MOUNTAIN ELGON NATIONAL PARK

MT ELGON NATIONAL PARK

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Mt. Elgon is an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago. With the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world (50 km by 80 km),

Mt. Elgon is the world’s largest mountain caldera and the fourth highest mountain in Eastern Africa, with the second-highest peak (Wagagai Peak – 4321 metres ) in Uganda after Rwenzori Mountains.

The Mt. Elgon national park covers an area of 1,279 square kilometres and is bisected by the border of Kenya and Uganda. The Ugandan part of the park covers 1,110 km² while the Kenyan part covers 169 km².

The main tourist attraction is mountain hiking to the caldera with the highest peak Wagagai at 4321m, Sudek at 4303m, Koitobos at 4222m and Mubiyi at 4210m.

Visiting Mount Elgon National Park (MENP) presents an exciting setting for extended hikes. In addition to the interesting and unique flora and fauna, you can expect to experience magnificent waterfalls, enormous caves, scenic peaks and gorges, and hot springs which bubble up at 48’C. The best times to visit are during the drier seasons from June to August and December to March. However, even in the wetter months trekking is manageable. No technical climbing equipping or skills are required, and all major peaks are accessible to hikers.

For Hikers there are two main trailheads (starting points) which lead to the mountain’s peaks. Salsa Trail ( Buddukiro trailhead ) is the most easily accessible from Mbale and is the most direct route to the peaks. It passes through the Park’s largest area of bamboo forest. However it is also a steep and rugged climb of over 1600m on the first day. For a more gentle climb ( 660m first day ) you may choose to ascend via Pisa trail ( Kapkwata trailhead ). Along this route you can explore a vast Podocarpus forest, an excellent place for wildlife viewing.

The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes 4-5 days to complete. Five basic campsites are located at strategic points along the trekking circuit. Please respect Park regulations by camping only at designated campsites. No camping is allowed within the caldera. MENP camping is primitive, and all necessary camping equipment must be carried with you. Some items such as tents and sleeping bags can be hired through the Park office in Mbale or Budadiri town.

Make sure not to forget a warm jacket and rain gear, as extreme weather conditions will add to your Mt. Elgon adventure! Also please take a fuel-efficient camp stove if possible to avoid placing additional pressure on MENP firewood resources. All visitors are encouraged to discuss options with an Information Clerk at the Mbale, Budadiri or Kapkwata Visitors’ Centres.

Please support local community members and encourage continued conservation of MENP’s valuable resources by hiring local guides and porters. All certified guides have received training in natural/ cultural histories, emergency first aid and communication. Porters will assist you by carrying up to 18 kg of your gear as well as preparing meals, setting up/taking down your camp, and collecting your water. For additional safety reasons, a Park ranger escort must be hired when visiting the calderas or ascending the peaks. You will meet your ranger escort at Sasa or Piswa patrol hut where you must present your park receipt before proceeding upwards.

The secondary forest and thick scrub along the Chebonet River near camp supports, African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Fly-catchers, Chin-spot Batis, Mackinon’s Fiscal, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes and Baglafecht Weaver.

While ascending Mt. Elgon’s enchanting slopes, you will pass through dense montane forest and mixed bamboo belts teeming with birdlife. You will then enter the fascinating heath and moorland zones containing several interesting endemic plant species such as Giant lobelia and groundsels.

Wildlife enthusiasts will be pleased to spot primates such as the Black and White Colobus Monkey, Blue Monkey, and hundreds of fascinating bird species, including Golden Winged and Tacazze sunbirds, Ross’s and Hartlaubs Turacos, Black and White Casqued and Crowned Hornbills, the endangered Lammergeier and the Jackson’s Francolin which is found nowhere else in Uganda. If you are particularly observant you can also see buffalo, duiker, hyena or even the elusive leopards

Simple accommodation facilities are available inside and around the Park at the Kapkwata Rest House, the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai and Budadiri town.

The magnificent Sipi Falls are located 66 km from Mbale, en-route to the Forest Exploration Centre and Kapkwata. Several trails in the area allow for intriguing day hikes through friendly local villages and beautiful farming country. Pleasant campsites and lodge facilities, including meal services and hot showers are available at Crow’s Nest located just before the Sipi trading centre. More expensive accommodation is available at the Sipi Falls Resort. Please enquire about guides to escort you on the gradual 1.5 hour walk to the Forest Exploration Centre. Seven rock-climbing routes are open at Nagudi rock, half-way between Mbale and Budadiri.

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