Mount Elgon National park is located near Mbale in the Eastern part of Uganda. The park covers 1,145 sq km. It is named after Mt Elgon (4,321m), an extinct Volcanic Mountain that lies on Uganda’s border with Kenya. In the prehistoric times this mountain stood taller than Kilimanjaro Mountain, the highest mountain in East Africa. Though the Mountain is shared by Uganda and Kenya its highest peak Wagagai peak (4321m) lies in Uganda. The mountain has got three other major peaks which are Kiongo (4303m), Mubiyi (4210m) and Jackson’s summit (4165m).
At 4,000km², Mt. Elgon has the largest volcanic base in the world. Located on the Uganda-Kenya border it is also the oldest and largest solitary, volcanic mountain in East Africa. Its vast form, 80km in diameter, rises more than 3,000m above the surrounding plains. The mountain’s cool heights offer respite from the hot plains below, with the higher altitudes providing a refuge for flora and fauna.
Mount Elgon was once Africa’s highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m. Millennia of erosion have reduced its height to 4,321m, relegating it to the 4th highest peak in East Africa.
The mountain occupies the widest surface area than any other extinct Volcano in the whole world covering an expanse of 50 by 80 kilometers. The Mountain is the 4th highest mountain in the whole of East Africa, and the 2nd highest peak in Uganda; the Wagagai peak at 4321 meters coming after Mountain Rwenzori’s Margarita peak. Mt Elgon holds one of the biggest intact calderas, which is a collapsed crater that covers an expanse of more than 40 kilometers at the peak of the mountain. This caldera is encircled by several rugged peaks plus several tiny crater lakes as well as hot springs that where formed as a result of Pleistocene glacial activity.
Located on Uganda’s border with Kenya is Mount Elgon National Park. this mountain was named after the “Elgonyi tribe”, that long ago lived within the large caves on the mountain’s south side. The mountain was locally referred to as “Ol Doinyo Ilgoon” (meaning Breast Mountain) by the local Maasai people in Kenya while the Ugandans referred to it as the “Masaba”. Although Mountain Elgon stands as an extinct volcano today, over 20 million years back is when this mountain first erupted and it is supposed that remained active for another 14 million years.
Things to See
Mountain Elgon comprise of 5 major peaks and these include: the Wagagai peak at a height of 4,321m, the Sudek peak at a height of 4,302m / 14,140 feet in Kenya, the flat topped Koitobos peak at a height of 4,222m / 13,248 feet in Kenya, the Mubiyi peak at a height of 4,211m / 13,816 feet and the Masaba peak at a height of 4,161m / 13,650 feet.
Birds & Wildlife
Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. Small antelopes, forest monkeys, elephants and buffaloes also live on the mountainside. 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 Mount 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.
The mountain being one of the largest in Africa covers an expanse of 1145 sq km and its slopes supports a wide diversity of vegetation varying from the Montana forest, the high moorland on the lower slopes inhabited by elephants plus so much more. Similar to many other east African large mountains in east Africa, Mt. Elgon was formed as a result of vigorous volcanic eruption coupled with tectonic activity which formed the Great Rift Valley of east African.
Other than the intact caldera, its stunning scenery is another major attraction which has attracted a number of hikers, with additional rewards of forest monkeys plus antelopes. In addition to the commonly seen monkeys like aside the blue monkeys and the white & black colobus monkeys, hikers will also see several elephants, bush pigs, duikers, sitatunga and buffaloes.
For the less experienced hikers, the mountain offers a number of attractive prospects, among which are the beautiful Sipi waterfalls located not far away from the surfaced road plus a diversity of vegetation not to forget the large banana plantations as well as the very hospitable local residents living in the small villages on the lower mountain slopes.
Hiking the mountain: and The major Routes:
The best way to experience this beautiful mountain is by taking part in any of the hikes offered on this mount. Mt Elgon has 3 major trailheads call them starting points which lead to the mountain summit. You may choose to start your hike from Budadiri – the Sasa trailhead, for from the Forest Exploration Center – Kapkwai – the Sipi trailhead, alternatively from the Kapkwata – Piswa trailhead. The Sasa trail is can be accessed from the town of Mbale and this is actually the most direct trail to the summit though the steep rugged sloped to an altitude of 1600 meters on the very first day. The trail goes through the large bamboo forested area of park.
The Sipi Falls trail presents the stunning Tutum cave well hidden in the far-reaching forest, whereas the Piswa trail is well-known for its very high Podpcarpus forest which is a perfect destination for bird watching and animals viewing. On the contrary, the Sipi as well as the Piswa trails begin at a higher altitude with longer more steady climbs to the summit.
On reaching the summit, you may choose to descend using the very same trails or return through a different trail. Each trail has camping sites with an adjacent water source, plus tent pads as well as latrines. So overnight accommodation is offered in tents and fortunately the park is establishing a hut for trekkers at Mude cave along the Sasa trail.