ABOUT MT. ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Mount Elgon National Park is a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve located in western Kenya, home to lush green highlands, rolling tea plantations, lush swamps and equatorial rainforests. The park is named after Mount Elgon, an extinct shield volcano on the border of Uganda and Kenya and the second highest mountain in Kenya. Mt. Elgon national park covers an area of 1,279 square kilometers. Mount Elgon National Park is uniquely split down the middle by the Kenyan-Ugandan border. The Ugandan part of the park covers 1,110 km2 while the Kenyan part covers 169 km2 The Kenyan part of the park was gazetted in 1968, the Ugandan part in 1992.
Mount Elgon is 50 miles (80 km) in diameter and features five separate peaks. The highest point is the Wagagai peak, In descending order, the remaining peaks include: Sudek 14,114 feet, Koitobos 13,852 feet, Mubiyi 13,816 feet, and Masaba 13,652 feet. The highest and two lowest peaks are actually located in Uganda with the second highest being right on the border and shared between Kenya and Uganda. Koitobos is the third highest peak and the only one solely in Kenya.
MT. ELGON WEATHER
Mount Elgon has moist to moderately dry climate. It is a water catchment area. Mount Elgon national park is open to tourists all year round. However some seasons provide a better experience than others. The dry seasons run from June to August and from December to March, although rain can be experienced at any time.
VEGETATION IN MT. ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Although the park is fairly small, it features diverse habitats which include savannah, montane forest, woodland, and alpine moorlands. The vegetation varies with altitude. During the months of June and July, Mount Elgon National Park is renowned with locals for its abundance of wildflowers that blanket across the moorlands. Orchids are one of the flowering highlights.
ATTRACTIONS IN MT. ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Attractions in Mount Elgon national park include the following;
Mt. Elgon national park is dotted with caves formed from ancient lava tubes namely Kitum, Making’eny, Chepnyalil ,Ngwarisha and many others some of which are outside protected areas. These caves were formed by moving lava and erosion of soft volcanic deposits with the most accessible being the kapkwai caves can be seen within the national park. The caves were used as shelters for the locals and their livestock. Old cave paintings can be seen along the walls of the caves. Many bats live along the walls of these caves.
Sipi falls is an attraction site visited by tourists enroute to Mount Elgon national park since it is located outside the national park and formed by river Sipi. It is a series of three waterfalls that lie on the edge of Mount Elgon national park. The views of the mountain can be seen from Sipi falls area for tourists using the Budadiri route which is the most popular route.
This attraction is seen by the tourists who hike to the top of the mountain where the caldera is found. It was formed as a result of magma being drained from the chambers of the mountain which formed a volcanic cone that later collapsed forming the depression.
Mount Elgon is the oldest volcanic mountain in East Africa with unique vegetation that extends to the caldera. This mountain is the main attraction in the national park where different tourist activities take place such as hiking and mountain climbing. The local people living along the slopes of this mountain refer to it as Masaba in reference to the
belief by the Bagisu that their ancestors came from one of the caves on the slopes of this mountain.
The different tribes that live at the foothills of Mount Elgon around the national park area’s unique way of life is a tourist attraction. There is a lot to learn about the cultural practices in the Mount Elgon national park region and many tourists are encouraged to visit this tourist attraction site.
WILDLIFE AND BIRDS
Wildlife and bird species which can be sighted during a tour in Mount Elgon national park include the endangered lammergeyer, antelopes, forest monkeys, elephants, buffalos, defassa, waterbuck, oribi, bushbuck, duiker, forest hog, bush pig, civet, serval cats, aardvark and many other animal species. Bird species that can be sighted include the moorland francolin, mustached green tinker bird, and alpine chat, black collared Apalis and many other bird species
ACTIVITIES IN MT. ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Activities for tourists to engage in during a trip to Mount Elgon national park include the following;
- Hiking – Different trails are available on this mountain which makes it possible to view the attractions and the scenery in this national park and they include; the Sasa trail, Sipi trail, and the Piswa trail. Alternative hiking options are also available such as the trans-border route which involves crossing to the Kenyan side of Mount Elgon in the company of a Kenya Wildlife Service official. The trans-border hike offers beautiful views of the national park. Sasa trail is the most popular and easiest trail during the ascent of the mountain.
- Birding Watching – Mount Elgon national park offers excellent birding opportunities in different locations such as kapkwai forest which is a secondary forest with thick shrub and bird species which can be seen include African goshawk, chubbs cisticola, white chinned Prinia, African blue flycatcher, and many other bird species.
- Nature walks – The walks are taken in the company of a guide which allows the tourists to view different attractions within the national park paying special attention to all the minor details which may be of their interests such as the unique vegetation on the mountain slopes which varies with altitude. Wildlife species can be seen during these nature walks including blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and baboons.
- Bicycle Riding – The national park also offers the perfect back drop for a mountain biking experience. The biking trails run from the Sipi trading center to Kapchorwa town and bikes can be hired for this experience.
- Mountain Climbing – Climbing Mount Elgon is less expensive, less strenuous and with temperatures that are acceptable even at the summit. The unique thing about climbing Mount Elgon is not reaching the Wagagai peak but descending from the peak to spot one the largest caldera on earth.
- Exploring the Mount Elgon Caves – The three most visited caves are Chepnyali, Mackingeny and Kitum. These caves attract park mammals like elephants and antelopes that come to lick salt from the walls. These caves used to shelter the first humans to roam the earth. They left their mark with amazing paintings depicting the kind of life they lived thousands of years ago.
- Game drives and Wildlife viewing – Mt. Elgon national park is a great place for wildlife viewing. Among the animals to look out for are the hyena, leopard and duiker. The park has several primates like the blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, colobus monkeys and buffalo.
- Camping – Mountain Elgon National Park and the surrounding area is suitable for camping. The park authorities have set up camping bases along the mountain climbing trails for those hiking to the top of the mountain. Camping is not allowed near the caldera itself.
- Rock Climbing – Rock climbing is one of the popular activities that can be arranged outside Mount Elgon National Park. The Sipi Falls area is particularly suitable for rock climbing. The most demanding climb in the Sipi area is about 35 meters. Hikers can also drive to the nearest town Tororo which has a beautiful rock just next to the town centre. Climbing Tororo rock takes about 3 hours. The reward for reaching the top are beautiful views of the town below, villages and mount Elgon.
Accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park
Accommodation facilities can be secured within and outside the park. Most of the hotels offer a combination of luxurious, mid-range and budget rooms. The luxurious hotels facilities are found in Mbale town, Kapchorwa town and the Sipi Falls area. They include, Kapkawai Forest cottages, Mbale Resort, Mount Elgon Hotel and Spa, Kavegi hotel, Mount Elgon view hotel, Noah’s Ark hotel, Masha hotel and Sipi River lodge.