Situated ideally in the eastern part of the country near Mbale and Kapchorwa area and on the western Kenyan border, Mount Elgon at 4000 km2 has the largest volcanic base in the world. It is an extinct volcano and one of the country’s oldest physical features first erupting a million years ago. At the summit of the mountain is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera at a size of 40sq.km and an 8km diameter, formed after a powerful eruption emptied the volcano’s magma reservoir. The cone no longer supported by underlying molten rock collapsed inwards, permanently blocking the vent leaving an open area that was filled by water forming the Caldera.
The higher slopes are protected as National Parks in the respective countries creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area which is a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. In Uganda, the Mountain Elgon National Park covers an area of 1145Sq.Km.
Mountain Elgon is home to three groups of people; the Sabinyi, Ogiek and Bagisu. The latter also commonly known as the Bamasaba, consider the mountain to be the epitome of their founding father Masaba and they refer to it by his name. The two tribes of the Bagisu and Sabiny occupy the forest margins and both tribes are known to practice circumcision, the famous of the practice being the Imbalu a biannual ceremony of the Bagishu which initiates boys into manhood.
The park lies just about 4hours drive via Jinja to Mbale, in the Eastern part of the country from Kampala city.
The higher altitude of the mountain provides refuge to flora and fauna; its vegetation is banded into broad zones whose features are dictated by altitude and rainfall.
Mountain Elgon’s lower slopes are covered with dense forests and regenerating forests, hung with vine like Lianas, Epiphytes, and Lichens. The floor is spread with a carpet of ferns, orchids and flowering plants. The tropical montane forest are found at an altitude of 1500-2500m above sea-level and common species that will be encountered include Aningeria adolfi-friedericii, Elgon olive welwitchi, Prunus Africana, Elgon teak, Cordia, and Allophyllus tombea among others.
The zone changes to varied Bamboo at an altitude of 2500-3000m and the Bamboo merges into open woodland dominated by Hagenia Abyssinica and African Rosewood interspersed with Hyperium.
The park has over 300 species of birds such as the African Goshawk, African Blue Flycatcher, White-chinned Prinia, and the endangered Lammergeyer. Its diversity is attested to the presence of mammals like forest Elephants, Buffalos and small Antelopes as well as primates like the forest Monkeys.
A distinctive finger of forest extending outwards from the main chain of Elgon is the Nkokonjeru ridge at an altitude of 2347m with a 25km long tongue of lava that spread out of the volcano. The ridge climaxes at the terrific Wanale cliffs towering above Mbale town. There are two seasonal falls that make visit to the place magnificent. Just outside the park are the beautiful Sipi Falls located in Kapchorwa.
Mount Elgon National Park lies just about 4hours drive in the Eastern part of the country from Kampala city. A main route leads through Jinja to Mbale at the western base of Elgon. Another alternative but longer route is through Jinja and Tororo to Mbale.
From Mbale, visitors can ascend to Kapchorwa on Elgon’s northwestern side where one can have easy access to the various trailheads.
Things to do
- Mountain climbing
- Hiking and rock climbing
- Bird watching and nature walks
- Mountain biking
- Sport fishing and abseiling around Sipi falls
- Cultural encounters and community walks
Safaris to Mount Elgon
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