Mountain Elgon national park-nature walks, sipi falls and cultural experiences
Mountain Elgon national park derives its name from mountain Elgon on the border of Uganda and Kenya. The mountain has an extinct volcano that erupted more than 24 million years ago. It’s the largest volcanic base in the world. At 50 km by 80 km, the mountain has the largest surface area of any dead volcano in the world.
Elgon is the second highest mountain in Uganda. The lower slopes are covered in tropical montane forest with extensive bamboo. There are scenic waterfalls, caves, gorges, hot springs, and the caldera on top of the mountain.
Mountain Elgon national park has vast caves where elephants and buffaloes. These animals come to lick the natural salt found within the cave walls. Eastwards, the Kitum cave digs over 200 m into the mountain Elgon side.
There are four routes used to hike up the mountain. The Sasa trail is the oldest route to the Wagaigai peak. There is the Sipi trail that begins at the Forest exploration centre north west of the park. It is a somewhat longer hike that needs 7 days roundtrip. The Piswa trail has a gentle ascent and is the best route for watching wildlife. The Suam route that starts at a higher level from the northern side. However, needs only five days to reach the top.
Around the national park, there are two main tribes namely the Bagisu and Sabiny.
At the bottom of mountain Elgon, there are the beautiful sipi falls. These are 3 level falls with one dropping 95 meters below. There are some nice nature walks on a network of local trails around the sipi falls.
Biodiversity: Mountain Elgon national park is home to over 300 species of birds including the endangered lammergeyer as well as tropical highland (biome) species like moorland francolin, tinker bird and alpine chat. Other birds are Jackson’s francolin, black-collared apalis, black shouldered kite and tacazze sunbird. The plant life diversity of the park includes; orchids olive trees, giant podocarpus, juniper and Elgon cedar Juniperus procera, elder Sambucus adnata, pillarwood Cassipourea malosana pure stands of Podocarpus gracilior. The park has Elephants, buffalo, Black-and-white Colobus, Blue Monkeys and various small antelopes.
Location of Mountain Elgon national park: Extreme east of Uganda on the border with Kenya
Accessibility: Entebbe-Kampala-Jinja-Mbale-Kapchorwa 280 km
Tourism activities: Mountaineering, nature walks, bird watching, hiking sipi falls, community and cultural tours (Bagisu/ Bamasaba, Sabiny).
Accommodation around the park: Sipi river Lodge (High budget), Sipi falls resort (medium budget), Crow’s nest (low budget)