Mt Elgon National Park
Mt Elgon national Park is located in Uganda and Kenya, unequally dissected by the border between the two countries. The park covers a total area of 1,279 square kilometers with almost three quarters of the land (1,110 square kilometers) dwelling in Uganda and a smaller portion of the safari land (169 square kilometers) belonging to Kenya.
The park is located near Mbale town encompassing most of Mount Elgon; an extinct shield volcano along the border of Uganda and Kenya. Mount Elgon is believed to be about 24 million years old, automatically becoming East Africa’s oldest extinct volcano. It is also the source of the Nzoia River flowing into Lake Victoria and River Turkwel flowing into Lake Turkana.
How to get there; Mount Elgon National Park can be easily accessed via Jinja road; a highway that runs from Kampala through Jinja to Mbale for 235 kilometers. The road connects to the western flank of Mount Elgon off the Mbale-Kapchorwa highway; from then on, it’s a hike on a trail head to the park or if you prefer, take the murram road that leads straight to the park.
The slopes of Mount Elgon are covered in caves of all shapes and sizes and the most visited are the Kapkwai and the Khauka caves. These caves were once a deposit for larva and soft rock that streamed down from the mountain during an eruption but presently, they are covered in bat droppings that occasionally make for manure for the local farmers.
The Peaks, Caldera and Suam gorge:
The Peaks of Mount Elgon; Wagagai(4,321m), Sudek(4,303m), Koitobos(4,222m) and Mubiyi(4,210m) present a network of rugged points circling a rim; and at its core lies the largest volcanic Caldera in the world. It is roughly 40 km long and 8km wide and in its eastern corner you will find the Suam gorge and a rather toasty hot spring birthed right from streams of water gushing from the Caldera.
Jackson’s Pool and Jackson’s cliffs:
Fredrick Jackson was the first European to climb Mount Elgon in 1889 and after him; the Jackson’s Peak and Pool were named. Jackson’s Peak is a free standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of Mount Elgon. It stands at 4,165m high and within its heart lies the Jackson’s Pool at 4,050 meters, a depression with shallow waters.
Nkokenjeru and Wanale ridges:
The Nkokenjeru ridge is one of the highest point on the mountain; coming up to 2,347 meters high. It features a 25km trench; that was once an escape route for lava and a dense expanse of forest that stretches into the Wanale cliffs. The Wanale ridge stands above Mbale town and occasionally, the Nabuyonga and Namatyo waterfall flow here.
The Sipi waterfall occurs on Mount Elgon as a result of streams flowing from within the mountain merging before collapsing over a series of rocks; the main waterfall at 100m high, Simba at 69m and Ngasire at 87m high. Enjoy a hike to view the various series of the waterfall while listening to the loud crash of the water as it meets rock right before your eyes.
Wildlife viewing (birds and animals):
Animals such as Duikers, Elephants, Buffalos, Leopards, hyenas and some primates are mainly found along the lower slopes of Mt. Elgon and they are seldom seen. There are however, 296 bird species in the park with about 40 species endemic to Mt Elgon; birdlife includes Jackson’s Spurfowl, Eastern bronze napped Pigeon, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Tacazze Sunbird and Lammergeier.
Hiking on Mt Elgon can be quite easy with less strain through designated trails that last from a single day to several days. Sasa trailhead cuts through bamboo fields, over the Jackson’s peak and pool to the summit of the Mountain on a round trip of 4 days. The Sipi trail on the other hand takes 4-6days while the Piswa trail takes about 7 days on a round trip across the mountain.
Alternatively, a hiker can choose to combine two or more trails while on the hike to Mt Elgon’s summit and this is the perfect way to fully explore all that there is to offer. Always keep an eye out for any dizziness as this might be a sign of altitude sickness; ensure that you are in perfect health prior to a Volcano or mountain climb in Mt Elgon National Park.
Are you an adventurer looking forward to showing off your skill? Then rock climbing is the perfect activity for you. At Sipi, join others in an attempt to demolish the record and task set of rock climbing with about 14 climbs ranging from 15m to 35 m on Mt Elgon. Carry your own equipment or hire some from the Sipi Falls tourist guides’ association for this awesome experience.
Although relatively new, mountain biking is a thrilling and captivating activity involving participants putting their strength to the test through single tracks downhill for 1 and ½ hours. The trail heads through local setups and breathtaking landscapes of cliffs and ridges with stopovers at the Sipi falls, Caves and other outstanding views.
Take a few hours to explore the culture of the occupants of the plains surrounding Mt Elgon National Park. The Sipi widow’s group and Budadiri community walks ecotourism center provide such tours of local communities, Arabic coffee plantations and nature walks at the base of the mountain. Enjoy unlimited local cuisines and entertainment and maybe obtain some souvenirs to carry home.
Nature walks and sport fishing:
Get into the mood for a light nature walk along Mt Elgon National Park’s boundary to “the walls of death”. With plenty of birds and primates like Black and White colobus monkeys to see, your safari has only just begun. A guide leads you to the top of Murchison falls where the daring of heart have made a bid on the fish species in this stream; carry your own fishing equipment.
You can rest assured that you will have the best time at your lodge in Mt Elgon National Park as you close the safari for the day. Some of the lodges at the park include; Mbale Resort Hotel, Sipi river lodge, Mount Elgon Hotel and Spa, Kayegi Hotel and Wash and Wils country Home Mbale. For travelers on a budget safari, try Masha Hotel.