Mount Elgon National Park

March 26, 2022
uganda national parks

Gazetted in October 1993, Mt Elgon National Park is located on the Eastern part of Mbale straddling the Kenyan border, Mount Elgon is the eighth-highest mountain on the African continent, and it rises from the broadest base of any freestanding mountain in the world. Like most other major east African massifs, Elgon is the relic of an extinct volcano, whose formation was associated with the tectonic activity that created the great rift valley several million years age which is estimated to have first erupted at least 20 million years ago and its thought to have remained active for another 14 million years, when it would have stood far higher than Kilimanjaro does today. Elgon’s tallest peaks form a jagged circle around the more-or-less-intact caldera, which has a diameter of about 8km making it one the largest in the world and is dotted with small crater lakes and hot springs created by Pleistocene glacial activity. The tallest peak, set on the Ugandan side of the border, is wagagai, which lies on the southwestern caldera rim. Other major peaks are kiongo in the south, mubiyi in the north, and jackson’s summit in the east.

The most popular tourist activity her is mountain climbing and hikers on Mount Elgon are unlikely to encounter many large mammals aside from blue monkey and white and black colobus. But a small number of elephant are resident on the mountain, as is a population of the localized and striking De Brazza’s monkey, as well as leopard, bushpig, buffalo, sitatunga and common duiker. The official checklist of 24 mammal species will surely expand when an intensive survey is done, especially as an increasing number of animals are crossing back to Uganda from Kenya.

The birdlife is rich with some only seen here in Uganda and the checklist numbers to 305 species, of which more than 20% are unconfirmed, further indicates that more studies are required before knowledge of the park’s fauna can be considered anywhere near complete. The mountain supports a rich variety of forest birds, as well as several which are endemic to east Africa’s montane moorlands like the Jackson’s Francolin with a one time record, Mousetached Green Tinkerbird, Hunter’s Cisticola, Black-Collared Apalis, Alpine Chat, Marsh Widowbird, and weyn’s weaver among others. The endangered bearded vulture or lammergeyer is regularly observed soaring at higher altitudes.

Straddling the Kenyan boarder east  of Mbale , the extinct volcano of  mount elgon is the eighth highest mountain in Africa and it rises from the broadest base of any freestanding mountain in the world . it was Gazetted in 1993 as a national park, Mount Elgon remains a low visit zone because of its isolated nature. Most of the parks are located in south west, west and north western Uganda. This park sits on an estimate of 1145 but on an elevation of 1460-4320m a.s.l. the mountain is prehistoric times taller than Kilimanjaro does today.

Like many African other east African major massifs Elgon is the relic of an extinct volcano, whose formation was associated with the tectonic activities that creator the Great Rift Valley. The local Bagisu call the mountain Masaba the name of their founding ancestor who is said to have emerged from the caves on the lower slopes thousands of centuries ago.

Elgon’s vegetation zones are similar to those of other large East African mountains. Below the 3000m contour, the mountain supports a contagious belt of ever green forest extending over roughly 570 within Uganda. This forest belt can be divided into two broad strata tall afro-montane forest below 2500m and low canopy montane forest and bamboo between 2500m and 3000m. Above the 3000m lies the heather belt, giving way at around 3500m to otherworldly Afro-alpine vegetation studded with stands of giant lobea and groundsel including the endemic senecio barbatipes and senecio elgonnensis. Given its highland nature, the park has a number of falls the leading ones being the famous Sipi falls.

Hikers to mountain Elgon are unlikely to encounter many large mammals aside from the blue monkey and the white and black colobus monkey. However a small number of elephants are residents on the mountain, as is a population of the localized and striking de Brazza’s monkey, as well as a leopard, bush pig, buffalo, Sitatunga, and the common duiker. The official check list of mammals is 24 species will surely expand when an extensive survey is done especially as an extensive number of animals is crossing back from Kenya to Uganda.

The bird checklist is 305 species, supported by the mountain and better yet rich varieties of forest birds as well as several that are endemic to east African montane moorland.

Mountain climbing: Compared to other East African mountains, Elgon is a way much better alternative for hikers seeking to explore the mountain environment with less physical demands. Provides an equivalent of the other East Africa Mountains with a milder climate and elevation, and requires no special equipment or technical experience.

For those seeking a bike adventure, trails run from sipi trading centre to Chema hill in Kapchorwa town. It may take up to 1.5 hours and provides views of various waterfalls

Birding: excellent birding opportunities exist around Kapkwai forest exploration centre, in particular in the secondary forest and thick shrub along the loop trail to the cheptui falls. It supports the African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, white-chinned Prinia, and African blue fly catcher among others.

Cultural encounters: explore the source of the rich and aromatic coffee grown on the slopes of the mountain Elgon, Arabica coffee is also named sipi or Bugisu by farmers who have a reputation for producing some of the finest washed Arabica coffee in Kenya and Uganda.

Nature walks: Enjoy the views of sipi falls the walls of death and the African sunrise across the Karamoja plains on these peaceful walks just outside Mount Elgon Nation Park.

Hiking: Lucky hikers in mt Elgon will enjoy being amongst the park’s primates, birds and primates species. Trails lead past caves, view points and waterfalls with the option of camping overnight on the mountain slopes.

Mountain Elgon National park lays 235 kms east of Kampala. A tarmac road runs through Jinja to Mbale town at the western base of the mountain, before climbing to the Kapchorwa on the mountain’s north western flan, dirt road leads off the Mbale –Kapchorwa road to reach the various trailheads.

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