Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
With the last eruption about 24 million years ago, Mount Elgon National Park is one of the oldest physical features in Uganda.
Mount Elgon national Park in Uganda is one of the favorite Uganda hiking safaris destinations in the Eastern region of the country at an altitude of 4,321m above sea level at the wagagai peak. Situated on the Uganda-Kenya border, Mount Elgon has the largest volcanic base in the world with a diameter of 80km. For Uganda safaris, here are details of the most important information about Mount Elgon National Park.
Location of Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
Mount Elgon in Uganda is situated in the Eastern districts of Bududa, Manafwa and Mbale. The conserved park of Mount Elgon National Park in Uganda covers about 1,121 square kilometers. With the wagagai peak at 4,321 meters above sea level, this is the fourth highest peak in East Africa and the eighth on the African continent. The foothills of Mount Elgon are home to two tribes of the Bagisu and the sabiny; tribes that are so attached to the Mountain and refer to it as the embodiment of their fore fathers. The Benet-Ndorobo group are forced to live far deep in the forest of Benet.
Background of Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
In 1929, the Ugandan protectorate administration gazetted its side of the Mountain as a forest reserve managed by the Forestry department. In 1940, the gazetted area became the Mount Elgon Crown Forest and later on a Central Forest Reserve in 1951. In 1983, the government opened up a 6,000 hectare of the reserve for settlement by the encroaching Benet-Ndorobo group. In January 1994, the reserve was converted into a national park and named after Mount Elgon, the extinct shield volcano on which the park sits on.
Best time to visit Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
Open for Uganda tours all year round, some times of the year offer better safari experiences in Mount Elgon National Park than others. The best time of the year to hike Mount Elgon National Park is during the months of June –August and December-March. During these months, the rains are less and therefore trail heads less slippery.
Mount Elgon is a water catchment area receiving about 3000mm of rainfall annually. The months of April-October are the wettest months with the park getting really cold, snow and hail also being common. This makes the hiking experience really not amazing. However, what time of the year you choose to undertake a hiking safari in Uganda, remember to carry warm gear.
Getting there/ how to get to Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
Getting to Mount Elgon National Park is more convenient by road since there no domestic flights that land close to the park. The road to Mount Elgon National Park from Kampala is fairly good with tarmac passing across the Nile River in Jinja. From Kampala-Uganda’s capital, the road distance to Mount Elgon National Park is about 266km on a drive distance of about 6 hours. Dirt roads reach to the different trailheads.
Your Route to Mount Elgon National Park
Attractions in Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
Mount Elgon Caves
Mount Elgon has several beautiful caves that can be seen by visitors to the park. Studies have put it to record that these caves have been partly formed by Elephants and other mammals that frequently visit at night to “mine” the natural salt by licking it from the cave walls. The Mount Elgon caves are mapped at Kitum, Chepnyali and Mackingeny. There also cave paintings near the trailhead at Budadiri and hot springs bubbling at temperatures of up to 480 C at the former volcano crater.
Birds in Mount Elgon
Mount Elgon National Park is home to at least 144 bird species. Tourists can combine Uganda birding safaris with hiking trips on Mount Elgon. Some of the birds that can be seen on Mount Elgon include the Tacazze sunbird, Jackson’s Francolin, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, African Blue Flycatcher, White-chinned Prinia and the endangered Lammergeyer.
Wildlife in Mount Elgon
Though not popular for Uganda wildlife safaris, Mount Elgon National Park boosts a population of Elephants and buffaloes that can be found at the lower slopes. Other wildlife species also include a variety of small antelopes and duikers as well as forest monkeys including the black and white colobus monkey, red-tailed monkey and blue monkey.
Safari activities in Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
Mountain climbing / hiking in Mount Elgon
The most popular of the safari activities in Mount Elgon National Park is Mountain climbing / hiking. Mt Elgon is found by many as an exciting alternative hiking destination less strenuous to hike than Mt Rwenzori. No technical experience is required to hike Mount Elgon. There different trails to the top of Mount Elgon and these are;
Sasa trail: This route takes about 4 days and starts from Budadiri town close to Mbale town and probably the most accessible trail head. This trail crosses the Mount Elgon Park’s largest area of bamboo forest and passes the Jackson’s pool towards the wagagai peak. However, this trail is steep and rugged with a climb of 1600m on the first day of the hike.
Piswa trail: Starting from Kapkwata, the Piswa trail lasts 7 days and is a long route. The hike starts with a high hike but then follows a more gradual route to the caldera. A long the Piswa trail is a vast Podocarpus forest with several wildlife species.
Sipi trail: The Sipi trail starts from the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai a few Kilometers upstream from the Sipi falls. The Sipi trail takes 7 days with a visit to the tutum cave at altitude 2667m.
Nature Walks and day hikes in Mount Elgon
There numerous day hikes that depart from the Forest Exploration Centre near Sipi Falls with trails ranging from 3-11km. In Mbale, day hikes specially start from the Wanale Ridge where long day hikes can be organized passing through a variety of heath and moorland landscapes with caves. Nature walks can be organized with local guides taking you around the local viewpoints. For beautiful sunrise viewing, a 20minute sunrise trek can be organized from the Noah’s Ark Hotel to the nearby Tewei Hill to watch the dawn spreading across the vast karamoja plains at the base of the mountain.
Birding in Mount Elgon
Bird watching safaris in Uganda’s Mount Elgon National Park are best at the spots of the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre secondary forest and thick shrub along the loop trails extended to cover Cheptui Falls. At this spot you could see the Tacazze sunbird, Jackson’s Francolin, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, African Blue Flycatcher, White-chinned Prinia, Black-collared Apalis, Ludhers Bush-shrikes, Cinnamon Bee Eater and many more.
Mountain Biking in Mount Elgon
Travelers passionate about biking or cycling, Mount Elgon is a great Mountain biking destination. The Mountain biking trails run from Sipi trading centre to Chema hill in Kapchorwa town lasting about one and a half hours (1.5 hours). The ride offers views of various waterfalls and the karamoja plains.
The tribes around Mount Elgon National Park are unique and offer great cultural experiences. On cultural encounters, there also coffee tours as you are taken through the whole process of making coffee from the garden to the cup. You meet local residents and learn a lot about the cultures in the area including local cuisine. Some of the cultural practices that are popular in the area around are the Imbalu ceremony, which is the Bagishu circumcision ceremony.
Sipi falls hike
The Sipi Falls is outside the park but a very scenic spot to visit on a trip to the area. The falls are found at the foothills of Mountain Elgon in Kapchorwa district. The Sipi falls is comprised of 3 beautiful falls flowing from different altitudes the highest at 100m and the biggest of them all. The falls are beautiful and a great way to relax and hide way from the city mess. The hike gives scenic views of the plains below in a cool and beautiful area.
Uganda safari packages to Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
This 16 Days Uganda wildlife, Gorilla and Chimpanzee trekking safari is a 16 days Uganda safari to view wildlife, trek chimpanzees, trek mountain gorillas and have a white water rafting experience. This 1 6 days Uganda safari is a very inclusive safari with the top safari activities in the best of the Uganda safari parks. Read More
This 9 Days Uganda chimpanzee trekking and Primate Safari is a wildlife safari in Uganda majorly having more encounters with chimpanzees, other primates as well as more wildlife species like lions. The tour includes primates and wildlife in Uganda combined with Ngamba Island sanctuary. Read More
Accommodation / where to stay at Mount Elgon National Park Uganda
Luxury accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park
Mbale Resort Hotel –Mbale
Mbale Resort Hotel is set against the backdrop of the slopes of Mount Elgon in the heart of Mbale Town. All rooms and suites reflect a contemporary and sophisticated style featuring breathtaking Mbale skyline views, spectacular panoramic views of the Wanale Hill, Swimming Pool and garden views. Mbale Resort Hotel offers you the utmost environment for your accommodation in Mbale with splendor and delight. The hotel has 94 rooms on 2 wings. The Victoria/Executive Wing with 74 Executive Rooms and the Eden/Original Wing with 20 Budget rooms. All rooms will soothe your mind and set your soul free.!
Sipi River Lodge – Sipi Falls Area
Set within the grounds of a unique restored former residence, Sipi River Lodge consists of a main house and seven detached accommodations for our guests, each individually designed with a thoughtful perspective on the backdrop of Kapsurur Falls.
Within this picturesque setting you will experience intimate fireside dining, a comfortable reading lounge, an airy veranda, and a bar stocked with beers, wines, and a fine selection of single malt whisky.
Mid-range/standard accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon Hotel $ Spa- Mbale
Housed in a grand colonial building dating of the 1950’s and located in the leafy suburbs of Mbale. Known for its half a century tradition, the peace and tranquility of its setting and now for its impressive renovation promises the warmest of welcomes, vibrant experiences and vivid memories of your stay.
Rafiki Lodge – Sipi Falls Area
Within the picturesque area of Sipi, Rafiki Lodge Sipi consists of family cottages, Bandas and basic room accommodation for guests. Guests experience intimate fireside dining, a comfortable reading lounge, an airy veranda, and a bar stocked with beers, wines, and a fine selection of single malt whisky.
Budget accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park
Crow’s Nest –Sipi Falls Area
Crow’s Nest Campsite overlooks the 3 waterfalls of Sipi impressively situated on an elevation of 1770m above sea level on the slopes of Mount Elgon. Crow’s Nest Campsite offers breathtaking views of the falls and beautiful scenery. This is a great camping area and start point for travelers on budget safaris in Uganda to start most of the safari activities. This terraced camp is made up of a number of huge dome tents at very affordable prices.
Kapkwata Guest House –Piswa trail head
Along the Piswa trail head is Kapkwata Guest House offering comfortable budget accommodation. The Guest house accommodates about 7 people with kitchen services. However, travelers are requested to carry their own food stuffs or purchase on arrival.