Mount Elgon is the 4th highest mountain in East Africa that rises to 4,327m altitude. Mount Elgon national park is around the top Elgon extinct volcanic mountain that covers 1279 km2, of which 1110km2 is in Uganda and 169km2 is in Kenya. The Uganda protectorate administration gazetted Elgon as a forest reserve in 1929 and has been changing forms until 1992 when it was declared a national park. Mount Elgon national park spreads into the districts of Sironko, Kapchorwa, Mbale and Suam on Uganda side. The Elgon receives average 1270 mm rainfall annually in two seasons, April-June, September-November. Temperatures in the mountains are chilly because of the altitude, thick vegetation cover and rainfall. A balanced combination of cool climatic conditions and fertile volcanic soils ultimately leads to rich diversity in plant growth and vegetation patterns that vary according to altitude. This leads to a healthy wildlife species.
There are forest low populations of elephants, buffalos, waterbucks, warthogs, spotted hyena, oribi, duikers and other smaller mammal species in the foothills of Elgon. Spotting ground mammals in Elgon is not easy because of enclosed forest vegetation cover in the foothills and hilly terrain. However, travelers on tour of Uganda into Elgon interact with primate species; Black and white colobus monkey, Blue monkey and Red-tailed are more visible. As such, mammal spotting into Mount Elgon national park is not a popular Uganda tour activity.
Mount Elgon national park is a popular Uganda tour destination for bird watching safaris. Close to 300 bird species sightings in the Elgon region and for this, Mount Elgon national park is an International Birding Area in Uganda. Mount Elgon rises from a generally flat valley that spreads into the semi arid Karamoja region that is remarkable with large populations of wildlife species from Kidepo Valley national park. Mount Elgon with lush vegetation and favorable weather conditions is ideal breeding ground for several bird species. Likewise, Mount Elgon receives the spillovers of the bird species across border from Kenyan territory that is more semi arid than Uganda. The Mountain yellow warbler, Little rush warbler, White browed crombec, Green hylia, Rattling cisticola, Hartlaub turaco, Bronze naped pigeon are some of bird species inhabitants of the Elgon, but hard to spot elsewhere.
Mount Elgon national park is top spot for hiking safaris into Uganda. Mount Elgon has a reputation of unique and beautiful physical landforms. At the summit of Mount Elgon is 40m wide Wagagai crater where most hikers enjoy an overnight camping while on safaris. The hiking safaris traverse through scenic waterfalls, gorges, cliffs, caves that are ideal for photography and film expeditions. There are possibilities of brief hiking safaris taking half a day.
Many travelers walk through the indigenous communities and visit the Sipi falls. The falls formed on a river flowing down from the Elgon ranges are magnificent and unique in their own way. On the walk, visitors have an opportunity to visit select homesteads to interact with indigenous communities and share life experiences. The Bagisu communities grow coffee as their cash crop besides food crops. The visitors get coffee growing, harvesting and processing into beverage experiences. The visitors share the Bagisu historical and cultural experiences notably the adulthood initiation ceremony, Imbalu or teenage boy circumcision.
Safaris to Mount Elgon national park go on all through the year, but the best time is during dry season June-Aug, Dec-Mar. accessible by a smooth road network from Kampala and other big towns of Uganda.
Kampala-Jinja-Mbale-Sironko-Kapchorwa = 240km
Murchison falls-Lira-Soroti-Mbale-Kapchorwa = 290km
Kidepo valley-Kaabong-Nakapiripirit-Kapchorwa = 270km
Malaba/Busia/Kenya border-Mbale-Sironko-Kapchorwa = 180km
- Sipi river lodge
- Lacem lodge
- Kapchorwa town
- Mbale town