Mount Elgon hiking trails : Mount Elgon National Park is a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve located along the border between Uganda and Kenya. The park covers an area of 494 square miles. A larger part (430 square miles) of the park is on the Ugandan side of the border. The Ugandan section was elevated from a forest reserve into a national park in 1992. The park gets its name from Mount Elgon which is a prominent physical feature in the park. Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano that erupted over twenty four million years ago.
It is the highest volcanic mountain in East Africa and the 8th highest mountain in Africa. Mount Elgon has the largest caldera in the world which is about 60 kilometers long and 40 kilometers wide. This particular Caldera is a result of magma getting drained from the bottom leading to the collapse of the cone. Scientists believe that at one point in time, Mount Elgon was the highest mountain Africa before millions of years of erosion reduced its height substantially.
The fertile slopes of Mount Elgon encourage the group of vegetation that varies depending on altitude. They include montane forests in the lower areas, bamboo forests on higher grounds and alpine-moorlands towards the summit. Over 400 species of plants and 143 of birds have been recorded.
Half of Uganda’s species of butterflies are found in Mount Elgon National Park with the endangered Maathai’s Lonleg dragonfly was discovered in 2000. The lower slopes of the mountains support a variety of mammals like black-and-white colobus, blue monkeys, buffalos, elephants, red-tailed monkeys, spotted hyena, Oribi, Defassa waterbuck, Bushbucks and smaller antelopes to glimpse while on Uganda Safaris Tours .
The main tribes living in the Ugandan side of the park are the Sabiny and Bagisu.These tribes rely on subsistence farming. The Bagisu have specialized in the growing of Arabica coffee which does well in the fertile soils on the lower slopes of the mountains. The higher slopes of the mountains are protected and managed by the Uganda wildlife Authority in close cooperation with Kenyan counterparts. The Mountain Elgon national park office is located along Masaba Road in Mbale town. This is where tourists go to seek information or acquire permits for park related activities. The Uganda Wildlife Authority office in Kampala also issues permits for activities in Mountain Elgon National park. The office opens from Monday to Friday.
How to Access Mount Elgon National Park
The distance between Kampala city and Mount Elgon National Park is about 230km. The roads are well paved and made of tarmac but traffic jam is a problem on the Kampala – Jinja highway. It takes between 4 to 5 hours to reach Mbale town from Kampala through the towns of Jinja and Iganga. The journey by road offers opportunities to stop and see amazing places like the source of the river Nile and Mabira forest. From Mbale town, one needs to drive to the park offices outside the town or head straight to the nearest mountain climbing starting point in Budadiri. Visitors can hire a car or use public means to get to the park but arranging your travel with a good tour company is more convenient.
For visitors who don’t like long road journeys, there is an option to book a chartered flight from Entebbe international airport to Soroti airfield near Mount Elgon. From the airfield, one would need to travel by road for about one hour before reaching Mbale town or Kapchorwa.
Mount Elgon hiking trails
How to plan for Mountain Elgon Hiking Uganda Safari
- Like any mountain that is above 2600 meters, there is a real possibility of getting altitude related sicknesses especially for first-time climbers. Altitude illnesses affect anyone without regarding former experience, fitness or age.
- You need to move with park rangers and porters when climbing to the top of the mountains or taking part in activities like wildlife viewing and camping. By hiring/employing these porters, you help support the local community and contribute to the overall conservation of the park and wild animals. When communities realize the benefits of tourism to the community, they are less inclined to poach park animals. The porters and rangers in the park are certified and trained in first aid treatment.
- The rangers share vital information about the different plant and animal species with visitors to the park. The overall cost of each guide shouldn’t exceed $15.
- The best time to visit Mount Elgon National Park is during the dry (June – August and December – March) seasons. It is important to note that hiking to the top of the mountain and all other park activities continue even during the wet/rainy season. It is also important to note that the mountain receives rainfall almost throughout the year. So expect rain even during the dry seasons in Uganda.
- A parking list for Mount Elgon national park should include bottled drinking water, enough food supplies, equipment for cooking, first aid kit, flashlight, gear for rain, hand gloves, a hat, hiking shoes, sleeping bag, a tent and warm clothing.
Accommodation in Mount Elgon National Park
Accommodation facilities can be secured within and outside the park. Most of the hotels offer a combination of luxurious, mid-range and budget rooms. The luxurious hotels facilities are found in Mbale town, Kapchorwa town and the Sipi Falls area.
Kapkwai Forest Cottages: These cottages are located at the entrance of the National Park and were initially designed for students who come to visit the forest exploration centre but are now open to Tourists. The facility has 4 simple cottages and 4 tents implying that only a few residents may reside in the cottages on a given day. Food and drinks can be bought from the nearby canteen.
Mbale Resort Hotel: This is a luxury hotel located 2 kilometers away from Mbale town center and near Mount Elgon. From any of the 94 hotel rooms, one can be rewarded with amazing views of the Wanale Hill and Mount Elgon. The hotel has beautiful gardens with palm trees and a large parking space. Other services include a restaurant, a large swimming pool, a bar, a gym and Sauna.
Mount Elgon Hotel and Spa: This hotel is owned by Italians. It is built 2 kilometers away from the town center along the Masaba road. There are thirty self-contained rooms with quality bedding and a bathroom. The hotel has a large garden, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a bar, a pool table, spa, conference rooms and a small golf field. The hotel shuttle picks clients to and from town.
Kayegi Hotel: Kayegi hotel is also found along Masaba road and offers mid-range priced rooms. Though the prices are affordable, the quality of the rooms and services are good. The hotel is a popular place for organizing retreats, seminars and workshops for government and non-government organizations. The hotel has twenty five self-contained resident rooms that are surrounded by beautiful gardens. There are conference rooms, a bar, a restaurant, a large parking place and free wireless internet.
Mount Elgon View Hotel: This is a budget hotel built along the road to Kumi District. The hotel rooms are very clean with a table and a chair. Other facilities include a restaurant and a bar.
Noah’s Ark hotel: This hotel is built in the town of Kapchorwa along the slopes of Mount Elgon with good views of the Teso and Karamoja plains. The hotel has luxury, mid-range and budget rooms and can host 100 clients in a day. The hotel serves good Bugisu Arabica coffee with a sweet aroma. Both local and international foods are served for breakfast and Dinner. Camping tents are available for clients who are interested in setting up a camp outside. The hotel also organizes activities like visiting the Sipi Falls, climbing Mount Elgon, Bike racing and marathons.
Masha Hotel: This hotel is found in the town of Kapchorwa along the main road going to Mbale. The hotel offers budget services and self-contained rooms that are neat. The hotel also has conference rooms, a pool table, a bar and a restaurant which prepares Indian, Ugandan and other international dishes. It is a perfect place for those who intend on climbing Mount Elgon, visiting the Sipi Falls or visiting the Forest Exploration Centre to thrill while on Uganda safaris Tours.
Sipi River Lodge: This lodge is built near the beautiful Sipi Falls and along the Kapchorwa to Mbale road. The lodge is located a few walks from one of the park gates and Forest Exploration Centre. One of the three Sipi falls is found near the lodge. Sipi River Lodge is beautiful designed with large rooms. There are has beautiful gardens and caves near the falls that can be explored by visitors when free. The hotel also organizes hiking to the top of the mountain summit.