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Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park’s main visit attraction is Mount Elgon; an extinct shield volcano on the border of Uganda and Kenya, north of Kisumu and west of Kitale. The mountain’s highest point, named “Wagagai”, is located entirely within Uganda.

 

Mount Elgon is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Its vast form, 80 kilometers (50 mi) in diameter, rises 3,070 meters (10,070 ft) above the surrounding plains. Its cooler heights offer respite for humans from the hot plains below, and its higher altitudes provide a refuge for flora and fauna.

Overview | Mount Elgon National Park

Overview: Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park is a national park 140 kilometers (87 mi) northeast of Lake Victoria. The park covers an area of 1,279 square kilometers (494 sq mi) and is bisected by the border of Kenya and Uganda. The Ugandan part of the park covers 1,110 km2 (430 sq mi) while the Kenyan part covers 169 km2 (65 sq mi). The Kenyan part of the park was gazetted in 1968, the Ugandan part in 1992.

 

The vegetation of Mount Elgon National Park:

Mount Elgon National Park’s vegetation is banded into broad zones whose characteristics are dictated by altitude and rainfall. The lower mountain slopes are covered with dense forest and regenerating forests, hung with vine-like lianas, epiphytes and lichens. The floor is covered with a carpet of ferns, orchids and flowering plants. Common tree species encountered in the tropical montane forest (1,500-2,500m asl) are olive Oleahochstetteri, prunus africanas, Elgon teak, podocarpus, cedar, Cordia, Neoboutania, allophyllus tombea and Aningueriaadolfi-friedericii.

 

The zone changes to mixed bamboo at 2,500-3,000m. The bamboo merges into open woodland dominated by hagenia abyssinica and African rosewood interspersed with hypericum – a giant form of St. John’s wort.

The heath zone (3,000-,3500m) is characterized by giant heather interspersed with grassy swards of blonde tussock grass dotted with pink and white everlasting flowers (ericriceum brownie and jonstonii) , flame-colored gladioli, blue delphiniums and red hot pokers.

 

The moorland or Afro-alpine zone (3,500-4,321m) contains senecio elgonensis, Erica tree, giant lobelias with hairy leaves and plumes of tiny blue flowers, ladies’ mantle tussocks (archimilla elgonesis) and pink and white everlasting flowers. The summit of the mountain is vegetated by rare Afro-montane species that include giant forms of lobelia and groundsel.

How To Get There

By Road: Bwindi can be reached from Queen Elizabeth National Park to the north (2-3 hours), from Kabale to the south (1-2 hours), or from Kampala via Mbarara (6-8 hours). The roads meet at Butogota, 17km from the Buhoma entrance gate. A 4WD vehicle is necessary during the rainy season. A daily bus service leaves Kampala for Butogota via Rukungiri and Kihiihi. A matatu (public minibus), hire car, or boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) can be taken from Butogota to the park entrance gate at Buhoma.

By Air: Travelers can fly from Entebbe or Kampala (Kajjansi airfield) to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro. Planes can also be chartered to the grass Kayonza or Savannah airstrips. Bwindi is well served by three airfields at Kayonza and Kihiihi for the northern sector and Nyakabande in Kisoro for those going to track gorillas in the southern sector (Nkuringo, Nshongi, and Mishaya).

 

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park | Getting around:

  • Bwindi’s various trailheads can be reached by vehicle. However there are no roads within the park itself, which is explored on foot. Bwindi is aptly named the ‘impenetrable forest’; paths pass through dense vegetation and can be steep. Take advantage of walking sticks offered at the start of a walk.

Wildlife And Activities

Wildlife: Mount Elgon National Park

Wildlife:

Mount Elgon National Park supports a variety of wildlife including rock and tree hyraxes, elephant, buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, oribi, bushbuck, duiker, forest hog, bush pig, leopard, civet and serval cats, serval cats, spotted hyena; aardvark and several rodent species. However, these animals are rarely observed in the forest setting. More commonly seen creatures are the black-and-white colobus; baboons; red-tailed, vervet, De Brazza’s and blue monkeys; duiker and tree squirrel.

 

Birds:

Mount Elgon National Park is home to 300 birds including 40 restricted-range species. 56 of the 87 Afrotropical highland biome species live here, notably the Moorland Francolin, Moustached Green Tinkerbird and Alpine Chat. Birds whose Ugandan range is limited to Mount Elgon include the Jackson’s Francolin and Black-collared Apalis. Among those limited to just a few mountains in eastern Uganda are the Black-shouldered Kite and Tacazze Sunbird. Mount Elgon is one of the few places in Uganda where the endangered Lammergeyer can be seen, soaring above the caldera and Suam Gorge.

Activities: Mount Elgon National Park

Mountain/Volcano Climbing in Mt. Elgon:

Many travellers find Mt. Elgon an exciting alternative to the more strenuous climbs in East Africa. It has many of the same attractions, with a milder climate and lower elevation, and requires no special equipment or technical experience. Many travellers find Mt. Elgon an exciting alternative to the more strenuous climbs in East Africa. It is easier to access throughout the year, less congested and has many of the same attractions, with a milder climate and lower elevation. Climbing the peaks requires no special equipment or technical experience.

  • The Sasa trail is the shortest but toughest route to the peaks, traversing the community land and allowing you to explore BaMasaba farming settlements and culture. The round trip takes four days and starts at Budadiri town at an elevation of 1,250m.
  • The Sipi trail (four to six days, 56km round trip) starts at 2,050m at the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre. It is the longest trail to the peaks, passing through the northwestern mountainside through Tutum Cave to enter the caldera and reach Wagagai Peak
  • The Piswa trail (seven days, 49km round trip) is long and the most gentle trail. Starting at the village of Kapkwata on the north side of the mountain, it traverses the soft wood plantation to the Podocarpus forest. It’s notable for its rich wildlife and spectacular views of the Karamoja plains in Uganda and the Nandi and Kapeguria hills in Kenya
  • Transboundary hike/cross border tourism: The higher slopes of Mount Elgon are shared with an adjacent national park in Kenya and a transboundary hike can be arranged. After ascending to the caldera with a UWA guide, climbers cross the border to descend with a Kenya Wildlife Service escort.

Birding in Mt. Elgon:

Excellent birding opportunities exist around Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre, in particular in the secondary forest and thick shrub along the loop trail to Cheptui Falls. It supports the African Goshawk; Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia and African Blue Flycatcher among others.

Hiking/Nature Walks in Mt. Elgon:

Lucky hikers in Mt Elgon will enjoy being amongst the parks primates, birds and rare tree species. Trails lead past caves, viewpoints and waterfalls, with the option of camping overnight on the mountain slopes.

The 7km (four-hour) mountain bamboo trail to Kapkwai Cave passes through tropical and bamboo forest. Along the trail are many primates, birds and rare trees such as Elgon teak and Elgon olive. The 5km walk to the Chebonet Falls and 3km walk to the Kapkwai caves follow the ridge view trail. There is also an 11km hike to the Tutum Cave, with the option of camping overnight beside the cave.

Cultural Encounters in Mt. Elgon:

Find out where your coffee comes from! Grown on the mountain side of Mt Elgon is Arabica coffee – also named Sipi or Bugisu by the farmers – who have a reputation for producing some of the finest washed Arabica in Kenya and Uganda.

Mountain Biking in Mt. Elgon:

Mountain biking trails run from Sipi trading centre to Chema hill in Kapchorwa town. It should take 1.5 hours and provides views of various waterfalls. A mountain biking trail runs from Sipi trading centre to Chema Hill in Kapchorwa town. It should take 1.5 hours and provides views of various waterfalls and the Karamoja plains.  Bikes can be hired from Sipi River Lodge.

 

Where To Stay

Where to stay: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla national park has also got amazing accommodation options for you to stay.

 

Ntebeko: Where to stay

  • Amajambere Iwacu Camp
  • Volcanoes Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge

 

Bunyonyi: Where to stay

  • Birdnest at Bunyonyi Resort
  • Bunyonyi Overland Resort

 

Kisoro: Where to stay

  • Kisoro Tourist Hotel
  • Kisoro Travelers’ Rest Hotel
  • Countryside Guesthouse Kisoro
  • Mountain Gorilla Safari Hotel

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When To Visit

Bwindi Impenetrable national park is open to visitors throughout the year, but the park is best visited during the dry seasons of the year that is from the month of June, July, August, December, January to February, these months receive little or no rainfall at all which has influenced a number of activities to take place including Gorilla trekking, birding experience, nature walks, and others, during this time, the trails are dry and the ground is less slippery enabling easy access through the trails.

 

Bwindi Impenetrable national park can also be visited during the wet season from the month of March, May, and September to November since the park is open and all the activities take place regardless of the rain. During the rain season, the park is green with plenty of food and fruits which attracts Many birds, and by this time, there will be a lot of Migratory birds.

Attractions

Activities: Mount Elgon National Park

Together with the fauna and flora, the park has a variety of scenery; this includes cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and the mountain peaks. The most popular areas are the four explorable, vast caves where frequent night visitors such as elephants and buffaloes come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. Kitum cave, with overhanging crystalline walls, enters 200 m into the side of Mt. Elgon.

At the Endebess Bluff there a panoramic view of the areas’ escarpments, gorges, mesas, and rivers. The highest peak of Mt. Elgon on the Kenya side, Koitoboss, measures 13,852 ft (4,155 m), and is easily reached by hikers in about two hours from the road’s end. Activities include

Mount Elgon Caves:

  • Mount Elgon’s slopes are riddled with caves left by moving lava and erosion of soft volcanic deposits. The most accessible are Kapkwai Cave, near the Forest Exploration Centre, and Khauka Cave on Wanale Ridge. Historically, such features acted as shelters for locals and their livestock; later on they provided manure in the form of bat droppings.

Jackson’s Pool and Jackson’s Peak:

  • Jackson’s Pool stands at 4,050m and is a natural pool with shallow waters. This pool lies in the shadow of the 4,165m high Jackson’s Peak, a free-standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of the mountain. These features were named after the explorer Frederick Jackson, who in 1889 was the first European to climb Mount Elgon

The peaks and the caldera:

  • Mount Elgon’s highest peaks are formed by high points around a jagged rim enclosing one of the world’s largest calderas, at 40km long and 8km wide. The tallest peak is the 4,321m Wagagi, followed by Sudek (4,303m), Koitobos (4,222m) and Mubiyi (4,210m).

Nkokenjeru Ridge and Wanale:

  • Nkokenjeru Ridge is a distinctive finger of forest extending outwards from the main massif of Mount Elgon. It lies at an elevation of 2,347m and covers a 25km-long tongue of lava that flowed out of the side of the volcano after the cone collapsed to block the main vent. Nkokenjeru Ridge culminates at the superb Wanale Cliffs which tower above Mbale Town; the seasonal Nabuyonga and Namatyo Waterfalls are located here. A trail at this western end of the ridge leads you to  Khauka Cave where petrified wood can be found.