Distance from Kampala: 280km. Estimated transit time: 6hrs
Mount Elgon National Park is the fourth largest park in Uganda, but one of the least visited, despite its unique physical features and spectacular views.
Mt. Elgon is part of an extinct volcano that straddles the Uganda / Kenya border. Two million years ago, after its last major eruption, the top of Mt. Elgon collapsed, creating one of the largest calderas in the world. Before this explosion, Mt. Elgon was taller and larger than Mt. Kilimanjaro. Today, Mt. Elgon is the 4th highest peak in East Africa and the 7th highest on the continent.
The extant caldera resembles a large ‘bowl’, 8 km in diameter, surrounded by a ring of rugged peaks. The collapsed crater covers approximately 40sq km with hot springs inside and shallow crater lakes throughout.
Trekking is the most popular activity at Mt. Elgon. This mountain is not nearly as crowded as its counterparts in Kenya and Tanzania, allowing the intrepid trekker the opportunity for peace and tranquility.
Trekking to the top of Mt. Elgon will take you through four distinct vegetation zones. The lush Montane Forest, occurring between 2,000 and 2,500m, along with the Mixed Bamboo zone (2,400-3,000m) contains the largest biodiversity on the mountain. Dense shrub and brilliant wildflowers characterize the Heath Zone (3,000-3,500m).
As you go higher up the mountain at 3,500-4,231m, you will find the highest number of endemic plant species including clusters of peculiar so-called big game plants - unique giant fleshy herbs such as lobelias and groundsels that can grow up to 6m in height.
Several trails are available for trekking including the Sasa trail (4 days), Sipi trail (7 days), Piswa trail (7 days) and Saum trail. It is possible to vary your hike by ascending form one trailhead and descending to another.
Do not miss the opportunity to see the fabulous Sipi Falls. Located near the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai, Sipi Falls is a series of waterfalls located just outside the park. Abseiling, hiking and climbing are available.
Mt. Elgon supports a variety of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, Defassa's water buck, oribi, bushbuck, leopard and spotted hyena. However, due to the dense forest vegetation, it is difficult to see the abundant wildlife. Chanler’s mountain reed bucks can be spotted near the caldera rim.
The mountain is home to more than 296 species of birds including 40 restricted range species. Be on the lookout for the Jackson's Francolin, Moustached Green Tinkerbird and the Black-collared Apalis. Several species of raptors can be seen, most impressive of which is the Lammergeier, often seen soaring above the caldera and Suam gorge. The Bronze-naped Pigeon, Hartlaub's Turaco and the Tacazze Sunbird are limited to Mount Elgon and other mountains in Eastern Uganda.
If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of local Ugandan culture, visits can be arranged to the local community to see traditional costumes and jewelry making. Locally produced craft items can be purchased from the park tourist office and along the road at various craft markets.
- Sipi Falls Lodge - mid-market
- Lacam Lodge - mid-market
- Mount Elgon Hotel - mid-market
- Mbale Resort Hotel (Mbale) - mid-market
- Crow's Nest - budget