Mount Elgon National Park
The world’s largest Caldera
The 1,145 km2 Mount Elgon national park is located on the 43211m-high Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda. The border with Kenya bisects the mountain and national parks in both counties protect the flora and fauna on the higher contours. This trans-boundary conservation area has been declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve.
A massive, extinct volcano, 80km in diameter, its vast form rises 3000m above the hot dusty plains of Karamoja to provide a cool respite for humans and a refuge for flora and fauna. Wildlife includes large mammals, including elephant and buffalo (though rarely seen) and 300 species of bird. The curious Afromontane plants peculiar to East Africa’s highest mountains are found on the mountains highest slopes.
Mount Elgon’s highest peak lies along a jagged rim that encloses a giant caldera, 8km across. The mountain of illusion tag derives from historic confusion regarding the true summit of Mount Elgon. The local Bagisu people named their side of the mountain as Masaba after their founding deity. European climbers then found masaba to be a 4165m high volcanic plug on the mountain’s flank, lower even than the 4209m Mubiyi peak named after Masaba’s supposedly diminutive wife. Subsequent expeditions made cases for various high spots along the caldera rim before the 4321m wagagai, overlooked in the south west corner of the calera rin, was finally identified as the true summit.
Activities/ Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park
Tourist activities on the mountain cater for various levels of ambition. Visitors can make extended hikes to the summits, take days/half day walks through the forest on the lower edge of the park, or simply relax in resorts overlooking delightful waterfalls just outside the park at Sipi.
An ascent of Mount Elgon represents an exciting alternative to longer and more strenuous climbs on East Africa’s higher mountains. Elgon offers comparable attraction, including Afromontane botany, with a milder climate and lower elevation. No specific equipment or technical experience is required. A number of routes ascends to Wagagai peak from the small town of Mount Elgon. The Sasa Trail ascends to the 4321m Wagagai peak 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. The Sipi trail follows a longer but gentler route, stating 800 higher than the Budadiri at UWA’S Forest exploration Center at Kapkwai (2050m)
A highlight of an ascent of Mount Elgon is the transverse through the distinctive vegetation zones found on only East Africa’s highest mountains. The lowest of these zones between the park boundary and 2500m contour is montane forest. This gives way to bamboo (2500-3000m) followed by groves of giant heathers (3000-3500m).Above 3500m, the mountain side opens into moorland dotted with outlandish forms of giant lobelias and groundsels.
Trees of varying lengths explore the forest around the Forest Exploration Centre passing caves, waterfalls and viewpoints and providing the opportunity to observe birds-including African goshawk, Chubb’s cisticola, white-chinned prinnia and African blue flycatcher and primates.
The 7km section of the Sipi valley outside the national park is improbably scenic as the river plunges over 3 sets of basalt cliffs during its descent to the plains beneath. These have given rise to a cluster of tourist activities
Mountain bike excursions range from casual explorations many lovely trails in the vicinity,to the challenging Elgon Enduro hosted by Sipi River Lodge
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
Fisherman can cast a line for rainbow trout on the Sipi River between the park boundaries and the 3 waterfalls at Sipi. Again, contact Sipi River Lodge for details.
Uganda’s finest coffee is produced from Arabic coffee grown on Mt Elgon. Take a guided tour to see how the beans are grown and grounded.
How to get to Mount Elgon National Park
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 to the various trailheads.
Mount Elgon National Park can also be accessed via Kidepo Valley National park in north – east Uganda. The 420km drive is possible in one long day but an overnight stop in Moroto or Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve is recommended.
Best time of the year to visit Mount ELgon National Park
The best time to visit Mount Elgon National Park is during the dry (June – August and December – March) seasons. It is important to note that hiking to the top of the mountain and all other park activities continue even during the wet/rainy season.
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Mt. Elgon National Park in Pictures
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