Mount Elgon, found at the border of Uganda and Kenya, makes up the park. Mount Elgon is the largest volcanic base in the world. It is also the oldest and largest volcanic mountain in East Africa. The mountain stands as the 4th highest peak in East Africa and the 8th on the continent standing at a height of 4,321m.
The mountain is home to two tribes, the Bagisu and the Sabiny. The Bagisu, also known as the Bamasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father Masaba and refer to the mountain by this name.
Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. The higher slopes are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. It covers an expansive area of approximately 1,279 square kilometers
In 1929, the British colonial government declared the area surrounding Mount Elgon as a Forest Reserve and in 1992, the national park was established. In 2005, Mount Elgon National Park, was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
WHAT TO DO WHILE IN THE PARK
Not often included in most Uganda safaris, Mount Elgon National Park is worthy visiting if you are looking to explore the Pearl of Africa in depth. Here are some of the most popular adventure activities to do during your visit;
Nature Walks: leisurely walks through the park’s forests, accompanied by experienced guides provide opportunities to explore the park’s diverse flora and fauna up close, including unique plant species and small mammals.
Cultural Experiences: Engaging with the local communities, particularly the Bagisu and Sabiny tribes helps you learn about their customs and traditions while you witness traditional ceremonies, visit villages, and interact with community members to gain insights into their way of life.
Hiking and Trekking: There are several trails of varying difficulty that cater to different fitness levels and the most popular route is the Sasa Trail, which takes you through bamboo forests and offers views of the mountain.
Relaxation: The park’s calm environment and fresh air make it a good place for one to take a break from the daily routine with some exercises like Yoga.
Climbing to The Peak Waggagai: Using the sasa trail, one can take about 5 days to cover the distance of about 34 kilometers. The ultimate goal on reaching the top of Mt. Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4321m Wagagai Peak, but the descent into the vast 40km² caldera.
Sipi falls experience: The Sipi falls is a series of three waterfalls found at the foothills of Mountain Elgon just at the edge of Mount Elgon National Park near the Kenyan border. Here one can go for abseiling, mountain biking.
HOW TO GET THERE
By Road: From Entebbe or Kampala, you can hire a private vehicle, take a taxi, or use public transportation to travel to Mbale. The journey by road takes approximately 4-5 hours, depending on the traffic and road conditions.
From Mbale to the Park: you can hire a local taxi or arrange for a tour operator or guide to take you to the park. The park entrance gate is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Mbale town.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE PARK
The dry seasons are preferable because they are associated with dry tracks that easy accessibility to the park and nature walks. The wet season is dangerous because of the volcanic nature of the soils that are easily washed away
WHERE TO STAY
If you are looking to Mount Elgon Trekking, here are some of the places where you can stay during your visit;
Kapkwai Forest Cottages: Located within the park, Kapkwai Forest Cottages offer cozy and Eco-friendly accommodation with comfortable rooms with en-suite bathrooms, solar-powered lighting, and hot water showers.
Sipi River Lodge: Sipi River Lodge is located near Mount Elgon National Park and provides stunning views of the mountain. The lodge offers various types of accommodations, including cottages, bandas (thatched huts), and camping facilities with an on-site restaurant serving delicious meals, a bar, and organize activities such as hiking and cultural visits.
Mbale Resort Hotel: This is in Mbale town, which is the gateway to Mount Elgon National Park. It is a larger accommodation option with a range of amenities offering spacious rooms, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and other facilities for a comfortable stay.