Mount Elgon National park is made of the on the 4321m high Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda. The park is 1145 sqkm and the border with Kenya divides the mountain forming two National parks which protect flora and fauna in both countries. It is also a Trans-boundary conservation area and UNESCO has declared it a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve.
An 80km in diameter massive and extinct volcano with its vast rising from 3000m above the hot and dusty plains of Karamoja provide a cool respite for humans and a refuge for plant and wildlife. The park is home to large mammals like the rarely seen buffalo and Elephant, bush duikers, butterflies and about 300 species of birds plus the curious Afromontane plants peculiar to East Africa’s highest mountains.
The highest peak of Mount Elgon lie along the jagged rim that encloses a giant Caldera, 8km across. The ‘mountain of illusion’ tag derives from historic confusion regarding the true summit of the mountain. The Bagisu, a local tribe named their candidate as seen from their side of the Mountain as Masaba after their founding deity. European Climbers found Masaba to be a 4165m high volcanic plug on the Mountain’s flank lower than the Mubiyi peak at 4209m named after Masaba’s supposedly diminutive wife. Subsequent expeditions made cases for various high spots along the Caldera rim before the 4321m Wagagai, overlooked in the South west corner of the caldera rim was finally identified as the true summit.
What to do at the park
Mt. Elgon has a milder climate, lower elevation, and is less strenuous than most of the climbs in Eastern Africa. It is an alternative for most of the visitors who are not so experienced and it can be climbed all year.
The Sasa, Sipi and Piswa trails lead visitors to Wagagi which is the highest peak. Sasa is the shortest route and a round trip of 4 days can take you to the peak, the Sipi tail takes 5-6 days and 7 days for the Piswa trail. Depending on the trail you take you can enjoy the views of the Karamoja, Jackson’s pool and table, Mbuyi rocks and variety of plants like the giant lobelia that grow at higher altitudes.
The secondary forest at Kapkwai Forest and the thick shrubs along the trail to Cheptui falls are excellent birding spots at the park. The parks 300 bird species that are hosted here include Moustached Tinker bird, African blue fly catcher, Cinnamon Bee-eater, Black kite, Baglafecht weaver, Chinspot batis, Doherty’s and Luhders Bush shrikes among others.
From Budadiri to Mudange cliff which are referred to as the “walls of death” at the boundary of the park, it is a full-day nature walk that will bring you close to primates in the forest like the blue monkey, black and which colobus monkey and baboons. Also visitors can take on Sipi falls tour.
The falls are a series of three prominent waterfalls on Sipi River that over the 3 basalt cliffs during its descent to the plains beneath. The longest drops as high 100m, second drops 75m below and has upper cascades before the plunge. The third waterfall plunges 85m and is tall and columnar.
How to get there
Mt. Elgon is in the Eastern Uganda 240km from Kampala. A drive from Kampala via Jinja and Mbale towns before reaching Kapchorwa bring you to the base of the mountain. The African brownmatt road off the Mbale Kapchorwa road reaches the different trail heads.
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