A brief description of Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is a national park located approximately one hundred forty kilometers north East of Lake Victoria. It covers approximately an area of 1279 km² and is divided by the border of Kenya and Uganda. The Ugandan side of the park covers 1110 km² while the Kenyan part covers almost 169 km².The Kenyan side of the park was gazetted earlier in 1968 than the Ugandan part which was gazette in 1992.
In 1896, C. W. Hobley became the first European to circumnavigate the mountain. Stigler and Kmunke are people who made the first recorded ascent to the Koitobos and Wagagai in 1911. Jackson.F, J. Martin, and E. Gedge where the first people to make a record of assenting to Sudek in the year 1890. The main peak of Wagagai is very easy scramble and this makes it not even to require special mountaineering skills.
Mt. Elgon which is at 4,000km² is said to be having the world. The mountain which be found in the Uganda-Kenya border is also the largest and oldest solitary as well as volcanic mountain in East Africa. The mountains vast form stretches 80km in diameter and rises above 3,000m beyond the surrounding plains. The cool heights of the mountain provide favorable grounds were it respites from the hot plains below and its altitudes which are in most times high are acting as a refuge for fauna and flora.
Mount Elgon is not frequently visited like other higher and more famous mountains in East Africa. However when the trails on mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro become increasingly crowded and degraded, hikers come to appreciate the precious mount Elgon’s. 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 just descent into the caldera area of forty kilometers squared but not a final ascent to the Wagagai Peak which is 4321m.
The Wagagi Peak and the Bagisu people during a circumcision ceremony
Mt Elgon was once Africa's highest mountain, far beyond Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m. But due to Millennia of erosion it has reduced its height to 4,321m, pushing it back to the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th on the African continent and this extinct volcano is one of Uganda's oldest physical features and its first erupting occurred at around 24 million years ago.
It is home to three tribes, the Sabiny, Bagisu, and Ndorobo, the Ndorobo being the marginalized tribe, were forced to live deep within the Benet forest. The tribe Known as the BaMasaba considers Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father of the Bagisu, Masaba and hence they decided to name the mountain by this name. The Bagisu and Sabiny are subsistence farmers and conduct circumcision ceremonies every other year to initiate young men into adulthood. Local people have long depended on the forest produce and have made agreements with the park to continue to harvest resources such as bamboo poles and bamboo shoots (a delicious local delicacy.)
It has one of the largest intact calderas in the world and has number of caves i.e. Chepnyalil cave, Ngwarisha cave, Cave at Makingeny, and Kitum caves: Kitum Cave is estimated to be over 60 m wide and penetrates down to 200 m. The cave is blessed with salt deposits and this attracts the elephants to frequently lick the salt exposed by gouging the walls with their tusks, The cave become dangerous following the release of the publication by Richard Preston'in his book titled The Hot Zone in 1994 following its association with the Marburg virus which claimed two people who had visited the cave (one in 1980 and another in 1987) contracted the disease and died.
The mountain is composed of red laterite soils and it is the catchment area for the several rivers like the River Saum, which final became the downstream of Turkwel and which drains into Lake Turkana, Lwakhakha River and The Nzoia River which flow to basins of lake Victoria. Kitale which is the nearest town becomes the foothills of the mountain. All the surrounding areas in the mountain are being protected by the parks two boarding counties i.e. Uganda and Kenya.
The name of the mountain is derived after from Elgeyo tribe who were the inhabitants of the huge cave found on the southern part of the mountain and the cave was known as Ol Doinyo Ilgoon (Breast Mountain) by the Maasai and as Masaba on the Ugandan side by the Bamasaba.The mountain consists of five major peaks i.e. Wagagai (4,321 m), in Uganda, Sudek (4,302 m or 14,140;ft) on the Kenya/Uganda border, Koitobos (4,222 m or 13,851;ft), a flat-topped basalt column in Kenya, Mubiyi (4,211 m or 13,816;ft) in Uganda and Masaba (4,161 m or 13,650;ft) in Uganda
Mount Elgon is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and parts of western Kenya. Its vast form, eighty kilometers in diameter, rises three thousand seventy meters above the nearby surrounding plains and this has acted providing a welcome relief in different parts of the word. The terrain which is mountainous introduces various forms to an otherwise monotonous landscape in the region. The cool heights of the mountain provide good living conditions for humans from the hot plains below, and its higher altitudes provide a refuge for wildlife and plant life. Some rare plants are found on the mountain, including, Carduus afromontanus, Ardisiandra wettsteinii, , Ranunculus keniensis, Echinops hoehnelii, and Romulea keniensis.
Mount Elgon experiences dry seasons from June to August and December to March .Night-time temperatures are cold at high altitude.
Mount Elgon National Park is home to over three hundred species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. Forest monkeys, Small antelopes, elephants and buffalos also live on the mountainside. The higher slopes are controlled by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, which creates a large trans-boundary area for conservation and has also made it to be declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve.