Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. The higher slopes are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve.
A climb on Mt. Elgon’s deserted moorlands unveils a magnificent and uncluttered wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to many mountains: the ultimate goal on reaching the top of Mt. Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4321m Wagagai Peak, but the descent into the vast 40km² caldera.
Mount Elgon is an extinct volcanic mountain with the largest surface area in the world (50km by 80km) and a caldera with a diameter of about 8 km. The highest peak is Wagagai, 4.321 m. It lies at the border with Kenya. The National Park is 1.145 kms in extension. The local people, Bugisu used to call the mount “Masaba”, while “Elgon” is named after the Anglicization of the Masai “El Kony”. The best time to visit Mount Elgon is May and September, November and December.
While ascending Mount Elgon, there are four different forest zones: the lush montane forest, the mixed bamboo belt, the heath and the spectacular moorland hyrachs, which contains rare species like the giant Lobelia Elgonensis and clusters of groundsels which are unique to Africa.
At least 300 species of birds are recorded, including Jackson’s francolin, guinea fowls, sunbirds and Turaco. The checklist for mammals includes at least 24 species.
Activities in Mount Elgon National Park
There are several trekking trails around Mount Elgon, all open to everybody as this is not a difficult mountain to climb (Sasa, Sipi and Piswa trials). The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes 5 to 6 days to complete.
The nature walks allows you to see flora and fauna, the enormous caves, gorges and hot springs. One day hikes are possible from the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkway.
Particularly fascinating is the hike from Sipi trading centre to the Sipi Falls, a series of four pretty waterfalls culminating in a 99m drop at an altitude of 1.775 m, along the river Sipi, which originates from Mount Elgon.
Recommended Mount Elgon National Park Tour:
How to get there
Mount Elgon National Park lies 235km east of Uganda’s great city Mbale. A tarmac road runs through Jinja to Mbale town at the western base of Mount Elgon, before climbing to Kapchorwa on the mountain’s north-western flank. Tarmac road lead off the Mbale-Kapchorwa road to reach the various trailheads.