MOUNTAIN ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Mountain Elgon has been an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago. With the largest surface area of any extinct Volcano in the world (50km by 80km), Mount Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in East Africa, with the second highest peak in Uganda (Wagagai peak, 4321 m). It contains the largest intact caldera, a collapsed crater covering over 40kms at the top of the mountain, sorrounded by a series of rugged peaks.
The Bagisu and the Sabiny are the two ethnic tribes around the mountain. They practice subsistence farming and conduct circumcision ceremonies every year to prepare young men/women for challenges of adulthood. The two communities have made agreements with the park for sustainable harvest of traditional forest products.
Flora and Fauna
While ascending Mount Elgon's enchanting slopes you will meet four-distinct forest types: the lush montane forest where you will find the Elgon peak, mixed bamboo belt, the fascinating heath and spectacular moorland hyrachs which contain stands of some of the most rare endemic plant species, like the giant lobelia elgonensis and dotted clusters of peculiar groundsels which are unique in Africa.
You will also encounter the dense shrubs and brilliant wild everlasting flowers that will add to your Mount Elgon Uganda Safaris.
Bird lovers will enjoy about 300 bird species including the endangered lammergeiers, the rare Jackson's francolin, guinea fowls, sunbirds and turacos among others.
A number of primates inhabit the mountain, other animals include bushbuck, antelope, civet, wildcat and the elusive leopard roam below. Bush duiker, hyena, jackal, rock hyrax, buffalo and elephant rove between the forest and the moorland. Many of these animals visit Mount Elgon's bat filled caves for their valuable mineral deposits.
Visiting Mountain Elgon National Park presents an exciting setting for extended hikes, interesting and unique flora and fauna, magnificent water falls, enormous caves, scenic peaks, gorges and hot springs which bubble up at 480oc. The best times to visit are during the drier seasons from June to august and march to December. No technical climbing equipment or skills are required, as all major peaks are accessible.
Trekking: Trailheads And Routes
There are three main trailheads or starting points that lead to the mountain's peaks. You may choose to begin your ascent from Budadiri (Sasa trailhead), forest exploration center-Kapkwai (Sipi trailhead) or Kapkwata (Piswa trailhead). Sasa trail is accessible from Mbale and is the most direct route to the peaks though steep with rugged climb of over 1600m on the first day. It passes through the park's largest area of bamboo forest.
Sipi trail offers the spectacular Tutum cave hidden within extensive forest, while Piswa trail is renowned for the towering Podpcarpus forest, an excellent place for wildlife viewing. In contrast, Sipi and Piswa trails start at much higher elevations with a longer more gradual climbs to the peaks.
After visiting the peaks you can either return using the same trails or descend via a different route. Each trail/route has camping stages with a nearby water source, as well as tent pads and latrines. The park is developing a trekker's hut at Mude cave on Sasa trail.
Mount Elgon National Park Uganda also engages in cross boarder tourism with Mount Elgon Park-Kenya, hand over of visitors to either team takes place at the Hot Springs. The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes about 5 days to complete.
All visitors are encouraged to discuss options with an information clerk at the Mbale, Budadiri, Kapwakai or Kapkwata visitor's centers.
Nine basic campsites are located at strategic points along the trekking circuit. Please respect park regulations by camping only at designated campsites. Camping equipment on this Ugandan Safaris must be carried with you.
Ranger Guides And Porters
A trained ranger guide is required on all trekking excursions to show you the way and enrich your journey by interpreting the environment and ensuring your safety. Local porters make your trip even easier by carrying up to 18kgs of supplies, in addition to collecting water, cooking and preparing the camp. Trained ranger guides and local porters are available at each trailhead.
Executive accommodation in the park is offered at forest cottages at Kapkwai. Available are four wooden Bandas, they are naturally air-conditioned, have warm and cold showers and fitted with lighting system.
Meals are provided on order according to the chef's delight. A "BAMBOO GROOVE" canteen here stocks all the country's beers and soda brands.
Accommodation facilities are also available at Suam and Kapkwata guesthouses and the Forest Exploration Center (dormitory style rooms) at Kapkwai.
The forest Exploration Center conducts a four-day environment program for school groups, which allow participants to experience a living forest Eco-system while learning the importance of conservation.
Good hotels outside the park exist in Mbale town namely, Mount Elgon Hotel, Mbale Resort Hotel, Sunrise Inn and Country home.
Two different day hike areas allow you to explore Mount Elgon's diverse mountane forest. The popular forest exploration center trail loop site can make one enjoy the cool mist at Chebonet falls, Kapkwai cave, the talking tree and a spectacular viewpoint, which lies just beyond.
A long "arm" of Mount Elgon bears the Wanale trails loop site. It has vertical cliffs of ridge and several cascading waterfalls that make a very scenic drive. Look for petrified wood in the Khauka caves as you enjoy splendid panoramic view over the plains of Eastern Uganda.
These two-day hike areas have short walk trails ranging between 3-11kms that offer an excellent opportunity to experience Mt. Elgon's unique plants and wildlife in a short time period. Jungle walking shoes and rain gear are recommended in addition to extra cells for your torch if you plan to explore the caves. Reservations can be made through the visitor information center at the park headquarters in Mbale.