Mountain Elgon National Park, Uganda
Mountain Elgon National Park is a park bisected by the border of Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda. Mountain Elgon National Park is situated in the Northeast of Lake Victoria in Eastern Uganda and it is uniquely split down the middle by the Kenya-Uganda border. This park was named after the largest and oldest extinct shield volcano situated on the border of Uganda and Kenya known as Mountain Elgon which is ranked as the 16th highest mountain in Africa, its highest point is called Wagagai which is entirely located in Uganda. Mountain Elgon national park is a pristine wilderness that was officially founded in 1994, the park covers an area of 1110 km2 in Uganda and 169 km2 in Kenya. The park is blessed with scenic attractions including Mountain Elgon, Magnificent water bodies like waterfalls, rivers and lakes, cliffs, gorges, calderas, mesas, and hot springs. Mountain Elgon National Park is home to a variety of wildlife including over 144 bird species, butterfly species, Mammals, primates, and invertebrates such as Elephants, Buffaloes, leopards, Hyenas, antelopes, duikers, black and white colobus, bleu monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, Jackson’s spurfowl, the eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Hartlaub’s turaco, Tacazze sunbird, endangered Lammergeier, endangered dragonfly and many others.
How to get to Mountain Elgon National Park
Mountain Elgon can be easily accessed by either road transport or air transport however the distance varies depending on the point of origin and the routes.
By Road transport
From Kampala via Jinja highway, Mbale and Kapchorwa is 230km taking approximately 5 hours to drive.
From Entebbe via Kampala, Jinja highway, Mbale, and Kapchorwa is 307.9km taking approximately 6 hours drive.
Road trips offer you an opportunity to explore the countryside of Uganda and luckily the roads are well-paved especially from Kampala to Mbale.
By Air transport
This is the quickest means of getting to Mountain Elgon national park whereby tourists can fly from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Soroti Airfield or Kitale Airstrip in Mountain Elgon national park takes approximately 1 hour. However, you will have to travel by road to reach the park for a few minutes.
There are scheduled domestic flights that offer flights from Entebbe International Airport to the airstrips near the park.
Attractions in Mountain Rwenzori National Park
Mountain Elgon national park is well known for its vibrant attractions including captivating waterfalls, caves, unique hot springs, cliffs, Mountain Elgon peaks which is the most outstanding attraction, waterbodies, and many more.
Mountain Elgon Peaks
This is the oldest and largest extinct shield volcano situated on the border of Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya. The mountain is ranked as the 7th highest mountain in Africa with the largest caldera comprising of 5 peaks including Wagagai peak which is the highest standing at 4,321 meters, Sudek peak at 4,302 meters, Koitobos peak at 4,222 metres, Mubiyi peak at 4,211 metres and Masaba peak at 4,161 meters. This mountain has got a variety of significant attractions including the wildlife and birdlife, vibrant water bodies, unique waterfalls, hot springs, gorges, caves, mesas, cliffs and many more. This is one of the easiest mountain to climb since it is less crowded and you don’t have to be a skilled climber.
The slopes of Mountain Elgon National Park are inhabited by a vast number of over 40 wildlife species including mammals, primates and invertebrates such as Elephants, Buffaloes, leopards, Hyenas, small antelopes, duikers, Defassa waterbuck, black and white colobus, Oribi, bleu monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, dragonfly and many others which can be observed during a safari game drive in the dense montane forest.
Mountain Elgon national park hosts over 300 recorded bird species including over 87 unique Afrotropical biome species, notably the Moorland Francolin, Mustached Green Tinkerbird, and Alpine Chat. Other notable birds include Jackson’s Spurfowl, black-collared Apalis, Jacksons Francolin, Lammergeier, Black-shouldered Kite, and Tacazze sunbird.
Sipi waterfalls are one of the most phenomenal attractions situated at the foothills of mountain Elgon at the edge of Mount Elgon national park. Sipi falls is comprised of three magnificent waterfalls separated by steep hillsides which originate from the hot spring that flow on the Sipi River which creates a series of rapids that pouring from a high cliff to the bottom flowing into Lake Kyoga which is worth experiencing. Sipi falls were named after a wild banana-like indigenous plant known as (Sep) that grows along the banks of the Sipi River.
Mount Elgon Caves
There are over 27 caves situated on the slopes of Mountain Elgon including Kapkwai cave which is situated near the park’s Forest Exploration Centre and Khauka cave on the Wanale ridge and these are the most accessible caves out of the 27 caves. These caves were formed as a result of moving lava and erosion of the soft volcanic deposits that erupted 1,000,000 years ago. These caves host a vast number of Savannah elephants and buffaloes who frequently visit the caves to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls.
Mountain Elgon is an important water catchment area that comprises of three rivers including the River Malakisi which flows into Lake Kyoga, Nzoia River which flows into Lake Victoria and the Turkwel River also known as the Saum River which flows into Lake Turkana. These rivers are ideal attractions with high concentrations of a variety of both birdlife and wildlife species.
Mountain Elgon national parks boost Lake Victoria which is famously known as Africa’s largest lake, one of the greatest lakes in the whole world. This park is situated in the northeast of Lake Victoria which is renowned for its striking beauty. Mountain Elgon has a 24.8-mile of volcanic Crater Lake found at the top of the mountain which can be easily accessed during a hike in Mountain Elgon national park.
Mountain Elgon National Park has spectacular explorable scenery which includes beautiful Calderas, Mesas, cliffs, gorges, hot springs situated at the start of the deep Suam gorge, Wanale gorge and Simu gorge which is found in the northwest of the park. All these areas offer the most magnificent view of the park.
The park is known for its exceptional natural vegetation zones ranging from montane forest to high open moorland zone. The giant lobelia, giant heathers and groundsels are some of the most striking plants found at the higher altitude above 3000m. The vegetation found in this park offers a wonderful view of the park which is worth exploring. The slopes of Mountain Elgon are covered with giant Elgon Olive, pillar wood, Afrocarpus, bamboo and many orchids
Mountain Elgon is a home to 2 distinctive tribes including the Sabiny and the Bagisu people who originally live on the slopes of mountain Elgon. The Bagisu people are popularly known as Bamasaba who are famously known because of their highly respected traditional circumcision of boys which is locally termed as ‘Imbalu’ which marks the initiation of boys into manhood. Budadiri Community offers a great opportunity to tourists who are interested in experiencing different African cultures through interactions, dancing, singing, trying their delicious locally made dishes and explore some of the prolific coffee plantations.
Activities are done while in Rwenzori Mountain National Park
This is one of the most thrilling way of exploring Mountain Elgon which comprises 5 mountain Massifs however Mount Wagagai is the highest standing at 4,321 metres and the most popular summit which is liked by many tourists. Mountaineering up to the Wagagai peak on Mountain Elgon offers a great view of incomparable unique alpine flora, wildlife, birdlife, stunning waterfalls, lakes, caves, cliffs, Mesas, gorges, hot springs and lush valley glaciers.
Hiking is mostly done up to Sipi falls and Wagagai Peak starting from Budadiri following Sasa trail whereby tourists go for a 4 days hike through the forest, bamboo zones and lush valleys. During the trek, tourists are able to observe a variety of wildlife, bird species, unique afro alpine plants and they have a wonderful scenic view of the park, waterfalls, caves, cliffs, Mesas, gorges, hot springs and lush valley glaciers and fascinating waterbodies including lakes and rivers.
Guided nature walk is an awesome opportunity whereby tourists explore the natural habitat of the wildlife in this park which offers an insight of the African nature, wildlife, a variety of bird species. During a nature walk, tourists are able to observe a variety of both wild animals and bird species at a close range for a clear view and photography while in Mountain Elgon national park following the Sasa trail from Budadiri, Piswa trail and other trails taking you to several communities like Budadiri.
Mountain Elgon national park is a great birding destination which hosts a variety of bird species in the montane forest such as the Albertine rift endemics, migratory and iconic bird species including Moorland Francolin, Mustached Green Tinker bird and Alpine Chat. Other notable birds include Jackson’s Spur fowl, black collared Apalis, Jacksons Francolin, Lammergeier, Black-shouldered Kite, Tacazze, sunbird and many more bird species.
Game drives are done on different trails through the open moorland areas in the park whereby tourists are accompanied by experienced park rangers and guides on a 4×4 open sided vehicle which is an excellent experience of viewing wildlife at a close range. During the game drives, tourists can spot animals , primates and invertebrates such as Elephants, Buffaloes, leopards, Hyenas, small antelopes, duikers, Defassa waterbuck, black and white colobus, Oribi, bleu monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, dragonfly and many others.
Cultural tours in Mountain Elgon national park allows you to explore the cultural heritage of the Bagisu and Sabiny people who live on the foothills of Mountain Elgon in Budadiri Community. While in Budadiri Community, Tourists are able to interact with the locals as they get to know more about their traditional lifestyle, connect with them especially through listening to their stories, dancing and singing. This offers you an unforgettable cultural experience since the Bagisu and Sabiny people are connected to the park.
There are several deep caves on Mountain Elgon including Kitum cave which is the largest and most visited cave, Ngwarisha, Chepnyalil, Makingeny. Most of these caves are always frequently visited by Savannah elephants and buffaloes which frequently visit the caves to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. As you deep in some caves, you will discover seats which are well designed for resting.
Abseiling and Rock climbing
Abseiling and rock climbing is only done on Sipi falls which is the most outstanding beautiful place in Mountain Elgon national park. Abseiling is done by tourists along trained instructors and guides and it is best done during the wet season where by one descends down on a rope using a friction device attached to your harness taking approximately 10 minutes.
Mountain Elgon national park offers a wonderful biking experience and it is done along the scenic biking trails which were opened by the Uganda Wildlife Authority however there are no bikes so if a tourist is interested in mountain biking, you are advised to carry your own bike which can be done smoothly by Enjoy Safaris Africa.
Sport fishing in Mountain Elgon national park is done at the top of Sipi falls however many tourists prefer sport fishing on the highest waterfalls of Sipi falls. Sport fishing is carried out early in the morning along experienced guides where by tourist compete in fishing the mountain trout.
Accommodations in Rwenzori Mountain National Park
Mountain Elgon national park has excellent accommodation options with good services, employees, and modest restaurants are in a safe natural environment as well as nearby towns. There are so many hotels though they are categorized according to one’s budget comprising of Budget, midrange and luxury. The following are the hotel accommodations;
Mount Elgon Guest House, Mt Elgon Hotel, Sipi Travellers Lodge, Sipi sunset Lodge, The Crows Nest, Twalight Campsite, Sipi Inn, Rafiki Lodge Sipi, Wagagai Hotel, Sipi Valley Resort, Fredson’s Homestay, Mbale Resort Hotel, Masha Hotel and Elgon Masaai Lodge.
When to visit Mountain Elgon National Park
Mountain Elgon national park can be visited throughout the year however the best time to visit this park is during the dry season from June to August and December to February when the trekking trails are dry and passable especially during mountaineering unlike during the wet season which makes hiking difficult since the trails are slippery and the fog is always present. Safaris to this park can be combined with other nearby parks.