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MOUNTAIN ELGON

Mountain Climbing Tours & Day Hikes, Sipi Falls scenic Tours, Flora and fauna Mt. Elgon is Kenya’s second highest mountain. It situated in about 140km North East of Lake Victoria and is bisected by the Kenya-Uganda border. It is an ancient eroded volcano with an enormous caldera and, on its top, the amazing flat topped basalt usually referred to as Koitobos. Another exceptional feature of the mountain is the lava tube caves, some more than 60m wide and frequented by elephants (and other animals) digging for salts. The mountain soils are red laterite. Mt Elgon is a significant water catchment for the Nzoia River which pours it water into Lake Victoria and for the Turkwel river which flows into Lake Turkana.

Mt Elgon National Park was conserved as a park in 1968 and occupies a narrow transect up the North Eastern slopes of the mountain, from lower montane forest to the caldera edge. The left over part of the forest and moorland is a portion of the Mt Elgon Forest Reserve. The Ugandan part of the mountain is conserved within Uganda’s Mt Elgon National Park.

Vegetation cover of Mt Elgon depends on the altitude. The slopes of the mountain are enclosed with olive Olea hochstetteri and Aningueria adolfi-friedericii wet montane forest. At higher altitudes, this changes to olive and Podocarpus gracilior forest, and after that a Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina zone. Higher still is a Hagenia abyssinica zone and then moorland with heaths Erica arborea and Philippia trimera, tussock grasses like Agrostis gracilifolia and Festuca pilgeri, herbs like Alchemilla, Helichrysum, Lobelia, and the giant groundsels Senecio barbatipes and Senecio elgonensis.

The botanical diversity of the park are giant podocarpus, juniper and Elgon olive trees cedar Juniperus procera, pillarwood Cassipourea malosana, elder Sambucus adnata, pure stands of Podocarpus gracilior and several orchids.

More than 400 species are registered in the area the following are of particular note as they only happen in high altitude broad-leaf montane forest: Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Carduus afromontanus, Echinops hoehnelii, Ranunculus keniensis (previously thought endemic to Mount Kenya), and Romulea keniensis.

Location:

On the western border of Kenya with Uganda, in Trans-nzoia District of Rift Valley Province. It occupies an area of 169km2.

Climate:

The climate is generally moist to moderate dry. Annual rainfall is more than 1,270mm.

Accessibility

Roads:

Mt. Elgon is situated in about 470 kms from Nairobi. Access is passed the tarmac road to Kitale and afterwards to the Chorlim Gate. Two routes to the gate can be used, either via Endebess or use the tarmac road 11km past Kitale and turn left onto a murrum road taking you to the gate.

Airstrips:

At Park Headquarters.

Park Roads:

Adequate road network.

Park Gates:

There are four park gates i.e. Chorlim main gate, Kassawai, Kiptogot and Kimothon.

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS

In addition to the fauna and flora, the park is blessed with a good number of breathtaking scenery of cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and the mountain peaks.

The most fashionable areas are the four explorable, vast caves where normal night visitors like elephants and buffaloes come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. Kitum cave, with overhanging crystalline walls, move 200 m into the side of Mt. Elgon.

The spectacular natural beauty of the park can be best cherished from the Endebess Bluff where one gets a panoramic view of the areas’ escarpments, gorges, mesas, and rivers.

The highest peak of Mt. Elgon on the Kenya side, Koitoboss, measures 13,852 ft (4,155 m), and is easily reached by hikers in approximately two hours from the road’s end.

FACILITIES

Bandas:

Kapkuro Banda

Campsites:

Public: Rongai Campsite; Nyati Campsite; Chorlim Campsite.

Special: Salt licks Campsite.

Lodges:

Mt. Elgon Lodge, 28 beds. Located in about 0.5 km. outside the park gate.

Picnic Sites:

There is one picnic site at the Elephant platform with no facilities.

Nature Trails:

The park has three short nature trails to Kiptum cave, Makingeny cave and the Elephant Bluff.

ACTIVITIES

* Vehicle circuits taking you to the animal viewing areas, the caves and Koitoboss peak.

* Cave explorations

* Self-guided walking trails (Ask for the Kitum Cave guide book at the gate)

* Hiking to Endebess Bluff and Koitoboss Peak

* Primate and bird watching

* Camping Photography

COMMON VEGETATION

The vegetation changes with altitude. The mountain slopes are filled up with olive Olea hochstetteri and Aningueria adolfi-friedericii wet montane forest. At higher altitudes, this changes to olive and Podocarpus gracilior forest, and then a Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina zone. Higher still is a Hagenia abyssinica zone and then moorland with heaths Erica arborea and Philippia trimera, tussock grasses like Agrostis gracilifolia and Festuca pilgeri, herbs like Alchemilla, Helichrysum, Lobelia, and the giant groundsels Senecio barbatipes and Senecio elgonensis.

The botanical diversity of the park includes giant podocarpus, juniper and Elgon olive trees cedar Juniperus procera, pillarwood Cassipourea malosana, elder Sambucus adnata, pure stands of Podocarpus gracilior and many orchids.

Of the 400 species registered for the area the following are of particular note as they only occur in high altitude broad-leaf montane forest: Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Carduus afromontanus, Echinops hoehnelii, Ranunculus keniensis (previously thought endemic to Mount Kenya), and Romulea keniensis.

Information concerning Trekking Stages

Sasa Trail:

1st Stage: Budadiri – Sasa River Camp 10,5km by way of the village of Bumasola and Mudange Cliffs.

2nd Stage: Sasa River camp – Mude Cave 5km via Sasa Patrol hut.

3rd Stage: Mude Cave – Wagagai Summit – Mude Cave 18km

4th Stage: Return to Sasa River Camp 5km. Time permitting before leaving

Mude Cave a side trek exists to Jackson Summit 8km return.

5th Stage: Sasa River Camp – Budadiri 10,5km

Sasa Trail combined with Piswa Trail

1st Stage: Kapkata – Piswa Patrol Hut Camp 11km

2nd Stage: Piswa Patrol Hut Camp – Hunters Cave Camp 18km

3rd Stage: Hunters Cave Camp – Mude Cave Camp 11km, side track to Hot

Springs Hot Springs 3km.

4th Stage: Maude Cave – Wagagai Summit – Mude Cave Camp 18km

5th Stage: Mude Cave – Sasa River Camp 5km

6th Stage: Sasa River Camp – Budadiri 10,5km

Sasa Trail combined with – Sipi Trail

This is route has been set up and it’s still new the most popular alternative is trekking from Budadiri to Wagagai Peak to Sipi Falls. It is possible to do the trail in the reverse direction. The route follows the Sasa Trail path via Maude Cave to Wagagai summit descending on the Sipi Trail to Sipi Falls by way of Kajeri Peak and the Forest Exploration Centre.

One doing a Sasa-Piswa Trail or Sasa-Sipi Trail combination is expected to pay for the transport of his or her porters and guide back to Budadiri or Kapkwata basing on which direction you make the traverse. In case you live your vehicle at the beginning point you will get yourself back to the start point.

Tourist activities

Hiking or Mountain climbing, nature guided walks bird watching, caving, hot springs and Sipi waterfall viewing.

Stunning scenery for scenic viewing is the main attraction for hikers, a number of monkeys and small antelopes, along with elephants and buffalos can be seen.

To the dedicated birders, a checklist topping 300 birds includes many species not registered elsewhere in Uganda.

More attractions include ancient cave paintings and hot springs within the crater.

Getting to the Park

You may take about four hours to drive from Kampala to Mbale passed Tororo. Four hours from Kampala-Mbale passed Jinja and Tirinyi with a distance of 256km.

30km from Mbale to Budadiri.

45km from Sipi falls-Kapkwata.

66km Mbale – Sipi Falls.

Your climb must be organized from the Mt. Elgon National Park Headquarters in Mbale, Plot 19-21, Masaba Rd., and House 84. There are trailheads at Budadiri and at Kapnarkut where park fees and trekking can also be organized

Mbale is about 4 hours from Kampala via Tororo.

Kampala – Mbale via Jinja and Tirinyi Rd – 256km 3 hours.

Mbale – Budadiri – 30km 1 hour (road can be muddy and slippery in wet conditions).

Mbale – Sipi Falls – 66km 1 1/2 hours.

Sipi Falls – Kapkwata – 45km 1 1/2 hours

Accommodation:

On the Mountain:

Within the park, there are fundamental camping sites. For those without their own equipment the National Parks office in Mbale has tents for rental and sleeping bags. You must bring your own warm clothing. There are no rental facilities in Budadiri.

National Park Bandas

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