MOUNTAIN ELGON NATIONAL PARK

Mount Elgon National Park is 140 kilometers northeast of Lake Victoria and bisected by the border of Kenya and Uganda with a high extinct volcano-Wagagai as its highest peak thus making it the largest volcanic base in the world. Elgon possesses the largest surface area of any extinct Volcano in the world and has an important water catchment for the Nzoia River, which flows to Lake Victoria, and for the Turkwel River which flows into Lake Turkana. Mt Elgon was once Africa's highest mountain. Soil erosion have reduced its height, making it to the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th on the continent.


The climate is moist to moderate dry. The dry season runs from June to August, and December to March, although it can rain at any moment on the mountain and Bimodal pattern of rainfall is received, generally, with the wettest period occurring from April to October. The mean annual rainfall ranges from 1500 mm and 2000 mm on the eastern and northern slopes and in the southern and the western slopes respectively. The mean maximum and minimum temperatures are 23° and 15 °C respectively.
A climb on Mt. Elgon’s deserted moorlands unveils a magnificent and uncluttered wilderness containing giant lobelia and groundsel plants and montane forest.


Mount Elgon park is home to around 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer and the common interested are Jackson's francolin, the eastern bronze-napped pigeon, Hartlaub's turaco and the Tacazze sunbird. small antelopes, forest monkeys lie black-and-white colobus and blue monkey. red-tailed monkey, elephants and buffalos also live on the lower slopes of the mountainside. Both leopard and hyena also exist.


Mount Elgon has almost half of Uganda's butterfly species. The park has a variety of scenery like cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and the mountain peaks together with the fauna and flora,
Mt Elgon has two native tribes, the Bagisu and the Sabiny. The Bagisu, also known as the BaMasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father Masaba and refer to the mountain by this name.


Tourist Activities On Mountain Elgon


Birding in Mt. Elgon
Tremendous birding prospect occurs in various trails on the foothills of Mount Elgon and sipi falls that are superlative for birding as you spot many bird species like Hartlaub’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Dusky-Turtle Dove, African Hill Babbler, African Goshawk; Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Fly-catcher, Chinspot Batis, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Dohertys and Luhders Bush-shrikes, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Thick-billed Honey guide, Baglafecht Weaver, Cinnamon Bee Eater, Moustached Tinkerbird, Hartloub`s Turaco, Tacazze Sunbird, Olive- and Bronze-naped pigeons, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, and Black Kite and Black-collared Apalis.

Mountain Biking
Mountain Biking Trails started in Mount Elgon National Park and Sipi Falls area. This has become a trendy sport for the mountain bikers. Bikers initiate their engines running down the trails of the fourth tallest mountain in East Africa, which is a mesmerizing experience as you have a view on various waterfalls and the Karamoja plains.


Hiking

Hiking can be done on the lower elevation trails for half or full-day where short day hikes can be done in Budadiri going through the Sasa River Camp and Drigana lower falls suitable for bird watching.


Mountain Climbing

Mount Elgon is the fourth tallest mountain in East Africa. M Mountain climbing is done at this mountain which takes about 4-5 days to get on top of the mountain with experienced porters and guides to carry your load and lead your way respectively.
There are very many trails to pass through while going for mountain climbing such as a 7 Km mountain bamboo trail to Kapkwai Cave, 11km hike to the Tutum Cave, Khauka Cave in Wanale where many primates, birds and rare species of trees like the Elgon teak and Elgon olive can be sighted and camping if needed. Jackson’s Summit and Wagagai peak can be seen if you go via Nabuyoga loop.
However, the best time of the year to climb it is during the dry seasons.


Cultural Encounters
- Imbalu Circumcision
The Bagisu People around Elgon have a culture of Male circumcision publicly whereby they believe that a man can’t be married without being circumcised. It is an interesting activity for most Uganda Safaris
This event takes place mostly in December so as you plan to have a Uganda Tour at Mount Elgon come prepared to have an experienced fraternity about African culture. However, Donations are vouched in case of photography shoots taken.


Budadiri Community Walks
This Budadiri Community group is a communal Cultural Community which offers community nature walks, traditional dances, guided coffee tours and accommodation. Uganda Safari travelers can explore the cultural food preparations such as cooking the yummy ‘Malewa’ – food from bamboo shoots and you will also discover the region’s traditional dances.


A walk tour to the Mt Elgon’s famous Arabica coffee processing plants, which supports local farmers. There are three trails for nature lovers- Dirigana Loop Trail to the Dirigana Falls and Gabushana Cave via the local markets and the “Walls of Death”, Namugabwe Cave Trail via BaMasaba community land and banana plantations to reach the historical cave filled with bones and the 3 day walk to Sipi falls which manifests the culture of two neighboring tribes.


Sport fishing
Sport fishing is done at Sipi falls outside the park on the Sipi River and it’s the only place in Uganda where Mountain Trout fishing takes place.
You are required to take a delicious packed lunch, drinking water, fish sporting equipment as you will be guided into the place where you can fish for trout because fishing is regulated to designated sites and places.However, trout fishing on the Sipi River is done on a catch and release basis.


Rock Climbing
Guided rock climbing takes place inside Mount Elgon National Park and outside the park at Sipi Falls Area and also along the Falls, which is somehow terrifying. There are 14 climbs requiring various levels of rock scaling techniques. The hardy is a 35m climb while the easiest is 15m as you take pictures of the main falls and the Karamoja plains.
However, rock climbing at Mount Elgon will give you an Adventure enthusiasm that you will never forget if you have a safari visit in Uganda.


Tourist Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park


Forest Exploration Centre
The Forest Exploration Centre is located 13km from Sipi town at Kapkwai. It acts as an educational centre for schools which offers an environmental program which enables students experience a living forest ecosystem as they acknowledge more about the importance of forest conservation.
It is also a trailhead for climbers using the Sipi trail to the caldera. There are three circuits that run through the surrounding regenerating forest where Uganda Safari travelers or visitors can view caves, waterfalls, escarpments and viewpoints; and observe bird species such as Hartlaub's Turaco, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Thick-billed Honey guide, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike and primates.
Accommodation can be catered for student groups up to 30 students who will have a Safari at Mount Elgon.


Vegetation
Mount Elgon’s vegetation is divided into broad zones according to altitude and rainfall. Montane forest zone runs from the park boundary up to about 2500m asl altitude covered with dense forest, hung with vine-like lianas, epiphytes and lichens while the common tree species are olive Oleahochstetteri, prunus africanas, Elgon teak, and Aningueriaadolfi-friedericii.
Bamboo and low canopied forest run from about 2500m to 3000m altitude asl covered with open woodland occupied by hagenia abyssinica and African rosewood.
High montane heath zone run from 3000m to 3500m asl altitude covered by giant heather interspersed with grassy swards of blonde tussock grass dotted with pink and white everlasting flowers (ericriceum brownie and jonstonii) , and red hot pokers.
Open moor land runs from 3500m to 3800m asl altitude containing senecio elgonensis, Erica tree, giant lobelias with hairy leaves and plumes of tiny blue flowers.
Above 3800m asl altitude there is zone of Afro alpine vegetation with giant forms of lobelia and groundsel. 
These vegetation act as home for wildlife and bird species so game viewing can be worth for this Safari trip.


The peaks and the caldera
Mount Elgon has got one of the world's largest scathe less caldera, at 40km long and 8km wide. A result of magma being drained from the chamber led to the formation of the Caldera whereby it collapsed into a depression-like shape when it could no longer support the overlying volcanic cone. The caldera has hot springs in its eastern corner and Simu Gorge was formed by the sheer weight of the water in the caldera cutting two stream beds out of the weak volcanic ash and agglomerate walls in the northwest.
Mount Elgon has its tallest peak as Wagagi (4,321m) is the unobvious high point of the Caldera, where you can have a view out towards Kenya and across the expansive, echoey plains of the Caldera. However, there are other peaks like Sudek (4,303m), Koitobos (4,222m) and Mubiyi (4,210m). 


Caves

Mount Elgon’s slopes has caves left by moving lava and erosion of soft volcanic deposits such as Kapkwai Cave, near the Forest Exploration Centre, Khauka Cave on Wanale Ridge, Hunters Cave, Siyo Cave (near the hot springs), Mude Cave and Tutum Cave which are used by Safari climbers and their porters, and some are campsites- good for overnight expeditions.


Sipi Falls

Located in Kapchorwa district, Eastern Uganda, northeast of Sironko and Mbale lying on the edge of Mount Elgon National Park. Sipi area has three best known waterfalls. The Sipi falls is the lowest falls and the most spectacular as it cascades over a 100m cliif. The Simba falls is the second and plunges 69m over the entrance to the cave as you enjoy the best view of the back of the falls. Ngasire falls is the third and gushes over an 87m high ridge. Takes less than an hour to get to Sipi falls from Mbale town.
The Sipi River is named after the ‘Sep’, a plant indigenous to the banks of the River. Resembling a type of wild banana, Sep is a medicinal plant, the translucent green frond with a bolt of crimson rib is used for treating measles and fever and its particularly famous for locally grown Bugisu Arabica coffee.


Pian Upe and Matheniko Bokora Wildlife Reserves

This two reserves lie in the Karamoja plains to the north of Mount Elgon. However, Pian Upe is the second largest protected reserve in Uganda with 2,788km2 area size. There are a wide range of rare species of wildlife like roan antelopes, lesser kudu, Bright’s gazelle and ostriches – only found here in Uganda and in Kidepo Valley National Park.
The bird species seen here are Hartlaub's Turaco, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Thick-billed Honey guide and Grey Cuckoo-Shrike.


Nyero Rock Paintings
Nyero rock paintings is located 65km north of Mbale. They are the finest rock art sites in Eastern region of Uganda. Rock paintings are found at various sites within the Matheniko Bokora Wildlife Reserve believed to have been created by the Kushite and Nilotic peoples.
Nyero rock paintings has three panels found within the extensive granite outcrop of Moru Ikara, 10km from Kumi Town and 55km from Mbale on the Soroti road. The most impressive is Panel Two which includes two canoes bearing human figures.


Jackson’s Pool and Jackson’s Peak

A natural pool with shallow waters - Jackson’s Pool stands at 4,050m lying in the shadow of the free-standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of the mountain - Jackson’s Peak (4,165m high).
These features were named after the explorer Frederick Jackson, who in 1889 was the first European to climb Mount Elgon. The peak is used by the locals as a spot to communicate with their ancestors.