Mount Elgon, situated in Mount Elgon National Park Uganda, is an extinct volcano and is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features, first erupting around 24 million years ago. During your safari Uganda or Uganda safari, we can organize a hiking safari Uganda to Mount Elgon National Park so you visit the world’s largest mountain caldera. Did you know Mt Elgon was once Africa’s highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m? However, ages of erosion have reduced its height to 4,321m, relegating it to the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th on the continent. Located on the Uganda-Kenya border it is also the oldest and largest solitary, volcanic mountain in East Africa.
Mount Elgon, also known as Mount Masaba, is typically home to two tribes; the Bagisu and the Sabiny, with the marginalized Ndorobos, forced to dwell deep within the forest of Benet. The Bagisu, also known as the BaMasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the epitome of their founding father Masaba that’s why they refer to the mountain by this name.
At about 4,000km², Mt. Elgon has the largest volcanic base in the world and at 40km2. Mt. Elgon is home to the world’s largest caldera. It has a vast diameter of about 80km that rises more than 3,000m above the surrounding plains. The mountain’s cool heights offer travellers on Uganda safaris an interval from the hot plains below during their Uganda hiking tours. The higher altitudes provide a refuge for flora and fauna that you will sight on your Uganda wildlife safari, Uganda bird watching tour or just a hiking tour in Uganda. A climb on Mt. Elgon’s abandoned moorlands unveils a wonderful and organized wilderness. 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. Many travellers find Mt. Elgon an exciting alternative to the more strenuous climbs in East Africa compared to the mystical challenge, Rwenzori mountains.
Besides the flora and fauna, Mount Elgon National Park is also home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. It is possible to tailor for you a Uganda bird watching safari so you enjoy this destination during your Uganda tour. It is characterized by a milder climate and lower elevation and requires no special equipment or technical experience during hiking. Mount Elgon National Park is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The park stretches over into Kenya and is home to different animals including the red-tailed monkeys, elephants and buffalos which can mostly be seen at the slopes of the mountains. 300 species of birds that migrate through the region, including those native to the country; some of the birds are said to be endangered species are also found in the park.
There are several rocks open for rock climbing. Rock climbing takes place outside the park at Sipi. There are 14 climbs requiring various levels of rock scaling techniques, and all equipment can be hired from the Sipi Falls Tourist Guides Association. The toughest is a 35m climb while the easiest is 15m. Both command a picturesque view of the main falls and the Karamoja plains.
Hiking trails on Mount Elgon
The Sasa trail is the shortest but toughest route to the peaks. You traverse the community land, home to the bamasaba giving you a chance to explore their farming lands, settlements and culture. The round trip takes four days and starts at Budadiri town at an elevation of 1,250m. The toughest climb of over 1,600m is completed on the first day, before crossing the park’s largest area of bamboo forest and passing Jackson’s Pool on the way to Wagagai Peak.
The Sipi trail takes four to six days covering a 56km round trip. This 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 entering the caldera and finally to the Wagagai Peak. The trail begins gently but becomes tougher on the third day from Kajeri Camp.
Using the Piswa trail requires seven days covering a distance of about 49km for a round trip. This is the longest and the gentlest trail. Starting at the village of Kapkwata on the north side of the mountain, it traverses the softwood 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. The Piswa trail also takes you to the hot springs on your way to the caldera and the peaks.
Mount Elgon National Park is open all year round and has been attracting several hikers who hike to reach wagagai peaks. It is an exciting tourist site with several caves such as crystalline Walled Kitum cave. It has several rivers in the region like River Manafwa, Kafu and the different gorges.
Accommodation around Mount Elgon National Park
A good number of accommodation facilities are readily available; they include; Lacam lodge just adjacent to the great Sipi falls with a magnificent view of the scenery. Sipi River resort provides great comfort to the visitors, Mbale Resort with unmatched services provides a greater alternative for visitors who prefers sleeping like royals.
The National park provides dormitory accommodation and self-contained wooden cottages at the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai and self-catering guesthouses at Kapkwata and Suam. Meals are available on request. The park also has outside accommodation including Kapchorwa and Budadili. The trails on the mountain have nine campsites, places at strategic intervals. These are located near the water sources, tent pads and latrines are provided however supplies and camping equipment must be carried or hired.
How to reach Mt. Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park lies 235km east of Uganda’s capital city. A tarmac road runs through Jinja to Mbale town at the western base of Mount Elgon, before climbing to Kapchorwa on the mountain’s north-western flank. Tarmac road leads off the Mbale-Kapchorwa road to reach the various trailheads. We have several packages like the 3 Days Mt. Elgon Safari.
Best time to visit Mount Elgon and what to carry
The best times to climb Mount Elgon are during the dry seasons of June-August and December-March. Rain gear and both cool and warm clothing are required because the area is subject to sudden weather changes. You should carry with your camera, binoculars, hat, torch, wildlife guidebooks and insect repellant.
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