Mount Elgon National Park is 140 kilometres northeast of Lake Victoria and an important water catchment for the Nzoia River, and for the Turkwel River (known as the Suam River in Uganda), which flows into Lake Turkana.
It covers 1,279 square kilometres and is bisected by the Kenya/Uganda border.
The park’s most prominent feature is the 24 million year old eponymous extinct volcano, Mount Elgon.
Mt Elgon was once Africa’s highest peak, greatly exceeding Kilimanjaro. Millennia of erosion has reduced it’s highest point to 4,321m, making it Uganda’s 5th highest peak but with the largest volcanic base in the world.
Elgon’s slopes support a rich variety of vegetation, varying with altitude, including rare and uniquely-located species like montane forest or high open moorland. As well as flora, there’s plentiful creatures to be found; elephant, buffalo, bush pig or waterbuck which come to sample the salt rocks, graceful big cats like the leopard, civet and serval cat, and others like hyrax, aardvark, baboon and black-and-white colobus.
The mountain also has 300 bird species, 40 of which are restricted range species; Moorland Francolin, Moustached Green Tinkerbird and Alpine Chat. Finally, about half of Uganda’s butterfly species call Mount Elgon home.
Mount Elgon can claim to be host to elephants, buffalo (lower slopes), small antelope, duiker, black-and-white colobus and blue monkey, red-tailed monkey any many more.
Additionally, half of Uganda’s butterfly species have been reported in Mount Elgon.
Of the estimated 150 species of birds in the park, there are Hartlaub’s Turaco, Tacazze sunbird, Jackson’s francolin, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Dusky-Turtle Dove, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Thick-billed Honey guide and the Grey Cuckoo-Shrike.
Activities & Culture
Bagisu – Imbalu Circumcision
No Bagisu Trive male can be married without being circumcised. In the culture of the Bugisu People the Circumcision of males is done publicly.
Visitors and tourists are invited to this boisterous, colorful event, however a donation is appreciated when pictures are taken. It takes place in August and December, but December is favoured increasingly.
There are street processions where friends and family go with the circumcision candidate to the site where the ancient ritual take place – a place that gathers thousands – females among them that come looking at the newly eligible bachelors.
The Budadiri Community Walk
This is an interactive cultural community walk not too far from Mount Elgon. This community group offers cultural dances, guided coffee tours and community nature walks. Visitors can discover the region’s cultural dances, food preparation, folklore and its famous delicacy malewa bamboo shoots.
There is also a tour of Mount Elgon’s famous Arabica coffee processing plants which support local farmers.
Nature lovers can indulge themselves in one of three trails – the all-day Namugabwe Cave Trail, passing through BaMasaba community land and banana plantations to reach a bone-filled historical cave; the Dirigana Loop Trail to the Dirigsana Falls and Gabushana Cave past local markets and the “Walls of Death”, or three day walk to Sipi Falls, revealing the culture of the two neighboring tribes.
Excellent birding opportunities exist around Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre, in particular in the secondary forest and thick shrub along the loop trail to Cheptui Falls support the African Goshawk; Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia and African Blue Flycatcher among others.
Panoramic views of the areas’ escarpments, gorges, mesas, and rivers are the agenda here.
The highest peak of Mt. Elgon on the Kenya side, Koitoboss, measures 13,852 ft (4,155 m), and is easily reached by hikers in about two hours from the road’s end.
Related activities include: Vehicle circuits to animal viewing areas, the caves and Koitoboss peak, self-guided walking trails, primate and bird watching and camping photography.
Sport fishing in Mt. Elgon is done above 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.
Mountain Biking trails in Mt. Elgon run from Sipi trading centre to Chema hill in Kapchorwa town. It should take 1.5 hours and provides views of various waterfalls.
Rock climbing in Mt. Elgon takes place outside the park at Sipi. There are 14 routes requiring various levels of rock scaling techniques. The toughest is a 35m climb while the easiest is 15m.
The Abayudaya Jews of Uganda
In eastern Uganda near Mount Elgon and Sipi Falls there is a small community of Abayudaya Jews. The community is almost 100 years old.
The Abayudaya are Jews by choice and not by their lineage, some of them have gone through official conversion in the Jewish Conservative Tradition. They also have a modern hospital and state of Arc Dental Department.
They partner with Christians and Muslims in a fair-trade coffee venture that has proven to be very successful. The Abayudaya Guest House is located the Abayudaya Nabugoye Village.
Visitors are welcome here, especially those of the Jewish Faith who can also spend a few days volunteering in the community.
Recent studies have shown that elephants and other mammals are major contributors to the development of the salt rocks. The animals frequently visit at night to ‘mine’ the natural salt by licking it from the cave walls. The caves are mapped and Kitum, Chepnyali, and Mackingeny can be explored by visitors to the park.
A visit to the Nyero Rock Paintings and Caves…
…can be made into a day-trip – These are ancient rock paintings and were not created by tribes that presently live in the area, but by ancient cave dwellers who were the first inhabitants of the area.
The Rock paintings remain in relative good shape having survived thousands of years. There are several other rock painting sites within the general area.
Other attractions include hot springs in the former volcano’s crater which bubble at temperatures of up to 48°C.
Mount elgon national park lies above Mbale town ,235km east of kampala.the route beyond Mbale is surfaced as far as kapchorwa town on the northwest flank of the mountain .dirt roads leads off this roads to the various trailheads .
Mount elgon can also be reached from kidepo valley national park in the north east Uganda .the 420km drive is possible in one long day but an overnitght stop in moroto or pian upe wildlife reserve is recommended