Elgon is referred to as Masaba by the Bagisu, also known as the Bamasaba, who believe it to be a representation of their founding father.
WHEN TO VISIT
Mount Elgon can be climbed all year round through the dry seasons between June-August and December-March are most enjoyable.
UWA provides budget accommodation facilities at the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai. Comfortable budget and mid-range resorts are found at Sipi town, 13km from Kapkwai while Mbale town offers a wide choice of hotels.
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KAPKWAI FOREST EXPLORATION CENTRE
The UWA-run Forest Exploration Centre (FEC) lies on the park edge, 13km beyond Sipi. It doubles as an education centre for local schools and researchers as well as a trailhead for the Sipi route to the peaks (see below).
Routes over varying length explore the forest around the FEC passing caves, waterfalls and viewpoints and providing the opportunity to observe birds and primates.
A number of routes ascend to the 4321m Wagagai peak, the summit of Mount Elgon. The Sasa trail ascends from the small town of Budadiri (1250m a.s.l.) in the Sironko Valley. The shortest and most direct option, it is possible to reach the summit and descend to Budadiri in 3 or (more comfortably) 4 days. It does however involve a stiff altitudinal gain of 1650m, including an ascent of the Mudangi Cliffs, on Day One. The Sipi Trail involves a longer but gentler ascent, starting 800 higher than Budadiri at the FEC (2050m). Other options are the Piswa and Suam routes on the northern side of the mountain and a proposed new route at Bushiyi. Jackson’s Pool and Jackson’s Peak Jackson’s Pool stands at 4,050 m beside the Sasa Trail in the shadow of the 4,165 m high Jackson’s peak, a free-standing volcanic plug rising above moorland on the western flank of the mountain. The peaks and the caldera Mount Elgon’s highest peaks are formed by high points around a jagged rim that forms the circumference of a giant caldera which, at 8km across, is one of the world’s largest. The tallest peak is Wagagai (4,521m) followed by Sudek (4,503 m), Koitobos (4,222 m) and Mubiyi (4,210 m). Vegetation A highlight of any ascent of Mount Elgon is the traverse through the distinctive vegetation zones peculiar to East Africa’s highest mountains. The lowest of these zones, between the park boundary and the 2500m contour is covered with dense montane forest and regenerating forests, draped with lianas, epiphytes and lichens. This gives way to the bamboo forest (2,500-3,000m) followed by groves of giant heather (3000-3500m). Above 3500m, the mountainside opens into moorland dotted with outlandish forms of giant lobelias and groundsels.
NKOKENJERU RIDGE AND WANALE CLIFFS
As the map shows, a narrow corridor of parkland extends 25km west from Mount Elgon massif towards Mbale town. This follows the Nkokenjeru Ridge, a 25 km-long tongue of lava that burst out of the side of the volcano after the cone had collapsed to block the main vent. A trail within this section of the park visits the Khaukha Cave. The ridge ends at the lofty Wanale Cliffs (outside the park) which tower 700m above Mbale. A road winding upwards from the town through a gap in the cliffs leads to some stunning viewpoints and sites with paragliding potential.
OUTSIDE THE PARK SIPI FALLS
The 7km section of the Sipi Valley immediately outside the national park is improbably scenic as the river plunges over three sets of basalt cliffs during its descent to the plains beneath. These have given rise to a cluster of tourist lodges and a variety of activities. Mountain Biking The Sipi area has much to offer mountain bikers, ranging from the casual exploration of the many lovely trails in the vicinity to the challenging Elgon Enduro hosted by Sipi River Lodge. Rock Climbing Many of the basalt cliffs around Sipi have been bolted and can safely be climbed. Contact Sipi River Lodge or the Mountain Club of Uganda for details. Fly Fishing Fly fishing for rainbow trout is possible on the Sipi River between the park boundary and the highest of the three waterfalls at Sipi. Again, contact Sipi River Lodge for details. Coffee tour Uganda’s finest coffee is produced from Arabica beans grown on Mount Elgon. Take a guided tour of a coffee garden at Sipi to see how the beans are grown and ground. Other regional attractions include Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve and Nyero Rock paintings near Kumi.