Mountain Elgon National Park is located in eastern Uganda with the largest physical feature as Mountain Elgon which is approximately 4324 meters high Wagagai being its highest peak, the volcanic mountain is the world’s largest mountain caldera. It was ounce the highest peak in east Africa said to have erupted over 24 million years ago standing with the largest foot base and 4th highest in east Africa along Uganda and Kenya border.
Mount Elgon covers an area of 1145 square kilometers with distinctive altitudinal vegetative zones restricted to east Africa’s highest mountains declared a UNESCO man and biosphere reserve representing a regional water reserve standing 3000m above the hot dusty plains of karamoja providing a cool area to flora and fauna the exist in the national park.
The slopes of Elgon support a rich vegetation cover varying in different altitudes from montane forest to high open moorland having the giant lobelia dotted around the zone and a thick bamboo forest with thick beautiful flowers and ferns that make up the forest. Visitors can visit from the kapkwai exploration center tour caves, waterfalls, and escarpments.
The national park is home to large mammals including elephants and buffalo although they are rarely seen and over 300 species of birds for example the African fly catcher, white chinned prinia,mountain yellow warbler, dusky turtle dove, African hill warbler and the endangered lammergeyer among others, popular activities with in the park include Hiking mountain elgon it’s exciting and in a less congested environment to different trails of the park, nature walks, mountain biking, rock climbing that will enable you have magnificent views of the lower slopes of karamoja, the Sipi falls is also a big deal to trek along the steep slopes as you follow the waterfalls outside the national park. Actually one can have an adjoined journey to Pain Upe, Matheniko Game Reserve and the Kidepo Valley National Park.
Two ethnic groups live on the slopes of mountain elgon The Kalenjin and Bagisu who are traditional farmers growing coffee and bananas for commercial and domestic use they perform ceremonies in every even year if one actually decided to travel in these years could have a chance to see how they perform their traditional dances, customs and norms. The Bagisu consider mount Elgon to have been an original home to their ancestor masaba and refer to the mountain by his name MASABA living in the southern and western parts of the mountain.
The park can be accessed all year round however the best season is during the dry season December to February, late June to September it is advisable to carry boots, long sleeved shirts, insect repellants, waterproof covers for phones and cameras as Uganda’s weather is so unpredictable especially in the mountainous regions it can rain anytime
Mountain elgon lies above Mbale town approximately 5hour s drive from Kampala to kapchorwa district, it can as well be accessed from kidepo and there is available accommodation Uganda wildlife authority has provided bandas and more comfortable accommodation ranging from luxury to midrange around Sipi and kapchorwa town.
TOURISM ATTRACTIONS IN MOUNTAIN ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Mountain Elgon national park is located in the eastern part of Uganda with the extinct volcano Elgon, it is said to have erupted 24 million years ago it is the 4th highest mountain in east Africa said to have been higher than mountain Kilimanjaro before the eruption, it has the world’s largest caldera and foot base on which there are several human settlements especially Kalenjin’s and the Bagisu. They call the mountain ‘Masaba’ having a belief that it is an ancestral origin for their founder known by the names. They grow coffee and banana on a subsistence scale. The national park is situated at the border of Uganda and Kenya gazette in 1992 as a UNESCO world heritage site covering a land area of 1145 square kilometers.
Tourism attractions in the national park are a number of amalgamated factors including the flora and fauna of the national park, the ever green forest is a water catchment area to the region sourcing many rivers that drop downhill forming beautiful waterfalls the most scenic and well known is the Sipi falls besides the small streams that run down the mountain.
The forest exploration center branches from Chema village in Kapchorwa district driving 12 square kilometers to the Kapkwai exploration center, it is an educational point having starting points into the national park, trails for climbing to the caldera begin right here, you can visit water falls, caves, escarpments and beautiful view points. It is possible to see some animal species including the present primates.
Mountain Elgon is one of the oldest mountains in east Africa, the gazette area is home to several animal and plant species including the mountain duikers, elephants, hyenas, buffaloes, deffassa waterbucks, oribi and a few primate species like the black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys. There are more than 300 species of birds some which are restricted to the area including the Jackson francolin, mustached tinker bird, African reed warbler, white winged sunbirds, crown hornbill, black colored apalis to mention a few.
The vegetation of mountain Elgon national park is banded into zones ranging from a regenerating forest, montane forest, heath and more lands to the bamboo forest which extends to the open woodland, the bam boo forest from which the bagisu drive their staple food ‘Malewa’ the moorlands are well distributed with the giant lobelia and ground plants the floor is covered in carpet fans, orchids and flowering plants. Common tree species like the Elgon teak, cedar, cordia to mention a few.
The peaks of mountain Elgon present an opportunity to do mountain climbing in the national park the highest being Wagagai elevated at 4521m above sea level followed by sudek(4503m), koitobos(4202m). the slopes of mountain elgon are covered with caves for example the Khauka cave on the wanale ridge they were used anciently for accommodation and shelter for their livestock. Recently the caves have been abandoned due to civilization but continue being present hosting bats and for tourism purposes.
The park can be visited all year round but best during the dry season as the game trails are dry, rocks lees slippery making it easy to climb mountains, these occur in the months of December –February and June –mid September it should be noted that the dry seasons aren’t completely dry expect some rain it being a forest area. There is available accommodation on the slopes of mountain Elgon especially in Sipi.
It is placed on a six hours’ drive from Kampala by road, trips to the eastern Uganda can be inter connected to the pian upe game reserve and matheniko for more game driving through different environ mental conditions.
TOURISM ACTIVITIES IN MOUNTAIN ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Mountain Elgon national park is situated in eastern Uganda along the border with Kenya its biggest feature is mount elgon believed to have erupted 24 million years ago, with the largest caldera in the world and foot base on which there are a number of human settlements its highest peak being wagagai. The park was gazette in 1992 as a UNESCO world heritage site. The local people were originally farmers growing coffee and bananas on a subsistence scale, mountain elgon national park is home to a number of animal and plant species presenting an opportunity to carry out tourism activities within the conservation area.
Mountain climbing in the national park aims at the peaks and rocky surface of the national park, the activity doesn’t need a lot of experience or special equipment there are well distributed trails to follow through community land for example the Sasa trail starting in Budadiri sironko, the Sipi trail through the forest exploration center and the piswa trail the longest of the trails starting in kapkwata north of the national park passing through soft wood, there are high chances of seeing the present animals in the park including primates and excellent views of the beautiful Karamojong sub region.
It is an excellent park to do birding safaris best at then Kapkwai exploration center, birds like mustached tinker bird, Tacazze sunbird, olive napped pigeons, black kites, African blue fly catcher, eagles, to mention a few can be spotted for a better experience it is advisable to carry a pair of binoculars in order to see the birds at an distance and identification.
Guided nature walks through the bamboo trail at the Kapkwai exploration center this lasts for 2-3hours along the route are primates, birds and beautiful rare tree species like the elgon olives, walks to the chebonet water fall, leads to caves and camping around them is naturally interesting as you get to interact with nature listening to the beautiful sound of the water slopping downhill and song birds.
Mountain biking from Sipi to Chema trading center is one of the things one shouldn’t miss out it takes as far as one’s energy can stop but usually one and half-hours’ taking views of the Karamojong plains and water falls along the way bikes can be hired at the Sipi river lodge on the foot hills of mountain elgon national park.
Cultural performances in mountain elgon national park, visits to the local communities, they will teach how they lived in the traditional society, how they grow coffee and maintain it, they have one of the most interesting cultures in Uganda including performances are done every even year to circumciseyoung teenagers to convert them into adults. Strategically for the best cultural performances it is advisable to aim at the even year.
The parks major attractions ranging from vegetation, animal and bird species, rocks, mountain present an opportunity to perform most activities taking place in the national park it can be visited all year round best in the dry seasons of December-February and June to mid-September, it is advisable to carry warm clothes, boots insect repellants, water proof covers for phones and cameras, and any other personal material needed on an African safari.
The park is located in the eastern Uganda 6 hours’ drive on road through Mbale to Kapchorwa, there is available accommodation around the national park ranging from luxury to the best budget for example the Sipi river lodge, Sipitraveler’s inn, lacam lodge among others, preferably one can choose to stay in Mbale town.
WHERE TO STAY IN MOUNTAIN ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Mountain elgon national park is located in the eastern part of Uganda placed between Uganda and Kenya home to several animal and tree species, the mountain elgon was the 4th highest mountain in east Africa believed to have erupted 24million years ago it was gazette in 1992 as a UNESCO world heritage site for conservation purposes, the locals who live around the mountain are bagisu and the Kalegins who grow coffee and bananas, the bagisu call mountain elgon ‘Masaba’ believed to have been an origin of their ancestors. Accommodation in mountain elgon varies around the national park, one can choose to stay in Kapchorwa or Mbale district.
Sipi river lodge is a set of unique architecture consisting of the main lodge, and seven guest houses each designed differently from the other the lodge is well equipped with en-suite bathrooms, an airy veranda with perfect views of the hills around Sipi water falls home to beautiful birds and scenic environments it is a luxury facility extending on about 17 acres of personal land including the kapsurur falls. The lodge employs local people while ensuring that their benefit is sustainable to the environment.
Mbale resort hotel is situated in Mbale town offeringthe best accommodation for travelers to mountain elgon national park it has 94 various luxurious rooms available for to provide a comfortable stay it is well equipped with three restaurants, health spa, swimming pool, and many other room materials for use it is among the many best hotels to have a stay while for a tour to mountain elgon national park.
Noah’s ark hotel offers a midrange accommodation situated on the slopes of mountain elgon in Kapchorwa district the hotel has three divisions with the capacity to occupy 100 guest per night it has both self-contained and non-self-contained rooms implying that they offer budget accommodation as well rated favorably in both the resort in town and that of Sipi.
Lacam lodge is a midrange facility in the eastern part of Uganda in Kapchorwa district Sipi, the lodge has the most excellent views of the Sipi falls as it has been constructed at the edge of the cliff mountain slope they provide both wooden and non-wooden Banda’s being received by a hospitable team of sabiny a Kalenjin group of speaking people only one race does exist in the country.
Crow’s nest camp is a budget facility in Sipi offering accommodation to mountain elgon travelers a few kilometers away from the exploration center where most activities start it has many different cabins with facilities offered as units it is a perfect stay for those interested in village walks, Sipi falls hike bagisu and sabiny plantation tours tom mention a few.
Sipi falls resort is placed right overlooking the beautiful Sipi falls.it is surrounded by a very beautiful environment with thick green vegetation there are various cottages made out of local materials for example bamboo, banana fibers and that grass, it has a well-stocked bar and an onsite restaurant.
The above mention accommodation favors travelers ranging from the best budget to luxury, it is advisable to carry warm clothes, boots, insect repellants, hats, simple hike equipment as mountain elgon is at a high altitude full of rocks and cold weather, it is windy even when hot.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MOUNTAIN ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Mountain elgon national park is located in the eastern Uganda with elgon cutting across Uganda and Kenya, it is believed to have erupted 24 million years ago leaving it with east Africa’s largest and longest caldera, it is said to have ounce been higher than the mountain Kilimanjaro but lately ranking to the 4th position in east Africa after the eruption with the largest foot base on which there are human settlements bantu speaking group of people(Bagisu) and Kalenjin’s(sabiny).the mountain is an exceptional one for hikes its highest peak being wagagai ,it was gazette in 1992 as a UNESCO world heritage site covering an area of 1145 square kilometers.
The park visit is all year round despite other seasons being better than the others because some of them provide a better experience than the others. The best time to climb, mountain elgon is during the dry seasons of December –February and June to mid-September this is because the rocks are less slippery, trails are more clear and less bushy for the adventurous tourist one can actually opt to climb the mountain during wet season. It should be noted that the park area is not totally dry during this time it rains some time as Uganda’s climate is very unpredictable. It is a time of the year when it is easy to spot animals even if they are rare to see there are high chances of meeting at least a hyena or an oribi in the park area on a nature walk, or mountain hike most of the activities are preferred in this time of the year, it is actually a peak season for tourists coming in to the national park for any other tourism point.
Mountain elgon national park receives a moderately average climate receiving up to 3000mm of rainfall annually in the months of march –May and October –November October and April being the wettest season, it is extremely cold during this time snow of hail stones misty environment is popular at this time. There is a montane vegetation which runs from the park boundary, bamboo to heath and moor land. The park is beautiful with an ever green forest covered in carpet of fans it is a water catchment area to the surrounding community and a source to many rivers including the Sipi.
The park is home to over 300 species of birds including the endangered lammergeyer species like Jackson’s francolin, hunter’scist cola, to mention a few can be spotted on a visit to mountain elgon national park, animal species for example hyenas, monkeys, oribi, deffasa water bucks can be spotted as well. There are several activities presented to participate in including mountain climbing, mountain biking, nature walks, cultural encounters, birding safaris, visiting caves among others.
The national park can be visited all year round placed 6 hours’ drive off a tarmac road to a 12km dusty path to the exploration center kapkwai by car. It is where most trails leading to the forest waterfalls and hikes.