Mount Elgon National Park lies in Eastern Uganda and it is that one magical safari to explore if you are to get the best of experiential African safari. It covers an area of about 1145 square kilometers and inhabits the extinct volcano-Mount Elgon one of oldest physical features in Uganda. This volcano once featured as the Africa’s highest mountain exceeding the Kilimanjaro’s current 5895 meters but due to erosion, it reduced to 4321 meters making it the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th in Africa. There are also 2 tribes that live around here-the Bagisu and Sabiny as well as the marginalized Ndorobos who lived deep in the forest of Benet. This volcano spans for over 4000 square kilometers thus featuring the largest volcanic base in the world.
This park derived its name from the spectacular Mount Elgon which straddles at the border with Kenya. Its diameter is about 80 kilometers and stretches up to 3000 meters. A visit to this stunning park gets you the best of its unique flora and fauna including more than 300 bird species, thick montane forest, mixed bamboo belts, endemic plants for instance the giant lobelia and groundsels. The wildlife species to spot here include the black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, birds like golden winged and tacazze sunbirds, Ross’s and hartlaub’s Turaco, Jackson’s Francolin, lammergeyer, crowned hornbills, black and white casqued hornbills among others.
Things to See in Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon appeals to all types of travelers and truly, it is made for mountain lovers. Experience non-stop excitement on your wilderness trek and see real Eastern region as you journey through the mountainous north and enter the world of green forest, virgin mountain lakes, imposing glaciers as well as a rich Ugandan ecosystem.
The exotic landscape, diverse flora and fauna, sheer mountain range with an unsurpassed beauty offers all together an unforgettable Uganda safari experience. The trekking trail takes trekkers on a journey of natural discovery and self-contemplation. No wonder Elgon offers a wide range of trekking trails from a simple, short three days trek, to the rigorous and astonishing twenty-two days long, legendary trek
Select an appealing Mount Elgon Trek and tailor a tour program to fit your fancy. Travel at your leisure and with Wild Mountain Adventure; you can see what you want at your own pace.
There are a lot of appealing attractions on your way for this mountain climbing adventure that will leave you totally mesmerized and they include;
Mount Elgon National Park
Most of the trekking is within the boundary of Mount Elgon National Park. This national park is spread over an area of 1,148 square km in the Ugandan ecological zone in the Eastern region of Ugandan. The park was established on July 19, 1976 and was inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site in 1979.
Bagisu People and Culture
Elgon region is the home of Bagisu. Bagisu is an ethnic group of Uganda. They are one of the ethnic Bantu speaking people. Most of the people who are working in mountaineering and expeditions belong to this ethnic group. They are highly regarded as elite mountaineers and experts in their local terrain. They speak their own language. The Lugisu language belongs to the south branch of the Bantu language family. During Elgon trekking, you will visit villages of Bagisu and have the opportunity to see their real lifestyle, traditions and culture.
In this Eastern region you will find varieties of flora and fauna. In the lower forested zone, you will find a lot of trees and shrubs like blue pines, firs, bamboo and rhododendron grow. Above this zone all vegetation are found to be dwarf or shrubs. As the altitude increases, plant life is restricted to lichens and mosses. Plants stop growing at about 5,750 meters (18,860 ft), because this is the permanent snow line in the region.
The forests of Mount Elgon national park provide habitat to at least 118 species of birds, including Red-billed chough, and Yellow-billed chough. This park is also home to a number of rare mammal species, monkeysare also found in the park.
Things to do Mount Elgon National Park
A trip to Mount Elgon National Park rewards travel endeavors with exciting birding experience. The birds to look out in this park include the golden winged and tacazze sunbirds, Ross’s and hartlaub’s Turaco, Jackson’s Francolin, lammergeyer, crowned hornbills, black and white casqued hornbills, African blue fly catchers, chin spot batis, luhders bush shrikes, baglafetch weaver, Doherty’s, white chinned prinia, Chubb’s cisticola and others.
Hike to Sipi falls
This is one of the most explored sites and features an ancient enormous Stone Age cave painting close to the Budadiri trail head, scenic mountain peaks and hot springs which bubble strongly and gorges among others. The Sipi falls are found about 66 kilometers off Mbale, en-route to the Forest Exploration Center and Kapkwata. The available accommodation in this area is Sipi Falls Resort.
Trekking through Mount Elgon
Three (3) main trailheads take you to Mount Elgon peaks, one of which kick starts from Budadiri- the Sasa trailhead, the Sipi trailhead-forest exploration center to Kapkwai or use the Kapkwata also known as Piswa trailhead. The Sasa trail passes via the park’s vast area of bamboo forest and it is a direct route to the mountain peaks.
This park features about 9 basic campsites for you to embark on camping experiences. They are strategically located on the trekking routes and camping can be done in designated campsites. For any need to do camping here, you need to come with your camping gear including tent, sleeping bag, gloves, hat, sturdy hiking shoes, flashlight, rain gear, cooking equipment, food, first aid kit, warm clothes and others.
Embark on day hikes in any of the 3 day trails at forest exploration center. They range from 3 to 7 kilometers and they provide the best experience as it comes with amazing encounters of rare plant and wildlife species. The 4th trail takes you through distinct vegetation zones then to Tutum cave and provides excellent sights at wildlife species like black and white colobus monkeys as well as several bird species.
When to visit Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park can be explored at any time of the year but it is ideal during dry season. This season is usually experienced from June to August and December to mid-March. But this doesn’t mean that it is not possible for you to explore this park during the wet season. The wet season equally comes with its unique experiences especially scenic views of waterfalls.
Where to stay in Mount Elgon National Park
The available accommodation options for you to spend a night in this park include the Kapkwata Rest House and the Forest Exploration Center. The others include Mbale Resort Hotel, Sunrise Inn, Mount Elgon Hotel, Country Home, etc.
While on Uganda safari to Mount Elgon National Park, you can choose to stay in;
Masha Hotel (Mid range)
This is situated in Kapchorwa side about one kilometer from Kapchorwa town to the Sipi area. It has 23 rooms both single and double.
Noah’s Ark Hotel (Mid range)
This is found on Mount Elgon slopes and offers al types of accommodation right from Luxury tom mid range. It has 3 branches with the capacity of over 100 people.
The Sipi Falls Resort (Mid range)
For adventure safaris to Sipi area, this is the best place for you to stay. It is situated about 100 meters from Mbale-Kapchorwa.
Kapkwai Forest Cottages (Budget)
This lodge is located about 2050 meters at the entrance of the Mount Elgon National Park and it is mainly used as a student center.
Rose’s Last Chance (Budget)
This is strategically located near Mount Elgon National Park information center at 1250 meters above sea level.
In Mbale town, you can spend a night at Mbale Resort Hotel (Luxury). Other accommodation facilities include the Moses Campsite (Budget) and Suam Guesthouse (Budget).
Hiking Trails in Mount Elgon
Many travellers find Mt. Elgon an exciting alternative to the more strenuous climbs in East Africa. It has many of the same attractions, with a milder climate and lower elevation, and requires no special equipment or technical experience.
Many travellers find Mt. Elgon an exciting alternative to the more strenuous climbs in East Africa. It is easier to access throughout the year, less congested and has many of the same attractions, with a milder climate and lower elevation. Climbing the peaks requires no special equipment or technical experience.
The Sasa trail is the shortest but toughest route to the peaks, traversing the community land and allowing you to explore Ba Masaba farming settlements and culture. The round trip takes four days and starts at Budadiri town at an elevation of 1,250m. The toughest climb of over 1,600m is completed on the first day, before crossing the park’s largest area of bamboo forest and passing Jackson’s Pool on the way to Wagagai Peak.
The Sipi trail (four to six days, 56km round trip) starts at 2,050m at the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre. It is the longest trail to the peaks, passing through the northwestern mountainside through Tutum Cave to enter the caldera and reach Wagagai Peak. The trail begins gently, but becomes tougher on the third day from Kajeri Camp.
The Piswa trail (seven days, 49km round trip) is long and the most gentle trail. Starting at the village of Kapkwata on the north side of the mountain, it traverses the soft wood plantation to the Podocarpus forest. It’s notable for its rich wildlife and spectacular views of the Karamoja plains in Uganda and the Nandi and Kapeguria hills in Kenya. The Piswa trail also passes the hot springs on the way to the caldera and the peaks.
Alternative hiking options
The various routes can be combines, ascending the Sipi/Piswa/Sasa Trail and descending along the Sasa/Sipi Trail for example. This allows a traverse of the caldera and a visit to the hot springs.
Trans boundary hike/cross border tourism: The higher slopes of Mount Elgon are shared with an adjacent national park in Kenya and a trans boundary hike can be arranged. After ascending to the caldera with a UWA guide, climbers cross the border to descend with a Kenya Wildlife Service escort.