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Home » Uganda National Parks » Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park

Covering an area of 1,121km2, Mount Elgon National Park is positioned in the east of Uganda on the 4th tallest mountain in East Africa.

Initially, Mount Elgon was the Africa’s highest mountain far from Mount Kilimanjaro before it was eroded to 4,321m above sea level where it stands up to today.

Mount Elgon is recorded as the largest and the oldest stand-alone volcano on Ugandan and East African standards with the last eruption occurring 24 million years ago.

Also important to note is that Mount Elgon contains the largest mountain caldera in the whole world covering an area of 42Sq.km alongside the biggest world’s volcanic base of 4,000 km2. The area was first established as a forest reserve in 1929 and became a crown forest in 1940 while in 1951; the area was regarded as a central forest reserve.

The government later dagazetted 6000 hectares of the reserve to the Benet-Ndorobo people in 1983, who were encroaching on it. However at the time receiving the national park status in 1993 other 1500 hectares had been further encroached on.

Mount Elgon is surrounded by the Sabiny and the Bagisu and Mt Elgon is a habitat of the Bagisu and the Sabiny alongside Ndorobos who thrive in the Benet forest.

Mount Elgon has great cultural attachment to the surrounding Bagisu also known as the Bamasaba who believe that their ancestral father Masaba originate from the peaks of Mount Masaba (Elgon). The park is an ideal place for nature tourists especially backpackers and offers great birding encounters.

Mount Elgon which is extinct volcano pose firm water shed serving range of vegetation zones that stretch from montane forest up to high open moorland dotted with luxurious giant lobelia and groundsel.

The park offers great scenic encounters featured in its cliffs, waterfalls, caves, gorges, calderas, mesas, mountain peaks and hot springs.

The caves always attract fauna like elephants and buffaloes to lick salt that is found on the walls of the caves. For example the Kitum caves that feature overhanging crystalline walls that pushes for 200m inside the Elgon Mountain.

Mount Elgon National Park Uganda – Mountain Elgon Climbing Safari Trip Uganda Tour Attractions

Mount Elgon standing at 4,321m is fourth in East Africa and the eighth in Africa in terms of height. Initially, Mount Elgon was the highest in Africa standing far from Kilimanjaro before it suffered from severe effects of denudation.

The volcanic peaks of Mount Elgon including the highest Wagagai (4,321m), followed by Sudek (4,303m), Koitobos (4,222m) and Mubiyi (4,210m) respectively marked by the world’s largest mountain caldera which is 40km in length and 8km in width pose great attraction to encounter on Uganda safari.

The structure of this gigantic caldera justifies the massive volcanic forces that shaped the geographical terrain of the East African region millions of years ago.

The deep Suam gorge in the east of the caldera contain an impressive hot spring while the Sim gorge in the north west is a clear evidence of absolute water mass of the caldera that have cut through two stream beds in the weak volcanic ash and the agglomerate walls.

The combination of these makes mount Elgon a unique place to encounter while on safari in Uganda.

Mount Elgon is shaped with a range of vegetation zones that vary according to altitude and precipitation. The low layers of the mountain are characterized with both dense and regenerating forests marked by epiphytes, vine-like lianas and lichens while the foothills of the mountain has a range of orchids, ferns, and flowering plants.

The tropical montane forest at 1,500 – 2,500 is marked by prunus africanas, olive Oleahochstetteri, Elgon teak, cedar, podocarpus, Cordia, Neoboutania, Aningueriaadolfi-friedericii and allophyllus tombea. Bamboo forest at 2,500-3,000m that forms the transition to open woodland is marked by African rosewood intermixed with hypericum and hagenia abyssinica.

The heath zone at 3,000-3500m is marked by giant heather dotted with grassy swards of blonde tussock grass sprinkled with pink and white everlasting flowers (jonstonii and ericriceum brownie), blue delphiniums, flame-colored gladioli and red hot pokers.

The Afro-alpine zone of moorland at 3,500-4,321m is marked by Erica tree, senecio elgonensis, ladies’ mantle tussocks (archimilla elgonesis), giant lobelias with hairy leaves and plumes of tiny blue flowers, and pink and white everlasting flowers while the mountain top is marked by rare Afro-montane flora species such as groundsel and giant forms of lobelia.

The mountain varied eco system around Mount Elgon ensures the thriving of a range of fauna among which include; buffalo, elephant, Defassa’s waterbuck, bushbuck, oribi, spotted hyena and leopard.

However most of the fauna species are not easily seen compared to other national parks though species like blue monkey, black and white colobus, tree squirrel and duiker can be easily seen by Uganda safari undertakers.

Mount Elgon contains 296 species of birds of which 40 of these are restricted in range. Mount Elgon endemics include; moustached green tinker bird, black collared apalis and Jackson’s francolin while species like the bronze-naped pigeon, tacazze sunbird and Hartlaub’s turaco are limited to Mt. Elgon and a few other eastern Uganda mountains.

Additionally, Mount Elgon is among the Ugandan few places where the endangered Lammergeyer can be spotted flying above the Suam gorge and the caldera.

Traditionally, the area where the Mount Elgon National Park is situated belonged to the tribal groups of Bagisu, Sabiny and Ndorobos.

The Sabiny and the Bagisu are primarily cultivators and have their year festivity named the Imbalu where the males for the Bagisu and females for the Sabiny are transformed to adulthood through circumcision.

The Bagisu also known as the Bamasaba consider Mount Elgon locally known as Masaba to be their ancestral originality of the fore father Masaba.

These local people used to depend on the Mount Elgon forest for survival by getting bamboo shoots for food and bamboo poles for construction.

The third tribal group, the Ndorobos are marked by their primitive pastoralist culture and famously known for their traditional bull fighting experience.

One may not fully have ultimate experience of Mount Elgon are if he/she misses out on Sipi falls. The north and west of Mount Elgon form up for several kilometers in a sequence of massive basalt cliffs upon which a range of flowing streams roll as impressive waterfalls.

Sipi falls which is the most magnificent of all the three is positioned along the Kapchorwa road as it torrents over a 100m cliff.

The Simba falls falls 69m over the cave upon it can be further explored while inside the cave. The third one is Ngasire waterfall that plummets over a ridge of 87m.

The drive to Sipi falls takes one hour from Mbale. The area also contains other waterfalls including; Bulago, Sisiyi, Wanale and Chebonet. These features offer impressive scenic views while on safari in Uganda.

Mount Elgon National Park Uganda – Mountain Elgon Climbing Safari Trip Uganda Tour Tourist activities

Mount Elgon with 296 bird species and 40 endemics is a birder’s paradise. Birding is ideal from Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre and along the Loop trails that stretch to Cheptui falls presenting an opportunity to view African Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, Chinspot Batis, African Blue Fly-catcher, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Luhders Bush-shrikes, Dohertys, White-chinned Prinia, Cinnamon Bee Eater, Baglafecht Weaver, Moustached Tinker bird, Olive- and Bronze-naped pigeons, Hartloub`s Turaco, Black Kite and Black-collared Apalis and Tacazze Sunbird.

Surrounded by three tribal groups, Mount Elgon National Park offers great cultural encounters. The Bagisu can be explored toe encounter their festivities like the Imbalu ceremony where males are transformed into adulthood.

They also have extensive coffee plantations where Uganda safari undertakers can participate in coffee growing and production process.

The local cuisine especially the delicious Malewa that is extracted from Bamboo shoots gives o the real taste of tradition. The bull fighting events of the Ndorobos can also be encountered.

Mountain climbing is the major activity that can be carried out in Mount Elgon National Park. Three main trail heads provide aground for the routes to the Mount Elgon peaks and the caldera.

The Sipi trail. The Sipi trail goes for seven (7) days commencing at the      Forest Exploration Center Kapkwai which is positioned at a few kilometers north of Sipi falls. The trail takes you through the hidden Tutum cave with in the dense jungle of Elgon Mountain.

Sasa trail. The Sasa trail takes about four (4) days and commences at Budadiri town. The Sasa trail poses a direct link to the Mount Elgon peaks involving a very steep ascend of 1,600m on the day of start. The trail crosses the bamboo zone and the impressive Jackson’s pool on the climb to Wagagai peak.

Piswa trail. The Piswa trail goes for seven (7) days exploring up to the highest Wagagai peak 4,321m commencing at Kapkwata 30km from Kapchorwa. The trail commences at a higher altitude and follows a gradual trek up to the caldera. The podocarpus forest is explored en route and tends to be inhabited by a range of fauna.

Suam trail. The Suam trail is less utilized for climbing Mount Elgon because it is very long. The trail commences at Suam village close to the boarder of Kenya and follows River Suam traversing the steep and impressive Suam gorge to the hot springs on the caldera’s eastern side.

The mountain biking activity allows a traveller on safari in Uganda to explore the scenic views of the Karamoja plains and the waterfalls. The bikes are got from the Sipi River lodge before cycling through the trading center of Sipi to Chema hill in Kapchorwa. The activity takes 1.5 hours.

Mount Elgon National park also offers ideal nature walks. One of them commences from Budadiri up to the famous Mudange cliffs or the wall of death taking a whole day.

The structure of these cliffs is terrifying and their steepness poses a point beyond which you definitely meet your death time.

The trek exposes you blue monkeys, baboons, black and white colobus dwelling in the tropical forests along this trek.

The Sipi falls walk is guided by the local people who have great knowledge about the area. The trek ranges from a few hours to a full day encounter.

The sun rise trek in Kapchorwa starts at 6am and runs for 20 minutes. It takes you to Tewei hills to enjoy the dawn across the rolling plains of Karamoja.

Getting There

Accommodations in Mount Elgon National Park, Safari Lodges in Mount Elgon National Park – Safari Hotels in Mount Elgon National Park

Suam Guest House.
The Suam guesthouse is a Uganda Wildlife Authority establishment and provides self-catering services.

Kapkwata Area.

Kapkwata Guest House.
The Kapkwata guesthouse offers three (3) main rooms with seven (7) people occupancy capacity. The guesthouse has a kitchen but the clients are supposed to come along with food supplies or money to purchase on arrival.

Kapkwai Area.
The forest exploration center Kapkwai has a dormitory accommodation and wooden cottages that are self-contained. Meals can be prepared on request.

Kapchorwa Area.

Masha Hotel.
Masha Hotel is positioned 1km from the town of Kapchorwa and accommodation is offered in twenty three (23) rooms with single and double categories that are self-contained with TV and non-self-contained. The Hotel also has a restaurant and bar.

Noah’s Ark Hotel.

Noah’s Ark Hotel is positioned in the town of Kapchorwa and it offers accommodation to Uganda safari undertakers in self-contained and non-self-contained single, double rooms alongside executive rooms and suites.  The hotel features ample parking space, restaurant and DSTV services.

Savannah guest house.
Savannah guesthouse is positioned on 3-5 Kasumbein Road, London Bridge/Kapchorwa Suam Road, Kapchorwa. It offers accommodation services along with restaurant and bar.

Sipi Falls area.

Sipi River Lodge. 
Sipi River lodge is positioned in the outskirts of Sipi trading center along the Kapchorwa road. The lodge offers accommodation in its range of cottages including Kapsurur and Aniet Cottage offering up market setting with en suite ablutions twin beds, veranda and lounge. Chepkui Cottage suitable for families with five (5) people maximum occupancy featuring en suite ablutions, lounge, double beds and power shower. Other accommodation units include; Chepkui Cottage Annex, Piswa and Sasa Bandas not forgetting Suam Bunkhouse.

Crow’s nest campsite.
The Crow’s nest campsite is positioned at a height of 1770m on the slopes of Mount Elgon. The campsite offers impressive views of the three waterfalls. Accommodation is offered in its cottages, cabins and camping options. The camp also prepares meals for the Uganda safari undertakers.

Sipi Falls Resort.

Sipi falls Resort offers accommodation in its five (5) thatched cottages with en suite facilities. It features impressive views of the Sipi falls and the plains of Karamoja. It also features a bar and restaurant.

Moses’ Campsite.
This is positioned close to Sipi with clear views of Sipi falls. Accommodation is offered in traditional huts without electricity, bar and meals. Food can be got from the adjacent trading center.

Twilight Sipi Campsite.
The Twilight Sipi campsite is positioned close to crow’s nest campsite. It offers accommodation in dormitory form equipped with twelve (12) beds, shared Banda with ten (10) beds, twin Banda and self-contained Banda. The campsite features a bar and restaurant and the rates are on bed only arrangement.

Lacam Lodge.
The Lacam derives its name from the local Sabiny community which means a cliff. The lodge is situated on a cliff 1km towards Kapchorwa from the Sipi trading center. Lacam lodge provides accommodation in form of cottages built using local materials and the every cottage features two (2) double beds, wide verandah, and en suite washrooms. Besides cottages, Lacam lodge has self-contained and non-self-contained Bandas and camping provision.

Budadiri Area.

Rose’s Last Chance.
This is situated close to Mount Elgon Information Centre 1250m above sea level. Rose’s Last Chance offers accommodation in seven (7) single and double bedrooms alongside a dormitory with twenty (20) people capacity. There is also provision for self-camping. The camping ground features showers and flush toilets.

Mbale town.
Mbale is poisoned at the foothills of Mount Elgon thus its range of accommodation establishments can be used while on Uganda safari in Mount Elgon National Park. These accommodation units range from upmarket to standard and basic.

Mbale Resort Hotel.

Mbale Resort Hotel is an upmarket establishment positioned at the Centre of Mbale town. It features accommodation in its ninety four (94) rooms including suites. Most of the rooms have balconies with impressive views of Wanale ridge helping Uganda safari undertakers to explore the beauty of Mount Elgon area right from their rooms. The Hotel features three (3) restaurants, two (2) bars, swimming pool and a health club.

Room facilities.

  • High Speed Wi-Fi
  • Satellite TV
  • Room mini bar
  • Room service
  • Coffee and tea making facilities
  • Room telephone
  • Dresser and easy chair
  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobe and slippers
  • Hair driers

Mount Elgon Hotel.

Mount Elgon Hotel is positioned in Mbale town opposite the offices of Mmount Elgon National Park. Its accommodation is offered in form of standard rooms, superior rooms, executive rooms and junior suites. These rooms feature satellite TV, complimentary access to swimming pool, free Wi-Fi access, steam bath, sauna and Jacuzzi. The Hotel also feature well stocked bar and restaurant and Laundry.