Mt. Elgon is an extinct volcano that first erupted about 20 million years ago. It has the largest intact Caldera in the world measuring 40km2. It was once Africa’s highest mountain but with erosion it was reduced to its height of 4321m making it 4th highest in East Africa. Mt Elgon has the largest base in the world at 3840km2. It is also the largest solitary volcanic mountain in East Africa located in Eastern Uganda on the border with Kenya. Mt Elgon national park covers an area of 1145km2.
The national park was declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. The main tourist attraction is mountain hiking to the caldera with the highest peak Wagagai at 4321m, Sudek at 4303m, Koitobos at 4222m and Mubiyi at 4210m.
Wildlife in Mt Elgon national park
Animals of Mt Elgon national park
The wildlife is mainly found in the lower slopes but rarely seen in the forest setting; Defassa waterbuck, Elephants, Oribi, Bushbucks, Buffaloes and Spotted Hyena, also black-and-white monkeys, Colobus monkeys.
Birds of Mt Elgon national park
Mt Elgon national park is home to 296 bird species and 40 Ugandan species whose range is limited to Mount Elgon and these include black collared Apalis, Jacksons Francolin, Lammergeyer, Black-shouldered Kite, and Tacazze sunbird. If you are looking for unique birds and beautiful scenery then Mt Elgon is should be on your bucket list.
Safaris and Activities to Mt Elgon National Park
Mt Elgon is generally less strenuous climb like other East African mountains but offers same scenic views. The park is explored on foot via different routes and trailheads ranging from day walks to hikes over several days. The Sasa trail is the shortest but steepest route to the peaks taking only four days – bamboo forest and Jackson’s pool. Sipi trail takes four to six days, starts at the forest exploration center at Kapkwai – tutum cave. The Piswa trail is a seven-day round trip starting at a village off Kapkwata – podocarps forest. One can alternatively combine the different trails, ascending by Sipi trail and descending along Sasa trail allowing you to experience more features of the mountain.
There are local porters available to make your hike easier each carrying supplies in addition to collecting water, cooking and preparing the camp. Hikers should consider symptoms and treatment of hypothermia and other forms of altitude sickness. Above 2500m, altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of age, fitness, or previous mountain hiking experience. The most effective treatment is descent to lower altitude.
This thrilling activity is done down one of the cliffs of the Sipi falls. You drop down 100m overlooking the ridge next to a pool of water from one of the Sipi falls. Enjoy watching the different scenery as you abseil down the rock, on reaching down you can take a dip in the pool before ascending back up the cliff to the top of the hill.
Another engaging activity outside Mt Elgon national park is rock climbing. This takes place at Sipi with 14 climbs that require rock-scaling techniques. The toughest climb is 35m while the easiest is 15m – for anyone interested in rock climbing, then you want to try this.
Bird watching in Mt Elgon national park
Birding in Mt Elgon national park will give you species that you cannot find anywhere else. The common trail is one in Kapkwai forest exploration center, which continues along Chebonet river. Here you are likely to see the white-chinned Prinia, Luhders and Doherty’s Bush-shrikes, Chubb’s Cisticola, African Goshawk, African Blue Flycatcher and Baglafetcht weaver.
At the highest of the Sipi falls, there is an opportunity for sport fishing which will keep you busy as some of the locals join you. It provides a good challenge to anyone interested in the rainbow trout. Remember to bring your own equipment and obtain a permit from Sipi river lodge.
Nature and Hiking walks
There are numerous trails both inside the park and outside walking through Mt Elgon vegetation. At Sipi falls guides from the community take you on walks that can start from two hours to a whole days walk where you will have views of the Karamajong region and Sebei region.
There is full hike through Budadiri to Mudange cliffs, which is known as the walls of death. These cliffs are located in a tropical forest at the boundary of the national park. You will have sights of Black-and-white Colobus monkeys and Baboons along the trail.
The mountain rivers plunge over massive cliffs on the northern and western sides of Mt Elgon forming some of the most beautiful falls. Among these are three beautiful falls together known as the Sipi Falls. These are outside the park and a hike to all the three is a fulfilling experience. The lowest of the falls flows over 100m cliff, followed by Simba at 69m and then Ngasire at 87m.
More waterfalls are found in Wanale, chebonet, Bulago and Sisyi.
Kapchorwa and the entire Mt Elgon region provide great mountain biking routes that will keep your adrenaline high as you traverse the area. The mountain biking routes start from Sipi trading center to Chema hill in Kapchorwa. You have beautiful views of Karamoja plains and several water falls enroute.
Like most mountains, Mt Elgon slopes have caves, which were left by moving lava when the mountain was formed many years ago. The most accessible are Kapkwai cave and Khauka cave on Wanale Ridge. Hikers used the caves as shelter and currently they act as locations for camps.
Agro-tourism, Cultural encounters and Community trails
The best coffee in Uganda is from this rich and fertile region of Mt Elgon. Experience the entire coffee process by taking a guided walk through the coffee shambas on the slopes of Mt Elgon. You will visit the shambas and homes to experience coffee planting demonstration, picking, grinding, storage, and washing. The coffee from here is Arabic and also known as Sipi or Bugisu coffee.
Access to Mt Elgon National Park
You can reach the park from Kampala – Mbale – Kapchorwa. You can also take chartered flight from Entebbe to Soroti and then drive back wards .
Mt Elgon Lodges and Camps
Sipi River Lodge
Casa Sipi River Lodge
Uganda tours to Mt Elgon National park
9 Days Culture and Hiking Tour in Mt. Elgon National Park