Park at a Glance
This extinct volcano is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features, first erupting around 24 million years ago.
Mt Elgon was once Africa’s highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m. Millennia of erosion have reduced its height to 4,321m, relegating it to the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th on the continent.
Mt Elgon is home to two tribes, the Bagisu and the Sabiny, with the marginalized Ndorobos forced to dwell deep within the forest of Benet.
The Bagisu, also known as the BaMasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father Masabaand refer to the mountain by this name.
At 4,000km² Mount Elgon has the largest volcanic base in the world. Located on the Uganda-Kenya border it is also the oldest and largest solitary, volcanic mountain in East Africa. Its vast form, 80km in diameter, rises more than 3,000m above the surrounding plains. The mountain’s cool heights offer respite from the hot plains below, with the higher altitudes providing a refuge for flora and fauna.
Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. Small antelopes, forest monkeys, elephants and buffalos also live on the mountainside. 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.
A climb on Mt. Elgon’s deserted moorlands unveils a magnificent and uncluttered wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to many mountains: 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.
Due to high altitude, the lower tropical forested slopes contain a diversity of plants and animals. At the base, there are big mammals like elephant, zebra, buffalo, giant forest hogs and bushbucks and small antelopes can be seen licking salt caves during early morning game drives. Primates are found in lower forested slopes and 300 species of birds that live in the park including Uganda’s endemic bird the Lammergeyer. This park has been enlisted as a UNESCO man and biosphere reserve. A lot of activities can be done including mountain climbing and rock climbing, game viewing, camping, hiking, birding and butterfly watching, ancient cave exploration and hot spring.
Outside the park, tourists can visit the Sipi falls. The road going there is a bit rough but a wide range of hikes for all visitors’ offers breathtaking views. Local guides also arrange coffee tours going through some of the Arabic coffee and local farms. There are several rock arts but the most famous is Nyero rock paintings located in Kumi district about 1 hour drive from the park is a symbolize of the Nile valley civilizations which date 3000 years back.
Tourists on a safari can access the park by public transport. Every day buses leave Kampala city and can take 4-5 hours drive to Mbale, the largest town at the base of the park. There are Uganda wildlife authority offices if you need to inquire or arrange anything. From there taxis or boda boda will take you to your lodge.