Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is the shared park between Kenya and Uganda. The park is located on the border of Uganda and Kenya and its managed by two countries. One may get confused finding the safari packages of Mount Elgon National park sold by different tour operators giving different locations The largest part of the park is found in Uganda covering an area of 1,110 square kilometers compared to Kenya which has only 169 square kilometers.
The Mount Elgon National park was established in different years with Kenya starting first to gazette it in 1968 and later Uganda Government also gazetted their part in 1992. The park is named after the largest attraction at the park which is the extinct shield. The mountain is the largest volcanic mountain in Africa. Mt Elgon is the largest volcanic mountain in Africa with a surface area of 5o kilometers by 80 kilometers. It’s the oldest mountain in Africa which erupted in 24 million years ago. Before a series of soil erosion in the mountain. It was the highest mountain in Africa with Wagagai peak being the highest with over 5500 meters high. The soil erosion reduced the Wagagai peak down to 4321 meters high making it to the second-highest mountain in Uganda, 4th highest in East Africa and 8th highest in Africa.
The park has one of the largest fallen calderas at the summit which measures 40 kilometers. The park is covered by a wide range of vegetation cover which is influenced by the different altitudes at Mount Elgon. The combination of altitude with the different rainfall volumes and weather produced four different vegetation zones. The different vegetation cover includes:
- Montane Forest which covers from 2000 meters to 2500 meters. It’s the first vegetation cover at the park mainly found in the foot slopes of the mountain. The forest is lush with evergreen tree species though they receive little rainfall. There are over 100 tree species at the forest which include ferns, epiphytic orchids, lianas among others.
- Mixed Bamboo and podocarpus vegetation zone. This starts from 3000 meters to 3500 meters above sea level. This zone receives good rainfall; it contains the highest biodiversity on the Mount Elgon National park
- Heath zone. This starts from an altitude of 3500 meters to 4321 meters. Its also called bare rock characterized by scrub and brilliant wildflowers.
- The last vegetation zoning is Moorland Zone which is the peak of the mountain. It is a home of more endemic plant species, there are some dotted grassland with clusters of peculiar giant grounded plants and lobelia plants which are rarer and unique in East Africa.
Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park
The park is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Services which monitors, escorts, and briefs all the guests before one starts the hike to the mountain. The park boasts with more attractions which ranges from the Volcanic mountain to the caves, birds, and others.
Wildlife: The slope of the Mount Elgon National park is a home of different wildlife especially Buffalo (One of the Big 5 Animals), forest Elephants, Duikers, Black, and white Columbus monkey, Red tailed Monkey mention but a few. The parks also has a wide range of bird species with over 300 bird species especially forest species like wood hoopoes, different sunbirds, kite, Goshawks, Cisticola, Bushshrikes, flycatchers and others.
Caves: The mountain has traditional caves that include Kapkwai caves, Khaukha cave and many more. The caves are mostly used by the local traditional healers as blessing houses and all the locals believe on those myths.
Forest Exploration: Along the slopes of the Mountain at the park is lush montane forests at Kapkwai which runs for more than 13 kilometres from the busy remote town of Sipi. The town is a starting hiking trail of Sipi which directly connects to the caldera. The forests has a combination of several tree species.
Waterfalls: Mount Elgon National park is a home of over two falls though the most thought when talking about the park is the sipi falls. Located on the Ugandan side of the park is much easier to hike and reach. It does not need more technical skills to reach the falls though a certain level of fitness is required.
Jackson peak: This is one of the peaks of Mount Elgon with the highest peak being Wagagai followed by Sudek, Koitobos, and Mubiyi. Jackson peak is more popular due to the natural shallow waters that are found free-standing at the volcanic plug on the western part of the mountain.
Activities in Mount Elgon National Park
Hiking to the top of the mountain: The hike to Mount Elgon is one of the great activity done in the park. The hike is not very technical but requires a certain level of fitness for one to complete the hike. The hike is brief taking between 3 to 4 days depending on the fitness of the guest and their hiking experience. The park provides a ranger and the hiker hires the potters who help you carry the luggage during the hike. The hike is very unique as you pass through the forests and view more forest animals and birds while trekking. You enjoy the peak upon reaching take pictures enjoy the celebrations.
Visiting Sipi falls: This is one of the key attractions at the park, more guests trek higher to visit the remote Sipi falls. It gives magnificent sightseeing as one can have an aerial view of the semi-desert areas of the Karamoja region. Have a view of the walls of the Death and great African sunrise when in the sipi falls.
Birding: With over 300 bird species the park is good birding destination that inhabits more open savannah and forest birds. The park is regarded as birding paradise for more arid endemic birds
Mountain Biking: Mount Elgon National park is the only mountain park where mountain biking is enjoyed and more challenging. The mountain bike starts from the Sipi trading center to Chema hill in Kapchorwa town taking around 1 and a half to 2 hours ride. You will have a scenic view of great waterfalls as you keep riding the bike.
Mount Elgon National park can be visited on either side of Uganda or Kenya and one can enjoy the same activities. The park can be visited throughout the year combining with near Kidepo valley national park or Jinja for great adventure along with the source of the Nile.