Major attractions and activities in Mount Elgon National Park Uganda

Major attractions and activities in Mount Elgon National Park Uganda

February 29, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

Explore the Major attractions and activities in Mount Elgon National Park Uganda. Mountain Elgon National Park is located in the far east of Uganda and it is found along the Uganda –Kenya border. The Park consists of many attractions and activities such as Volcanic Mountain Elgon and the largest caldera in the world which is about 40 square kilometers. The caldera further has two hot springs in its eastern corner at the start of the deep Suam Gorge. The extinct volcano is one of Uganda’s oldest mountains and it first erupted about twenty-four million years ago.  The now dormant volcano was once thought to be Africa’s highest mountain, it is said to have been way higher than 5,895m of the block Kilimanjaro in neighboring Tanzania but due to the different massive erosion processes, it has reduced to 4,321m dropping its position to the 4th highest peak in East Africa and the 8th in the world.

Jackson’s pool near Jackson’s Peak in Mountain Elgon National Park

Furthermore, the mountain Elgon is known to have the largest volcanic base in the world and it is also known as the largest and oldest solitary volcanic mountain in the East African region. The mountain in its vast form is 80 km in diameter and rises over 3,200 over the surrounding flat lands and plain lands. The higher parts of the mountain are where most of the different species of flora and fauna seek refuge. The Park mainly protects the higher slopes of Mount Elgon as the lower slopes are occupied by the different local communities that mainly and directly survive on the mountain and its resources. Furthermore, different rivers bisect the mountain and are very important sources of water to the wildlife and the neighbouring local communities these include River Sironko and River Manafwa. The Park also has a conducive climate that is wet almost throughout the year. The higher parts of the mountain are protected by the governments of both Uganda and Kenya which creates an extensive transboundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve.

Birding in Mt Elgon National Park.

Mount Elgon National Park is a habitat to over 300 bird species including the most endangered ones on the IUCN red list such as the massive Bearded Vulture can be seen flying over the Caldera and the Suam Gorge.   Other bird species include the peaceful and nonconfrontational Jackson’s Spurfowl, Elgon Francolin, Black-collared Apalis, the shy and vocal Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, the strongly territorial Hurtlaub’s Turaco, the under washed Hunter’s Cisticola, the monogamous Crowned Hornbill, Black and White Casqued Hornbill, Common Bulbul, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Gray Apalis, the noisy and active White-bellied Tit, Cabanis’s and  Slender-billed Greenbul, Red-winged Starling, Mountain Yellow Warbler, the hardy and gentle Pin-tailed Whydah and the vigorous and aggressive Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Cinnamon Bracken and Evergreen Forest Warbler, the wide spread but shy Abyssinian Crimsonwing, the long-tailed Golden-winged, Bronze and Tacazze Sunbird the common Abyssinian Ground-thrush always seen at the start point and on the trail heads, the woodpecker like Kakamega, the Spotted Creeper among other high altitude rarities thay duell aroungd the Elgon National Park. The Park consists of 40 restricted range species, furthermore, 56 of the 87 afro tropical biome species exist here, especially the tiny and active Moustached Green Tinkerbird, the terrestrial Moorland Francolin and the Alpine Chat. Mount Elgon bird species can be spotted from different parts of the park and some of the most excellent viewing spots in the park include the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre, some of the most common bird species to be spotted here include the soaring and perching African Goshawk, African Blue Flycatcher, Black-headed and Chin-spot Batis, Doherty’s and Luhdurs’ Bush Shrikes, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater and Hartlaub’s Turaco.

Moustached Green Tinkerbird in Mt Elegon National Park

Wildlife species in Mountain Elgon National Park.

Besides the numerous bird species in Mount Elgon National Park, the park is home to different tourist attractions such as the different wild animal species in the park including the graceful Elephants which inhabit the varied vegetation cover along the mountain slopes, Buffaloes, Oribi, Defassa waterbuck, Spotted Hyenas, giant Squirrels and primates such as the jumpy and arboreal White and Blue Colobus monkeys and the rare Guereza Colobus. Other attractions in the park include caves, rocks, waterfalls such as the beautiful Sipi Falls, rivers such as River Sironko and River Manafwa, Caldera and Jackson’s pool. Some of the major activities in the park are hiking, bird watching, Day and Night nature walks, sightseeing, coffee tours, Rock climbing, Mount Elgon Bushiyi excursion trail and mountain biking.

Hiking in Mountain Elgon National Park.

Hiking is one of the main activities that cannot be missed when one is at Mount Elgon National Park. This is mainly because the Park has no roads for game drives but has footpath trails that are hiking and nature walk trails. Hiking in Mount Elgon National Park is one of the most exciting and a better alternative to climbing compared to other places for mountain climbing in East Africa. This is mainly because reaching the peaks of Elgon requires no special equipment or technical assistance. Four major climbing trails in the park take you to the Wagagai Peak and these include The Piswa trail which is the longest trail to the Wagagai Peak and it is a distance of 49 kilometres. It is also the easiest and least strenuous trail to the peak. The Sasha trail is the shortest and the most strenuous trail to the top of the Wagagai peak. Other trails include the Bushiyi trail and the Sippi trail, this is the longest trail and it starts at 2,050m at Kapkwai Forest Exploration Center passing through the western mountainside through the Tutum cave to enter the Caldera and then the Wagagai peak. One is also advised to hike or go on a nature walk from Budadiri to Sasa river camp. The various trails can be combined in such a way as ascending the Sipi/Piswa/Sasa trail and descending via the Sasa/Sipi trail. This may, for example, enable a visit to the caldera, the hot springs and the waterfalls such as the Magnificent Sippi Falls.

Cultural Tourism around Mountain Elgon National Park.

Mount Elgon National Park consists of majorly two major tribes of Uganda. The Park boasts of a rich cultural attraction and activities that these two tribes practice as they are very unique and only found in eastern Uganda. The Bagisu/ Bamasaba who speak Lugisu a Bantu language and the Sabiny people who speak Sebei a Nilotic language are the two groups of locals that practice the local cultures in and around Mount Elgon National Park Uganda. The Bagisu commonly carry out the Imbalu festivals even every year. The main ceremony is usually held at the Mtoto cultural site which adjacent to the ceremonial hut, is the district administration block. The Imbalu is a circumcision festival that ushers Bagisu boys into adulthood. This is one of the activities that a tourist interested in authentic cultural experiences should never miss on their visit to Uganda. Be keen to visit the different Local Cultural museums in Kapchorwa the biggest town of the Sabiny for example Sebei Cultural Centre to have a full cultural experience which involves preparing and eating local food, songs, traditional dances and souvenirs such as articrafts. These two groups of people are naturally hospitable and welcoming people. The Sabiny are well-known as Athletics world champions and Olympic champions with the likes of Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo and Steven Kiprotich among others. While in Kapchorwa, be sure to visit the Joshua Cheptegei Training sports Facility and the National Altitude Training Center Teryet, this may reward you with an experience with the former, current and future Olympics and world champions

Hikers are advised to always be physically fit enough to conquer the peaks of this vast volcanic mountain. This is mainly to avoid and prevent altitude-related sicknesses and any health complications. Also, travellers are cautioned about the best times when one can be guaranteed a satisfying experience. All travellers should note that Mount Elgon National Park is a wilderness without roads and can only be explored on foot. You can also try out making your transboundary adventure, which involves you ascending the Ugandan slope and descending on the Kenyan side. The crossover point during this adventurous activity is at the hot springs and the visitors should have made a prior arrangement with the Kenya Wildlife Service’s rangers

What is the best time to visit Mountain Elgon National Park?

The best time to visit the park is mainly during the dry season for easy access to all parts of the park and this dry season is usually from June to August and from December to early March. On the whole, Mount Elgon can be hiked at any time of the year.

How to get to Mountain Elgon National Park?

Mount Elgon National Park is situated in the far east of Kampala approximately 236km while passing via Jinja another tourism city in Uganda, Iganga, until Mbale the biggest town close to the National Park. One can reach the park by either road or air means of transportation. By road, it takes 4-5 hours to reach Mbale town where one needs to drive on Marram roads for a few kilometres to reach the various trailheads. By air, one will have to use the Kenya Kisumu Airport which takes approximately one hour. It will take 50 more minutes to reach the National Park. Travellers can use the scheduled flight that runs all safari flights to Kenya through Air Kenya Express or use domestic charters.

Where to find accommodation around Mountain Elgon National Park?

After an exciting, interesting and fun-packed day of activities, one should be sure of a comfortable accommodation spots around and within Mount Elgon National Park whether for luxurious, mid-range or budget travelers. Some of the best accommodation and hospitality spots in and around the park include the following; Sipi River Lodge which is one of the most luxurious lodges on the foothills of Mount Elgon, for budget travelers, Mt Elgon Spar and hotel which costs roughly Ush 500,000, Kapkwai  Cottages Moses Camo, Lacalm Lodge and many other hotels around Mbale town which is less than an hours drive to thew start point.

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