The mighty Mount Elgon strides the border of Kenya and Uganda, towering to an altitude of 4,321m above sea level. The mountain features the world’s largest intact mountain caldera that has a diameter of 7 sq.km. The mountain is good for the hikers and doesn’t pose a lot of challenge.
While on the climb, you are guaranteed to see the change of vegetation belts as you go higher on the mountain. This is because of the varying climatic conditions on the different levels on the mountain. Mount Elgon climbing and hiking on the lower slopes will give you the view of the dense forest and due to the rainfall in the area. The trees are often covered with thick leaves, vine like lions and epiphytes while the forest floor seems to be carpeted with ferns and flowering plants such as wild orchids.
The Bamboo Forest
The Bamboo forest region is next at about 2,000M high, beyond that level there is an open woodland forest. Further on up you have giant heathers in meadows of grass and flowers onward and upward to the Afro-Montane zone with its giant lobelias an groundsel. This could be the best moments in life to experience climatic changes in one day and yes…..you have to let us make you discover for yourself. There is a lot of history and geography to be learnt as you climb and explore this great caldera. This is because your guide and the local porters will be narrating more history and geography about this mountain and its features
On the foothills of the mountain, you can hear the sounds of the Sipi falls flowing down the stream Sipi river. Before you leave eastern part of the country, Sipi falls is a must visit because it will give a spectacular experience of the trip. Adding it to the climb while on top of Sipi falls, you will be able to have a clear view of Kapchorwa and lake Kyoga.
Hiking/ Trekking Routes to the Elgon highest peaks
- Salsa river route/ trial head. This is mainly reachable easily from Mbale and a direct route to the peaks going via the Park’s largest area of bamboo wooded area. This will also give you a good chance of seeing Colobus and Blue Monkeys, as well as other wildlife.Even side trips to waterfalls, hot springs, the crater floor and other summits. This route is mostly used by several climbers because it is short though steep.
- Pisawa /Kapkwata route/trail head, a calm climb can cover up 660 metres on the first day deciding to climb through here. As you move on this route, you can see the sights of the vast Podocarpus forest, an admirable place for flora and fauna watching. An entire hiking journey to the mountain peaks runs for 4-5 days. It is worthwhile that visitors talk about the trekking options with the information clerks. They can be found at the Mbale, Budadiri or Kapkwata Visitors’ Centers. This route is longer than the salsa route but less steeper.
- Sipi route. This is a new route that has been constructed from Sipi Falls. It makes a fine loop with the Salsa River Route, and the round trip distance is 56 km.
Tourists are advised to respect the camping rules by staging camps on only gazetted sites. No camping in the caldera will be accepted. Also you are advised to support the local guides who will be helping you to carry you bags and other things, so carry with you enough tipping money
Other activities to do at Mount Elgon.
Mt. Elgon national park is one of the best parks in Uganda on which you can carry out bird watching. It has about 300 bird species some of which are range specific on the other side on the Kenya-Uganda boarder.
Examples of range specific birds
- Bronze naped pigeon
- Tacazze sunbird
- Hartlaub’s Turaco
These range specific birds can only be found in Mount Elgon and also some other few mountains in the whole world. Then if you are a birder or want to be one, this is the best place to do the bird watching. Besides the range specific birds, Mount Elgon has also a number of bird species like Yellow-billed Shrike, Cape Robin-Chat, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Nightingale, Spotted Morning-Thrush. In addition tothe above, there are the Mountain Yellow Warbler , African Reed Warbler , Little Rush Warbler, Common Whitethroat , Common Chiffchaff, and Brown Woodland Warblers.
Flora and Fauna
Mount Elgon is also blessed with the beautiful vegetation and animal species because as you move along the slopes of Elgon; you will go through the chunky montane forest with mixed bamboo belts intensely characterized by a number flowers, birds as you will then join attractive moorland zones with several interesting endemic plant species like the Giant lobelia and groundsels. Lovers of nature will spot primates such as the Black and White Colobus Monkey, Blue Monkey, buffalo, elusive leopard, duiker and the shy hyena. Attractive to see also at Elgon are the forest monkeys that fill up the forest top, Bushbuck, Antelope, Civet, Wildcat, Bush Duiker, Jackal, Rock Hyrax and Elephant move around the tropical rain woodland which makes this national park favorite for the tourists who want to get the best experience.
Visiting the Caves
Mount Elgon’s slopes are covered with caves. They were left by moving lava and erosion of soft volcanic deposits during the formation of this volcanic mountain. The most accessible are Kapkwai Cave, near the Forest Exploration Centre, and Khauka Cave on Wanale Ridge. Historically, such features acted as shelters for locals and their livestock. Later on they provided manure in the form of bat droppings. The manure has been collected by local people to use in their gardens. More recently, these caves have been used by climbers and their porters. Even today, campsites are still located at Hunters Cave, Siyo Cave (near the hot springs), Mude Cave and Tutum Cave. These caves are ideal for overnight expedition which you do not have to miss while on your mount Elgon trip.
Other attractions around Mount Elgon National Park
Imbalu circumcision ceremony.
The Imbalu circumcision ceremony held during even years is personal rite of passage to man hood among the Bagisu. The year for initiation is determined by the person himself and not necessarily a council of elders or a convention. The age range between 16 and 26 is acceptable. Those who elect to be circumcised in any given year announce their intention in May or June. They spend the next few months preparing for it. The key observable aspect of the arrangements involve the initiate. He is decorated in plantain fronds or animal skins and ash plastered face. Then escorted by a crew of encouraging friends matching and dancing via the streets. After, they connect to his close relatives and seek their approval. The function is conducted in august thus can be incorporated in your Ugandan safaris and usually occurs before 10:00am.
Where it is carried out.
Regardless of other African areas where circumcision is carried out indoors with few associates in presence, the Bagisu declared it a public function even allowing tourists to attend. After the act of circumcision the initiate would raise his hands victoriously, dancing and proudly exhibiting his blooded fellow to a ululating crowd. Crying during the process would mean cowardice thus forbidden.
He is then led to the quiet place seated and wrapped in a cloth before bleeding ceases. He is continued to the father’s home and hand fed for three consecutive days. It is done before he is ritually washed and permitted to eat with own hands marking the end of the ritual.
This is one of those last amazing experiences that can still authentically be traced on the African continent. Thus you must consider it when planning for your safari in Uganda. Love Uganda safaris will be glad if you book with us. We shall take you through such kind of experience even if its outside the national park.
Sipi Falls experience
Sipi falls is truly a gem in the East. No one leaves the eastern part of Uganda without visiting such an incredible site. This is because the waterfalls are a sight to behold. They have such a scenic beauty and the roaring sound of waters falling down a steep rock. It makes it so magnificent for you to enjoy it before you leave the place.
Sipi fall tour is worth a trip to the eastern parts of Uganda because it gives you a chance to explore the caves behind the falls and the trails can take you to the top of the falls where you will be able to see the beauty of water from the above. And yes this aerial view is breathtaking and spectacular.
Also at Sipi Falls, guides from the local community can organize walks of a few hours up to a full day around local viewpoints. In Kapchorwa, a 20-minute Sunrise trek at 6 am from Noah’s Ark Hotel leads to the nearby Tewei Hill to watch dawn spreading across the vast Karamoja plains at the base of the mountain.
All in all Mount Elgon and Sipi falls are two very good reasons to visit Eastern Uganda while on your Uganda safari that’s why we recommend you to not miss it on your itinerary.
Scenic Viewing Point
A trip to Bulago off the Mbale-Sipi road reveals a village standing high above a waterfall. The waterfall faces the Simu Valley towards Butandiga ridge. The route to Kapchorwa beyond Sipi Falls to the north provides a stunning view towards Mount Kadam and the vast plains of Karamoja. The top of the Sironko Valley in Budadiri, enclosed by the Mudangi Cliffs provides a view of the montane and peaks. Visitors should also drive to the top of Wanale Cliff for panoramic views over the town of Mbale. At this spot you will enjoy the clear view of the old Mbale town. You will also take photos with Mbale town in your back ground. Thus you cannot leave the east without visiting such a beautiful and magnificent spot.
Visiting Nyero Rock Paintings
These ancient rock paintings are 65 km north of Mbale. The Nyero Rock Paintings are the finest of several rock art sites in the region. Three panels are found within the extensive granite outcrop of Moru, Ikara, and 10km from Kumi Town and 55 km from Mbale on the Soroti road. The most impressive is Panel 2. It includes two canoes bearing human figures. About historical rocks you need to see these fingers by yourself because they are real.
Mount Elgon National Park lies 235 km east of Kampala. You drive on a tarmac road which runs through Jinja to Mbale town at the western base of Mount Elgon. Before climbing to Kapchorwa on the mountain’s north-western flank; you will drive on the dirt roads that lead off the Mbale-Kapchorwa road to reach the various trailheads. On reaching, you will get off the car and start the beautiful experience of climbing the mountain.
A four wheel drive is advised to be used through all the Ugandan safaris. This is because some of the roads can be muddy during the rainy seasons
When to visit Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon lower slopes are fine and ideal for visiting throughout the year. The mountain is the best place to visit because you can come at any time of your convenience. June to August are the most favorite months to give you the best of the park to carry out all activities. Then December to March are the most outstanding months for those interested in the most beautiful Elgon climbing experience. You can visit the national park at any time of your convenience throughout the year. Love Uganda safaris will always be at your service to make you discover and adventure more about Elgon.