Mount Elgon National Park | 4×4 Self Drive Uganda
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Mountain Elgon National park is found near Mbale in eastern Uganda. It is found in the middle of Uganda and Kenya. With an area of 1279 square kilometres, the Kenyan part covering 169 square kilometres was gazetted in 1968, while the Ugandan part at 1,110 square kilometres was gazetted in 1992. The park was named after the most significant volcanic mountain” Mount Elgon ” which is one of the oldest and largest solitary volcanic mountains in East Africa with the largest volcanic base in the world among other volcanic mountains although it is the fourth highest mountain.
The mountain stands at a height of 4321 meters with its peak Wagagai standing at the same height, along with other mountains including; Jackson’s summit at 4165m, kiongo at 4303m, and Muyibi at 4210m. Mt.Elgon in addition has a collapsed Caldera that covers more than 40km at the summit and this is the largest known natural crater.
The park covers an area of 1145 square kilometres and has been one of the best Uganda safari destinations and cultural safaris and home to about 300 bird species, including Lammergeyer. The higher slopes are protected by other National parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive transboundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve.
A hike on the mountain Elgon’s moorlands reveals a stunning and exposed wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to many mountains. Travellers not only aim at reaching the top of the peak at 4321m( Wagagai) but also the descent into the Vast 40km2 caldera.
Together with the fauna and flora, the park has a variety of scenery; this includes cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and 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.
Activities/ things to do at the park
Mountain Climbing in Mountain Elgon
Mountain Elgon, with its lower elevation and milder climate, makes it an immediate alternative for most travellers, compared to the most strenuous hikes in East Africa. The Mountain is easy to access, less crowded and has attractions such as varieties of Unique forest monkeys, small Antelopes, Buffaloes, and elephants.
Climbing Mountain Elgon does not require special equipment and technical knowledge and trekkers have up to three main trail heads including the Ssasi trailhead, the sipi trailhead and the Piswa trailhead.
The Sasa trail which starts from Budadiri is the shortest but toughest route with steep and rugged climbs, which takes four days to the mountain peak. The trek starts at an elevation of 1250m traversing the local community land with great opportunities of exploring the Bamasaba farming settlements and culture. The most strenuous part of this trek is completed on the first day with the toughest climb of over 1600m, before crossing the park’s largest bamboo forest and passing Jackson’s pool.
The sipi trail, whose round trip takes about 4-6 days, stretches up to 56km. The trek starts at 2050m at the Kapkwai forest exploration centre. This is the longest trail to the peak as the trail begins gently but becomes tougher on the third day from Kajeri Camp. The trail also passes through the Northwestern mountainside through Tutum cave centre to enter the caldera to reach the peaks.
The Piswa trail is much easier than all the other trails thanks to its gentle slopes. This round trail takes 7 days stretching 49km as it starts from Kapkwata at the Northside of the mountain through the soft wood plantation to the podocarpus forest. The trail passes through the hot springs along the route to the caldera to the peak and it is famous for its outstanding wildlife and stunning views of the Karamoja plains, the Nandi and the kagura hills in Kenya.
An alternative route can also be provided in that when ascending, the three routes can be combined on the descent two of either route will be combined that is(Sasa/sipi/piswa-ascending while sipi/Sasa trail-descending) All trekking routes have camping sites, water sources, tent pads and latrines.
There is also cross-border tourism between Uganda’s Mountain Elgon National park and Kenya’s Mountain Elgon park, whereby the two entities hand over their team at the hot springs. The trekking expeditions are well done with qualified guides or rangers who always; interpret environmental aspects of flora and fauna; always available at each trail to ensure safety.
Hiking/Nature walks in mountain Elgon
Mountain Elgon hikers enjoy incredible encounters with the park’s primates, birds and rare tree species not forgetting the spectacular views of caves waterfalls, and viewpoints with options of camping overnights on the mountain slopes.
Mountain Elgon offers ultimate trails which include the 5km nature walk to the cabinet falls, 3km walk to the Kapkwai caves following the ridge view trail, the 7km mountain bamboo trail to Kapkwai caves passing through the tropical and bamboo forests, and the 11km hike to Tutum caves with the option of camping at the mountain slopes beside the caves.
Visiting the Khauka caves takes about 3-4 hours or go to the viewpoint via the nabuyoga loop where you can see Jackson’s summit and the Haggai caves.
There is also the availability of short day hikes like the case Budadiri, which covers the Mudagi cliffs,sasa river camp and drigana lower falls which act as great spots for bird watching, nature walks and camping overnight.
Sport fishing in Mountain Elgon-at the top three waterfalls
Sport fishing done at three waterfalls at Sipi can either be done using angling or the multiple hook method although most travellers prefer the angling method because of the challenge of battling the rainbow trout because of its beautiful colouration and fighting ability. Sport fishing is restricted to designated sites and interesting sport fishers are required to carry their fishing equipment, hence the maximum weight of fish caught is 3kg.
Elephants and buffalo can be found on the lower slopes. The park is also home to a variety of small antelope and duiker, as well forest monkeys, including the black-and-white colobus and blue monkey.
Birding in mountain Elgon
Mount Elgon is home to at least 144 bird species. Of particular interest are Jackson’s francolin, the eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Hartlaub’s turaco, the Tacazze sunbird and the endangered lammergeier, due to their restricted range.
Half of Uganda’s butterfly species have been reported in Mt. Elgon. Other attractions include ancient cave paintings near the trailhead at Budadiri and hot springs in the former volcano’s crater which bubble at temperatures of up to 48 °C.
Although there are many mountain biking spots, Mountain Elgon is still recommended as the very best destination for mountain biking because of the stunning views of the waterfalls. Mountain biking runs from Sipi to Chema hills in Kapchorwa. Biking takes about 1 .5 hours and offers spectacular views of waterfalls and Karamojong plain. the bikes are always offered at sipi river lodge
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