Mount Elgon national park lies on the border of Uganda and Kenya in the misty hills of western Kenya and in the eastern region of Uganda. Mount Elgon national park consists of a towering volcanic mountain crowned with a vast caldera as well as other features such as glacial tarns, valleys and streams.
This national park is named after the dominant Mount Elgon which stands out form the rest of its surroundings. The highest peak on this mountain is found on the Ugandan side and is called Wagagai peak.
Mount Elgon which is a major attraction in Mount Elgon national park is the 8th highest mountain in Africa. Most climbers find Mount Elgon to be a less strenuous climb compared to other mountains due to its milder climate and lower elevation which does not require special equipment and skill to climb.
The vegetation in Mount Elgon national park is characterized by tropical montane forest, Afro-alpine moorland which unveils a magnificent and scenic wilderness.
Mount Elgon national park is maintained by both Kenyan and Ugandan regions due to the trans-boundary conservation region which is an important water catchment area that supplies many regions around.
Trekkers are rewarded with beautiful views such as cliffs, caves, gorges, and waterfalls during hikes in Mount Elgon national park.
Mount Elgon national park can be accessed from the Ugandan side at UWA base in Budadiri or from the Kenyan side. This national park is managed by both Uganda Wildlife Authority and Kenya Wildlife Services.
Access to Mount Elgon national park can be through the following means;
- By road; 235km east of Kampala via the Kampala –Jinja- Mbale route
Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park
Attractions in Mount Elgon national park include the following;
- Mount Elgon is the oldest volcanic mountain in East Africa with unique vegetation that extends to the caldera. This mountain is the main attraction in the national park where different tourist activities take place such as hiking and mountain climbing. The local people living along the slopes of this mountain refer to it as Masaba in reference to the belief by the Bagisu that their ancestors came from one of the caves on the slopes of this mountain. Mount Elgon is also a watershed for many rivers which include River Sipi.
- Caves which were formed by moving lava and erosion of soft volcanic deposits with the most accessible being the kapkwai caves can be seen within the national park. The caves were used as shelters for the locals and their livestock. Old cave paintings can be seen along the walls of the caves. Many bats live along the walls of these caves.
- Mountain caldera was formed as a result of magma being drained from the chambers of the mountain which formed a volcanic cone that later collapsed forming the depression. This attraction is seen by the tourists who hike to the top of the mountain where the caldera is found.
- Wildlife and bird species which can be sighted during a tour in Mount Elgon national park include the endangered lammergeyer, antelopes, forest monkeys, elephants, buffalos, defassa, waterbuck, oribi, bushbuck, duiker, forest hog, bush pig, civet, serval cats, aardvark and many other animal species. Bird species that can be sighted include the moorland francolin, mustached green tinker bird, and alpine chat, black collared Apalis and many other bird species.
- Cultural attractions: Cultural Tours are amazing and they include the different tribes that live at the foothills of Mount Elgon around the national park area whose unique way of life is a tourist attraction. The Bagisu and the Sabiny are the two tribes that can be found living along the slopes of Mount Elgon with unique cultural practices such as circumcision in ceremonies such as Imbalu for the Bagisu who are also known as the “Bamasaba”. The Imbalu is an initiation rite among the Bagisu which introduces the boys in their culture into adulthood. According to the beliefs of the Bagisu, a person can only become an adult after he/she is circumcised and this is a sign of adulthood and such a person is respected in their society. The Imbalu ceremony is very colorful and involves a bunch of activities such as cultural dances that attract large crowds as the initiates are paraded before the crowd. There is a lot to learn about the cultural practices in the Mount Elgon national park region and many tourists are encouraged to visit this tourist attraction site.
- Sipi falls is an attraction site visited by tourists enroute to Mount Elgon national park since it is located outside the national park. It is a series of three waterfalls that lie on the edge of Mount Elgon national park. The Sipi falls area is a starting point for many hikes up the mountain during trips in Mount Elgon national park. The views of the mountain can be seen from Sipi falls area for tourists using the Budadiri route which is the most popular route. The Sipi falls were formed by River Sipi.
Activities in Mount Elgon National Park
Activities for tourists to engage in during a trip to Mount Elgon national park include the following;
- Cave viewing is an alternative activity for tourists to engage in during a trip in Mount Elgon national park for tourists who are not participating in hiking and mountain climbing and prefer less strenuous activities. Caves that are explored include kitum cave, kapkwai cave, khauka caves. Some of these caves have salty walls which attract some of the wildlife such as elephants to lick the walls. Bats can also be seen in the caves.
- Biking provides views of various attractions such as various waterfalls and plains which offer scenic views for tourists. The national park also offers the perfect back drop for a mountain biking experience. The biking trails run from the Sipi trading center to Kapchorwa town and bikes can be hired for this experience.
- Hiking where different trails are available on this mountain which makes it possible to view the attractions and the scenery in this national park and they include; the Sasa trail, Sipi trail, and the Piswa trail. Alternative hiking options are also available such as the trans-border route which involves crossing to the Kenyan side of Mount Elgon in the company of a Kenya Wildlife Service official. The trans-border hike offers beautiful views of the national park. Sasa trail is the most popular and easiest trail during the ascent of the mountain. The best time for hiking is in the drier months from June to August and from November up to March. Walking sticks are provided for the tourists during these hikes.
- Nature walks take place in the company of a guide which allows the tourists to view different attractions within the national park paying special attention to all the minor details which may be of their interests such as the unique vegetation on the mountain slopes which varies with altitude. Wildlife species can be seen during these nature walks includes blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and baboons.
- Birding Tours can also be carried out during a trip in Mount Elgon national park offering excellent birding opportunities in different locations such as kapkwai forest which is a secondary forest with thick shrub and bird species which can be seen include African goshawk, chubbs cisticola, white chinned Prinia, African blue flycatcher, and many other bird species.
- Coffee walks are also available during trips in Mount Elgon national park which are led by the local people in the region who are mainly farmers. The type of coffee grown along the slopes of Mount Elgon is Arabica coffee which is their main cash crop. This coffee is served to tourists at their accommodation facilities.
A variety of accommodation facilities ranging from Luxury accommodation, midrange accommodation and budget accommodation are available for tourists offering comfort, safety, relaxation and other hospitality services to tourists visiting Mount Elgon national park and they include;
- Luxury accommodation; Mbale resort.
- Midrange accommodation; Mount Elgon guest house, Masha hotel, Noah’s Ark Hotel, Sipi river lodge
- Budget accommodation; Eastern palace hotel, Savannah guesthouse
Camping sites are also available as an option for accommodation in the national park with about 9 campsites located strategically along the routes used by the hikers and trekkers. The tourists are required to carry with them the relevant camping equipment during their trip to this destination.
“Adventure into the terrains of Mount Elgon and experience amazing sights and sounds of the thunderous waterfalls and interact with the local people for an exclusive trans-boundary tour between Uganda and Kenya in Mount Elgon National Park”