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Mount Elgon National Park

Mountain Elgon National Park

Standing along the Ugandan Kenyan border east of Mbale district, mountain elgon is Africa’s eighth highest mountain. Like most of the east African highlands, the Elgon Mountain is an extinct volcano associated with tectonic activity 20 million years ago and thought to have remained active for another 14 million years.

Mountain Elgon tallest peaks form a jagged circle around the more or less intact caldera which has a diameter of 8km making it one of the largest in the world. Mountain elgon’s tallest peak is set on the Uganda side of the border and that is Wagagai (4,321m) above sea level which lies on the south west caldera rim.

The other peaks include kiongo (4303m) above sea level in the south, mubiyi (4210m) in the north and Jackson’s summit (4165m) in the east. Murton Stanley was the first European in 1875 to have a view on mountain elgon however joseph Thompson was the first European to reach the mountain lower slopes from the masailand in the east in 1883. Thomson called it mountain elgon an Anglicization of El-konyi a name given to both mountain ranges and its inhabitants the Masai who occasionally did cattle raids. The local Bagisu call the mountain the mountain masaba, a name of their founding ancestors.  The Ugandan part of the mountain rises above 200m and was gazetted in 1993 October covering an area size of 1,145km2.

Elgon vegetation zones are more like those of other large East African mountains. Below 3000m, the mountain supports a belt of evergreen forest extending roughly 750km2 within Uganda. The forest belt can be divided into two broad types that is the tall afro montane forest below 2500m and low canopy montane forest and the bamboo at 3000m lies the heather belt and afro alpine at 3500m.

These are home to over 24 mammal species which include buffalo, bush pig, Sitatunga, common duiker among others, over 305 bird species and these mainly include forest species some of which are endemic to east Africa’s montane moor lands e.g. the Jackson’s francolin, moorland francolin, red-throated wryneck, black-collared aplis.

 How to get to Mount Elgon National Park

The Mount Elgon national park con only be explore on foot but most of the trails can be reached by public transportation means. The most established route up elgon is the sasa route in budadiri on the western slopes.

Due to the establishment of two more trails to the peaks of recent one can approach it from the northern slopes. Transportation from Mbale to any of the trail heads can also be arranged through the national park information office in Mbale.

There are a number of possible routes to Mount Elgon national park from Kampala and these include: Kampala – Jinja – Iganga (via tirinyi road) – Mbale which can roughly take 4hours drive for 228km2.

Uganda Safari Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Mount Elgon National Park

Mountain Elgon is Africa’s eighth highest mountain. Like most of the east African highlands, the Elgon Mountain is an extinct volcano associated with tectonic activity 20 million years ago and thought to have remained active for another 14 million years.

Mountain Elgon tallest peaks form a jagged circle around the more or less intact caldera which has a diameter of 8km making it one of the largest in the world. Mountain Elgon’s tallest peak is set on the Uganda side of the border and that is Wagagai (4,321m) above sea level which lies on the south west caldera rim.

Bulago as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Mount Elgon National Park

This is an attractive excursion in the sipi area that can be approached from Mbale.  The road from Mbale winds beneath some superb cliffs and passes through a small but pretty rock gorge before reaching Bulago. This Bulago village stands on a cliff top above a lovely waterfall dropping into a pretty grassy meadow valley to butandiga ridge and a path climbs to the cliffs bordering the national park over a couple of stream falls

Kapkwai (Mt. elgon forest exploration centre) as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Mount Elgon National Park

 

This is situated at an altitude of 200m immediately within the park boundary and was originally designed as an educational facility for school children living around Mbale. However over the past years, it has been developed for touristic purposes with the opening network for day trails and trails to the elgon peaks, a comfortable rest camp consisting of log cottages, a number of standing tents and a good canteen.

Kapchorwa town as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Mount Elgon National Park

This lies at the heartland of Uganda’s main Arabica coffee production area and the recent rehabilitation of the coffee processing plant and Kapchorwa hosts over 5000 inhabitants. An attractive and breezy montane setting compensation for the towns’ rather scruffy appearance but one could argue that the best thing about Kapchorwa is the road from sipi which offer wonderful views to Lake Kyoga and the isolated mountain kadam.

Suam as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Mount Elgon National Park

Suam lie at an altitude of 2070m on the Kenyan border and is likely to be passed through by travellers crossing between kitale and Mbale north of mountain elgon. This is likely to be a pretty hairy trip, so it would be worth trying to secure a seat in the front.

Sipi falls as a Uganda Safari Attraction in Mount Elgon National Park

These lie on the edge of mountain elgon in Kapchorwa district. Sipi falls derived its name from “sep” a plant that grows on the river banks and was originally used to treat measles and fever. Sipi falls has 3 waterfalls, the famous standing on a spectacular view on a 100ft cliff. The second waterfall is the Simba falls standing at 69m on the entrance to the cave and the third is the ngasire which drops over a ridge with a height of over 87m above sea level

Uganda Safari Activities in Mount Elgon National Park

Mountain Elgon Climbing as a Uganda Safari Activities in Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon climbing presents less strenuous and virgin mountaineering adventure which is worth exploring. The various mountain trails are given below;

Sasa Trail: This is very short but tough trek to the peaks. It lasts 4 days offering scenic views of the community lands, bamboo forest, the Jackson’s pool and eventually Wagagai peak. It commences at the town of Budadiri (1,250m) and the toughest climb is on day one covering over 1,600m.

Sipi Trail:  This lasts 4 – 6 days covering 56km round trip. It commences at Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre (2,050m). It is gentle at the beginning and gets tough in the due course especially after the third day.

Piswa Trail: This lasts 7 days covering 49km round trip commencing in Kapkwata Village to the north of Elgon Mountain. The trail crosses the soft wood plantation along with the Podocarpus forest. It offers good views of Karamoja plains along Kenya’s Kapeguria and Nandi hills.

Hiking as a Uganda Safari Activity in Mount Elgon National Park

This is one of the most popular activities done in that area and it is mainly done on mountain elgon and the sipi falls. The forest exploration centre has a three day trails ranging between 3-7km that offer an excellent opportunity to experience Mount Elgon’s wildlife and scenic views in a short time. A new trail has been opened to reach the enormous tutum cave that is 11 km from the forest exploration centre. These trails also offer an opportunity to spot wildlife such as the black and white colobus monkeys and a chance to spot beautiful forest bird species. From the Mbale side, it is possible to access the wanale ridge where long day hikes can be organized to pass through a variety of heath and moorland with caves along the way.

Birding adventures as a Uganda Safari Activities in Mount Elgon National Park

Mountain elgon is home to over 305 birds including the endangered lammergeyer vulture, Jackson’s francolin, and the white starred forest robin. The secondary forests and thick scrub along the Chebonet River supports a number of bird species like the MacKinnon’s fiscal, African blue flycatcher, baglafecht weaver, and Doherty’s bush shrikes.

 Community tours as a Uganda Safari Activities in Mount Elgon National Park

These are mainly the Bagisu and the Sebei tribes in eastern Uganda that share the Elgon Mountain.  The Bagisu tribe belongs to the Bantu ethnic group and speaks the Lumasaba language. Their main local foods are the malewa smoked bamboo shoots which are got from the elgon mountain slopes.  Imbalu is a major ceremony practiced by the Bagisu every after two years as young men are welcomed to real manhood through male circumcision. The ceremony starts with a traditional dance called kadodi where the males to be circumcised run through the village while being accompanied by drummers and dancers and there is no sterilization in the Imbalu ceremony. After the ceremony the individual is allowed to marry and is now called a man.

Uganda Safari Accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park

Up-market/ luxury

Sipi River Lodge

The lodge offers Luxury and midrange accommodation. It has a bar and all accommodation comes with full board. A 10% discount is given to EAC clients and the prices for children depend on the age and number of adults. It is divided into:

Kaspurur and Aniet Cottage; luxurious US$248 for 2 adults

Chepkui cottage; luxurious, family, vary from US$210, 285, 359 and 434 for 2, 3, 4 and 5adults   respectively.

Mbale Resort hotel

Mbale Resort Hotel is a deluxe five star hotel located in the heart of the city. All of Mbale’s famous landmarks are within walking distance of the hotel, including The Elgon Ranges, the historic Rocks precinct, Mbale Opera House and the beautiful Botanic Gardens. Experience luxury Mbale accommodation at its best in one of our 94 hotel rooms and suites, reflecting a contemporary and sophisticated style, and featuring breathtaking Mbale skyline views. The Conference Center at Mbale Resort Hotel is the perfect setting for any event or conference.

Midrange/ standard

Lacam lodge

Lacam means cliff in the sabiny language. The lodge is built on the slopes of mountain elgon in eastern Uganda perched on the cliffed edge with spectacular views of the sipi falls.  Lacam lodge has got a number of dining facilities and accommodation facilities ranging from the wooden bandas constructed out of local timber and grass, each Banda is spacious, with two double beds and large verandahs with an ensuite shower and loo. They have a restaurant and bar on stilts where one can enjoy a candle lit four course meals in the evening or start the day with a full English breakfast.

Mount Elgon hotel & spa

Mount Elgon Hotel & Spa is positioned in Mbale town to the east of Uganda 4 hours’ drive from Entebbe International Airport. The Hotel is a midrange / standard accommodation establishment with a touch of privacy, romance and comfort.  Mount Elgon Hotel presents a perfect ground to explore the impressive Elgon Mountain, the expanse coffee plantations, the Wanale Hills and the Sipi Falls. Accommodation at Mount Elgon Hotel & Spa is provided in a range of accommodation units ranging from Junior Suite to Executive rooms, Superior rooms and Standard.

Budget/ basic

Crown’s nest camp

Crow’s nest campsite is beautifully situated at an altitude of 1770m on the slopes of Mount Elgon. The site offers spectacular views of all the three sipi water falls, the peaks of Mount Elgon and the plains far below. The friendly staff, comfortable facilities design, appropriate technology, local employment and culture exchange makes crow’s nest an ideal sustainable tourist destination and a life changing factor of the sipi village. Crow’s nest will cater for your accommodation needs during your visit to Mount Elgon or just site seeing in the eastern part of the country. They have cottages, cabins and camping facilities.

Noah’s Ark

It is a budget lodge having camping grounds with tents and cottages Tents: US$10 per night.

Cottages: US$70 double bed (1 person), US$80 double bed (2 people)

US$50(twin single beds).  All offer Full Board.

What to bring

Tent, sleeping bag, warm clothes, gloves, hat, sturdy hiking shoes, flashlight, water bottle, rain gear, first aid kit, cooking equipment, sufficient food supplies.

 

 

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