ReviewsNo reviews yet
A 5-days hiking safari in Uganda’s Mount Elgon National Park offers an opportunity to explore a stunning volcanic mountain, lush forests, and unique flora and fauna. Mountain Elgon National Park, This park lies on the border between Uganda and Kenya. Mountain Elgon by far has the largest surface area any extinct volcano in the world has with a caldera that covers over 40km2 at its top. This is the second highest mountain in Uganda after mountain Rwenzori and its highest peak Wagagai sits at a height of 4,321m. Mount Elgon National park is located in the Eastern part of Uganda just a few kilometres away from Mbale Town. is named after Mount Elgon, an extinct shield volcano which first erupted more than 24 million… also a famous sport for nature.
Imagine an ancient mountain, a volcano that has been standing solitary and silent for millennia. It is a base one of the largest in the world. Its springs feed numerous rivers and waterfalls. Its rich soil nourishes communities across two countries and is where you can wander the uncrowded trails to its summit at over four thousand meters (or fourteen thousand feet). Mount Elgon is a bit of a secret. Its mesmerizing beauty and the unhurried tempo of the surrounding communities make this region an ideal place to relax, breathe in plenty of fresh air and be refreshed. The tallest peak of Mount Elgon forms a jagged circle around the caldera and has a diameter of about eight kilometres which is dotted with small crater lakes as well as the hot springs created by the Pleistocene glacial activity. The tallest peak is well known as Wagagai which is set on the Uganda side of the border and lies on the southwest caldera rim.
There are other peaks like the Mubiyi in the north, Kikongo in the south and Jackson’s summit in the East. The local people known as the Bagisu call the mountain Masaba, a name that was derived from their founding ancestors who are said to have appeared from a cave on the slopes many years ago. Meanwhile, there was a European called Joseph Thomson who was the first to reach the mountain’s lower slopes and came nearer to it from the Masaai land. The main tribes living on the Ugandan side of the park are the Sabiny and Bagisu. These tribes rely on subsistence farming. The Bagisu has specialized in the growing of Arabica coffee which does well in the fertile soils on the lower slopes of the mountains. The higher slopes of the mountains are protected and managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in close cooperation with its Kenyan counterparts. The Mountain Elgon national park office is located along Masaba Road in Mbale town. This is where tourists go to seek information or acquire permits for park-related activities. The Uganda Wildlife Authority office in Kampala also issues permits for activities in Mountain Elgon National park. The office is open from Monday to Friday. You may be interested in reading about Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Activities To Do In Mountain Elgon National Park
Climbing Mountain Elgon
Climbing Mount Elgon has its advantages compared to the Rwenzori Mountains or Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is less expensive, less strenuous and with temperatures that are acceptable even at the summit. The unique thing about climbing Mount Elgon is not reaching the Wagagai peak but descending from the peak to spot the largest caldera on earth. Climbing Mount Elgon takes between 4 to 6 days depending on the trail used. There are three main starting points – The Salsa Trail, Pisa Trail and Sipi trail. The Salsa Trail also known as the Buddukiro trailhead is a shorter trail but with very steep climbs. It starts from near Mbale town and takes only 4 days to reach the peak. Though it is the most direct route, it goes through the thickest area of the bamboo forests in the park. The second trail is the Pisa trail also known as the Kapkwata trailhead. This trail starts from a forest in Kapkwata and passes through great Podocarpus forests. This is the longest (7 days) but with few steep areas. The trail provides opportunities to view the animals and birdlife of the park. The third trail is the Sipi Trail which begins from the Kapkwai forest exploration centre. It takes between 4 to 6 days to reach the peak through the Sipi trail. In order to see the best of everything and see more of the mountain features, hikers can ascend via the Sipi Trail and descend using the Salsa trail. More adventurous hikers may start from the Ugandan side and descend on the Kenyan side. Hikers who choose to end their hike in Kenya need paperwork to cross the border. The migration office in Mbale can help with acquiring the border crossing papers required by their colleagues on the Kenyan side. Before climbing to the top of the mountain, hikers need to report to the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices outside the main town. Climbing Mount Elgon costs $75 per day for international visitors including park entrance fees. The amount also covers ranger/guide fees. Hikers also need to hire porters and cooks to escort them and help set up camp. It is a good practice to give extra tips to the guides, porters, cooks and even park rangers.
Exploring The Mount Elgon Caves
Those who are not ready to go all the way up to the mountain peak can request shorter day hikes or explore some of the numerous caves on the slopes of the mountain. The three most visited caves are Chepnyali, Mackingeny and Kitum. These caves attract park mammals like elephants and antelopes that come to lick salt from the walls. Cave exploration in mount Elgon National park there is other ancient caves like those found in Budadiri with paintings from thousands of years ago. The Khauka and Kapkwai caves in Wanelo are a favourite among visitors because of their structure and numerous bats that provide manure from their droppings. These caves were used as shelter by the local people and their domestic animals. The Nyero Rock Painting Caves outside Mbale town are also worth a visit. These caves were used to shelter the first humans to roam the earth. They left their mark with amazing paintings depicting the kind of life they lived thousands of years ago.
Bird watching in Mount Elgon national park involves spotting species found nowhere else. Birds can be spotted in several places including the thick shrubs of the park, the Cheptui falls and the Forest Exploration Centre in Kapchorwa. The park is home to the African Blue Fly-catchers, African Goshawk, Baglafecht Weaver, Black and White Casqued, Chin-spot Batis and the Baglafecht Weaver, black collared Apalis, Black-shouldered Kite, Chubb’s Cisticola, Crowned Hornbills, eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes, Golden-Winged and Tacazze sunbirds, Hartlaub’s turaco, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Ross’s and Hartlaub’s Turacos, White-chinned Prinia. In Uganda, the endangered Jackson’s Francolin and lammergeyer are only found in Mount Elgon national park.
Forest And Nature Walks
The heavy rains and fertile soils in Mount Elgon National Park support the growth of thick forest and other vegetation that make nature walks extremely fulfilling. While climbing the mountain or visiting the caves, visitors encounter countless birds, wildlife and thick montane forest. Entering the moorlands on the upper slopes of the mountain exposes visitors to the beautiful landscapes and undiscovered wilderness. Climb Mount ElgonThe Forest Exploration Centre near the Sipi Falls organizes 3 to 7 Kilometer day hikes that offer more opportunities to marvel at the plants, ridges, valleys, caves and animals in the park.
There is also a trail that leads to the large Tutum cave away from the centre. Visitors who walk along this trail have an opportunity to spot several birds and primates like the black and white Colobus. Tower Hill where the former king of the Sabiny used to hold meetings is also worth visiting. This hill has wonderful views of Mount Elgon peak, the Karamoja plains and the Sipi Falls.
Game Drives And Wildlife Viewing
Mountain Elgon National Park is a great place for wildlife viewing. Game drives are arranged to take tourists to the best location where to see the animals. Among the animals to look out for are the hyena, leopard and duiker. The park has several primates like the blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, Colobus monkeys and buffalo.
Mountain Elgon National Park and the surrounding are suitable for camping. The park authorities have set up camping bases along the mountain climbing trails for those hiking to the top of the mountain. Camping is not allowed near the caldera itself. Tourists need to move with sleeping bags, tents, rain jackets, warm clothes and a camp stove that is fuel efficient. Tents and sleeping bags can be hired from the park office located in Mbale town.
The rivers that flow from the top of the mountain pass through cliffs forming beautiful waterfalls. The Sipi falls are the most attractive waterfalls in the area. These beautiful falls are located just outside the park boundary before the Forest Exploration Centre. Reaching the falls requires hiking through local village homes and farmlands. The areas around the falls have hotels and lodges of good quality. Apart From the Sipi Falls, other waterfalls can be sighted in Bulago, Chebonet, Sisyi and Wanale.
Mount Elgon and Sipi Falls are known for having mountain/rainbow trout. These fish fascinates anglers because of their beautiful colours and act of struggling when caught. In the Sipi area, the fish are caught and released back into the water. For the highest possible success, the activity needs to start in the morning. Guides are available to take anglers to the best fishing spots. Anglers need to move and have their own fishing gear and permits. Other packing items include lunch and drinking water.
Abseiling involves going down a cliff with a firm rope-like device fastened around the harness. The Sipi Falls are the only area where abseiling is organized in Uganda. The activity is well organized with good imported equipment, well-trained instructors and guides who ensure the safety of participants.
The entire Mountain Elgon Region including Mbale and Kapchorwa has good biking routes. One such route is the one starting from the Sipi trading centre to a hill in Chema Kapchorwa. Kapchorwa District produces most of Uganda’s best long-distance runners. There is a running route that has been designated for training the runners near the Sipi area that can also be used by travellers for biking or jogging.
Rock climbing is one of the popular activities that can be arranged outside Mount Elgon National Park. The Sipi Falls area is particularly suitable for rock climbing. The most demanding climb in the Sipi area is about 35 meters. Hikers can also drive to the nearest town Tororo which has a beautiful rock just next to the town centre. Climbing Tororo rock takes about 3 hours. The reward for reaching the top is beautiful views of the town below, villages and mount Elgon.
Arabica Coffee Tour
The mountain Elgon region receives good rains and has very fertile soils that support the growth of the Bugisu Arabica coffee. Visitors can request an organized mission to learn about how the coffee is planted, picked and processed. A local guide usually leads visitors to the home of one of the prominent local farmers in the area. This activity can be done near the Sipi Falls or by going directly to the processing factory that buys and processes farmers’ products near Budadiri.
Visiting The Abuyudaya Jews
A small group of Abuyudaya Jews has lived in the Sipi and Mount Elgon areas for over 100 years. They are Jews by choice and not by birth but have converted to the Jewish tradition. The Abuyudaya Jews work together with other religious denominations like the Pentecostal churches. The group has made an impact in the surrounding communities by building schools and a large hospital with a modern dental unit. The schools follow both the Jewish and Ugandan curricula. The Abuyudaya also buy Bugisu Arabica coffee from local farmers at a reasonable price.
Mount Elgon National Park Spiritual, Community And Cultural Encounters
The Bagisu still practice an old culture of initiating young men into adulthood through a series of ceremonies that end with circumcision. No man would be allowed to marry before undergoing the full ritual process and getting circumcised. No lady would marry a man who wasn’t circumcised or had not gone through the standard rituals. During the months of August and December, the whole town and villages of Mbale are full of crowds singing and dancing while escorting young men to receive blessings and gifts from their relatives before heading for the circumcision site. The site brings together thousands of people to witness the public ceremony. Cultural Experience in Mount Elgon National ParkThe Sabiny practice female circumcision but this has been outlawed due to pressure from female human rights groups. Some people still circumcise their daughters in secret. Another interesting cultural activity is the Budadiri Cultural Walk near Mount Elgon. There is Bagisu cultural group that organizes cultural dances, storytelling and information about their cultural heritage. This group can teach tourists how to cook and eat tasty bamboo shoots locally known as malware.
Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve And Matheniko Wildlife Reserve
The Pian Up and Matheniko Game Reserves are located in the great Karamoja plains after Mount Elgon. These two reserves cover an area of 2,788 square kilometres and are the second largest protected areas in the country. Facts about Mount Elgon National Park The reserves and particularly swamps like Loporokocho are home to several bird species like the African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Dusky Turtle Dove, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Grey Cuckoo-Shrike, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Lemon Dove, Mountain Yellow Warbler and the Thick-billed Honeyguide. The wildlife species here include Bright’s gazelle, lesser kudu, ostriches and the roan antelope. In Uganda, most of these animals can only be found in Kidepo Valley National Park. The Matheniko Bora Wildlife Reserve has cave complexes with paintings that are over 2000 years old.
This 5-dasy hiking safari takes you on an unforgettable journey through the diverse ecosystems of Mount Elgon, with a summit attempt to Wagagai Peak. Be prepared for challenging terrain and varying weather conditions, so make sure to pack appropriate clothing and gear. Hiring experienced guides and porters is essential for a safe and enjoyable hike. Mountain Elgon National Park is known for its unique landscapes, including caves, waterfalls, and hot springs, making it a rewarding destination for trekking enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Please note that this is a general itinerary, and the actual duration, activities, and accommodations may vary depending on your preferences, available time, and the specific arrangements made with you. It is advisable to consult with us to customise your itinerary and make any necessary adjustments.
- 4×4 safari vehicle with fuel with driver
- Professional Local english speaking Guide/Driver
- Full Board Meals Plan
- All park entry fees-Game drives, ranger and entry fees
- All local taxes
- Hiking, Cycling and Abseilling
- Entry Visa Fees
- All Air fares
- Meals where not provided
- Alcoholic drinks
- Porter fees while trekking
- Personal Insurance
- Personal shopping bills
- Items of personal nature