Mountain Elgon National Park

About Mountain Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon at 4000km has the largest volcanic base in the world and is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Its large form, 80km in diameter, rises 3000m above the sea level.

The 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 also protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya creating an extensive trans- boundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO man and biosphere reserve.

Accessibility to Mountain Elgon National Park

Mountain Elgon National Park is located in eastern Uganda, straddling the border with Kenya. It is one of Uganda's most accessible national parks, offering various means of transportation to reach its different sections.

Road Access:
The park can be accessed by road from different directions. From Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, the most common route is via Jinja and Mbale. The journey takes approximately 5-6 hours, covering a distance of about 235 kilometers. The road is generally in good condition, although some sections may be rough or unpaved.

Another road access option is from the town of Mbale, which is located closer to the park. From Mbale, it takes about 1-2 hours to reach the park's main gate at Budadiri. This route is shorter and more convenient for visitors coming from the eastern part of Uganda or from Kenya.

Air Access:
For those who prefer air travel, the nearest major airport to Mountain Elgon National Park is Entebbe International Airport, located near Kampala. Several international airlines operate regular flights to Entebbe from various destinations around the world. From Entebbe, visitors can either take a domestic flight to Soroti Airport or hire a private vehicle for the road journey to the park.

Soroti Airport is the closest airstrip to Mountain Elgon National Park, situated approximately 100 kilometers away. Domestic airlines such as Aerolink Uganda offer scheduled flights between Entebbe and Soroti. From Soroti Airport, visitors can arrange ground transportation to the park.

Public Transportation:
Public buses and taxis are available for travelers who prefer using public transportation. Buses operate daily between Kampala and Mbale, passing through towns like Jinja and Iganga along the way. From Mbale, visitors can then take a taxi or hire a private vehicle to reach Mountain Elgon National Park.

Guided Tours:
Many tour operators in Uganda offer guided tours to Mountain Elgon National Park. These tours often include transportation from Kampala or other major towns, accommodation, park fees, and the services of experienced guides. Joining a guided tour can be a convenient option for visitors who prefer a hassle-free experience and want to make the most of their time in the park.

Activities in the Mount Elgon National Park

Hiking and Trekking: One of the main attractions in Mount Elgon National Park is hiking and trekking. The park offers various trails that cater to different fitness levels and interests. The most popular trail is the Sasa Trail, which starts from Budadiri town in Uganda and takes hikers through bamboo forests, montane forests, and moorland zones before reaching the summit. The hike to the summit usually takes around four to five days round trip. Another popular trail is the Piswa Trail, which starts from Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre in Kenya and offers stunning views of the caldera and hot springs along the way.

Wildlife Viewing: Mount Elgon National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife species. While it may not have the same density of wildlife as some other national parks in East Africa, it still offers opportunities to spot various animals. Commonly seen mammals include elephants, buffalos, bushbucks, duikers, hyenas, and primates such as black-and-white colobus monkeys and blue monkeys. Birdwatchers will also be delighted by the park's avian diversity, with over 300 bird species recorded including the endangered Lammergeier vulture.

Cultural Encounters: The communities living around Mount Elgon National Park have a rich cultural heritage that visitors can explore. The Bagisu people in Uganda and the Sabaot people in Kenya are the main ethnic groups residing in the area. Visitors can engage in cultural tours and interact with the local communities to learn about their traditions, customs, and way of life. Traditional ceremonies, such as male circumcision rituals among the Bagisu people, can also be witnessed during specific times of the year.

Nature Walks and Scenic Views: Mount Elgon National Park offers several nature trails and viewpoints that allow visitors to appreciate the park's natural beauty. The Kapkwai Nature Walk is a short trail that takes visitors through a bamboo forest and offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. The Cheptui Falls Trail leads to a beautiful waterfall where visitors can relax and enjoy the serene atmosphere. The Endebess Bluff viewpoint provides breathtaking views of the park's rugged cliffs and valleys.

Camping and Picnicking: Mount Elgon National Park provides designated camping sites where visitors can spend the night surrounded by nature. These campsites offer basic facilities such as pit latrines and firewood. Picnic sites are also available for day visitors who prefer to have a meal or snack amidst the park's scenic surroundings.

Mountain Climbing: For experienced climbers, Mount Elgon offers an opportunity to summit its highest peak, Wagagai, which stands at 4,321 meters (14,177 feet) above sea level. Climbing Mount Elgon requires proper planning, equipment, and physical fitness due to its challenging terrain and high altitude. It is recommended to hire a local guide or join an organized expedition for safety reasons.

In conclusion, Mount Elgon National Park provides a range of activities for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those interested in cultural experiences. From hiking and trekking to wildlife viewing, cultural encounters, nature walks, camping, picnicking, and mountain climbing, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this unique national park.