MT. ELGON – THE WORLD’S LARGEST CALDERA
Derived from the local name known as Mt. Masaba, the name of the founding ancestors of the Bagisu. Mount Elgon is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Its vast form, eighty kilometers in diameter, rises 3070m above the surrounding plains
Mount Elgon has been regional landmark for a long time; The Elgon Mount is bisected by the international boundary. The mountain’s natural vegetation, and it role as a giant biological sponge, is protected by Mount Elgon National Park on both sides of the border. The Uganda Park, which was upgraded from a forest reserve is 1993, cover 1,110km2 though its Kenyan counterpart measures just 170km2, it is adjoined by a forest reserve and national reserve. These parks and reserves in both countries combine to form a transboundary conservation area covering 2,229km2, which has been declared Man & Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO.
Elgon is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features, The Park is located near Mbale in the Eastern part of Uganda. It covers 1,145 sq km and was named after Mt Elgon (4,321m) to its Wagagai peak
Mt. Elgon’s Tourist Attractions
Elgon ranges boasts Park a variety of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, Defassa’s waterbuck, bushbuck, leopard and spotted hyena. However, as is usual in the forest environments, most of these species are rarely seen. The most commonly seen creatures are black and white colobus and the blue monkey
Mt. Elgon is home to 296 birds including 40 restricted range species. These birds’ range from forest birds, as well as several endemic species including Jackson’s francolin, moustached green tinker bird, and black collared apalis, The bronze-naped pigeon, Hartlaub’s turaco and tacozze sunbird are limited to Mount Elgon and a few other mountains in eastern Uganda. Mount Elgon is also one of the few places in Uganda where the endangered Lammergeyer can be seen, soaring above the caldera and Suam gorge.
One can explore Mt. Elgon on foot, Hiking is the one of the main visitor activities and this is done following the demarcated routes that range from day walk to extended hikes over several days to reach the upper mountain. Some of the Hikes for one to take part in include
– Suam trail. This long and little used trail starts at the village of Suam on the Kenyan border crossing. It follows the Suam River through the steep and spectacular Suam Gorge to the hot spring on the eastern side of the caldera.
– Piswa trail (7 days). This trail, starts at Kapkwata, 30km beyond Kapchorwa, is a long route, but starts at a higher and follows a more gradual route to the caldera. It is notable for the Podocarpus forest
– The Sasa trail. (4 days) This route, which starts from Budadili town, is the closest to Mbale town and is the most easily accessible. It also provides the most direct route to the peaks, albeit with a stiff climb of over 1,600m on the first day. It crosses the park’s largest area of bamboo forest and passes the lovely Jackson’s Pool on the way to Wagagai Peak.
– Sipi trail (7 days). The route starts at the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai, a few kilometres upstream from the Sipi Fall which lie just outside the park. The trail visits the spectacular Tatum cave hidden within extensive forest.
You can also make you hike a transboundary adventure, ascending the Uganda slopes and descending on the Kenyan side
Mt. Elgon operates a good number of accommodation facilities to choose from for meals and overnight including Sipi River Lodge, Mt Elgon Hotel, Mbale Resort (High end Lodging), Lacam lodge (Mid range lodging) and Kapkwai cottages (budget lodging) other facilities are within Mbale town.
Inside the park dormitory accommodation and self contained wooden cottages at different Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai are made available and food can only be availed on request.
How to get there
A smooth tarmac road runs through Jinja via Mukono and Lugazi to Mbale town at the western base of Mount Elgon. A stretch of 235km east of Uganda’s capital city approximately 2.5 hours drive.
Best times to Visit Elgon
Any time, throughout the year though challenging during heavy rains