Mount Elgon National Park is found in Eastern Uganda is located near Mbale and lies across the Kenyan border covering 1,145 square kilometres.
Mount Elgon is known to be the fourth highest mountain in East Africa and second highest peak in Uganda, towering up to 4321 meters with the second-highest peak in Uganda. Mt. Elgon, an extinct volcano is believed to have first erupted more than 24 million years ago. Locally known as Mt. Masaba, Elgon has got three other major peaks which are Kiongo (4303m), Mubiyi (4210m) and Jackson’s summit (4165m).
Masaba is the name of the founding ancestor of the Bagisu believed to have emerged from a cave on its slopes several centuries ago. Masaba’s spirit is believed to be personified by Jackson’s Summit but may be the taller Kiongo peak. The mountain is also an important watershed for different rivers including River Sipi that forms the spectacular Sipi Falls. The mountain slopes support a rich variety of vegetation zones like the montane forest, high open moorland covered by the worldly giant lobelia and groundsel plants. The mountain has crater covering about 40 kilometres on its top surrounded by a multiple rugged peaks.
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park has a large variety of fauna and floral species, for instance the Bamboo, heath and moorland zones plus animals such as leopards, Blue and White Colobus monkey, hyena and buffaloes. The bird species comprise of the African Goshawk, Mackinon’s Fiscal, the Bablafecht weaver and many others.
Bird watching, mountain hiking, trekking, day hikes and forest exploration, camping, guide escorts are among the major activities. A variety of attractions outside the park like lodging facilities and campsites plus the magnificent Sipi Falls situated 66 km from Mbale make a tour enjoyable. Community visits and involvement in Imbalu dances, nature walks from Budadiri trail-head can also be done.
Tourist Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park
Forest Exploration Centre
At Kapkwai, 13kms from Sipi town doubles as an educational centre for schools and the trailhead for climbers using the Sipi trail to the caldera, three 3-7kms circuits run through the surrounding regenerating forest, where you can visit caves, waterfalls, escarpments and viewpoints; and observe birds and primates.
Mount Elgon’s slopes are riddled with caves left by moving lava and erosion of soft volcanic deposits. The most accessible are Kapkwai Caver near the Forest Exploration Centre, and Khaukha Cave on Wanale Ridge. Historically, such features acted as shelters for locals and their livestock; later on they provided manure in the form of bat droppings.
This peak stands at 4,050m and is a natural pool with shallow waters. It lies in the shadow of the 4,165m high Jackson’s peak a free-standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of the mountain.
The peaks and the caldera
Mount Elgon’s highest peaks are formed by high points around a jagged rim enclosing one of the world’s largest calderas, at 40km long and 8km wide. The tallest peak is the 4,521m Wagagai, followed by Sudek (4,503m), Koitobos (4,222m) and Mubiyi (4,210m).
Mount Elgon’s vegetation is banded into broad zones whose characteristics are dictated by altitude and rainfall. The lower mountain slopes are covered with dense forest and regenerating forests, hung with vine-like lianas, epiphytes and lichens. The floor is covered with a carpet of ferns, orchids and flowering plants. Common tree species encountered in the tropical montane forest (1,500-2,500m asl) are; Elgon olive welwitchi prunus africana, Elgon teak, Podocarpus, Cedar, Cordia, Neoboutania, allophyllus tombea and Aningeria adolfi-friedericii. The zone changes to mixed bamboo at 2,500-5000m. The bamboo merges into open woodland dominated by hagenia abyssinica and African rosewood interspersed with hypericum a giant form of St. John’s wort.
Nkokenieru Ridge and Wanale
Nkokenieru Ridge is a distinctive finger of forest extending outwards from the main massif of Mount Elgon. It lies at an elevation of 2,347m and covers a 25km long tongue of lava that flowed out of the side of the volcano after the cone collapsed to block the main vent. Nkokenieru Ridge culminates at the superb Wanale Cliffs which tower above Mbale town the seasonal Nabuyonga and Namatyo Waterfalls are located here. A trail at this western end of the ridge leads you to Khaukha Cave where petrified wood can be found. This ridge also offers ground for those interested in paragliding over Mbale town.
Mountain Climbing, Mountain Biking, Birding, Hiking, Nature Walks, Rock Climbing, Sport Fishing, Cultural Encounters.
Accommodation/Where to stay
Simple accommodation facilities are available inside the Park at the Kapkwata Rest House and the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai. Prior arrangements through the MENP Visitors’ office in Mbale are necessary as these facilities do not accommodate large numbers of visitors. Kitchen services are available, but visitors should bring their own food supplies or provide money to buy food on arrival . The Forest Exploration Centre also conducts a four-day environmental program for school groups of up to 30 students which allow children to experience a living forest ecosystem while learning the importance of conservation. It has dormitory – style rooms and bathing facilities with running water.