Mount elgon national park the Sipi Falls (2)
Tatum Cave is the starting point of the Sipi trek, which begins a few kilometres from Sipi Falls. PHOTO/BrilliantUganda

To help you plan your next visit to Uganda’s Mount Elgon National Park, consider the following factors compiled by Flash Uganda Media.

Table of contents: Why should you visit Uganda’s Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon is one of the oldest physical features in East Africa. It is claimed to have the greatest volcanic base in the world at 4,000 kilometres in length and stands at 4,321 metres above sea level.

Mount Elgon was formerly Africa’s highest peak at around 5,800m, but years of erosion gradually lowered it to its current height. It remains Uganda’s second-highest mountain and the fourth-highest in East Africa.

Elgon is located on the Ugandan-Kenyan border and is home to two separate tribes: the Bagisu from Uganda and the Sabiny from Kenya, who occupy the mountain’s western and eastern slopes, respectively.

It is mainly preferred for trekking by tourists due to the greater variety of attractions along the way, less perilous trails, and elevation gain compared to the higher and steeper types such as Mount Rwenzori. It becomes easier and much more enjoyable as climatic circumstances improve.

The greatest time to walk Mount Elgon is during the dry seasons of June to August and December to March, when the weather is clear and sunny, allowing you to admire the wildlife and vegetation as you ascend the peak.

To learn more about Mount Elgon as a tourist destination, along with statistics regarding animal and plant life, see our page on Mount Elgon National Park as a tourist destination.

Why should you visit Uganda’s Mount Elgon National Park? Here are some reasons you should consider before booking your trip.

Trekking

Mount-elgon the Sipi Falls (2)
Tatum Cave is the starting point of the Sipi trek, which begins a few kilometres from Sipi Falls. PHOTO/BrilliantUganda

Hiking Mount Elgon is undoubtedly the primary reason for every tourist’s visit. Whether you enjoy trekking or are averse to it, hiking Elgon is a pleasurable experience that connects you to the mountain and the surrounding ecosystem.

There are numerous hiking trails to choose from that offer a variety of scenic wonders along the way. Among them are the following:

  • The Sasa trail, which is considered the most accessible approach, allows you to marvel at the huge bamboo forest that extends to Jackson’s Pool and Wagagai Peak. You can go 1600m on the first day.
  • The Piswa trail from Pakwach is slightly longer. This is permissible if the excursion originated at Kidepo National Park in the north. On the first day of this trek, you will cover around 700 metres and have the opportunity to see the huge Podocarpus forests, which are home to a variety of bird and mammal species.
  • The Sipi trek begins a few kilometres from Sipi Falls and passes via the Tatum Cave. Ascend the trail for a view of the surrounding forest and waterfalls.

All pathways take between 5 and 8 days of climbing and rest to reach the summit (Wagagai). All you need to transport is your necessary equipment. You can hire porters to assist with the transportation of larger bags.

Day Hikes: The Forest Exploration Centre has also developed three shorter paths ranging in length from 3 to 7 kilometres. 

These pathways are ideal for inexperienced hikers and travellers interested in experiencing Mount Elgon’s stunning scenery and animals in a short amount of time.

Fauna

Mount Elgon National Park is located at the foot of the mountain (from which it gets its name) and is only a short distance from the town of Mbale. 

The park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including buffalo, elephants, Defassa waterbuck, oribi, blue monkeys, waterbucks, spotted hyenas, bush pigs, serval cats, leopards, vervet monkeys, baboons and several rodent species. 

Seeing the animals offers an excellent break before (or possibly after) your walk up Mount Elgon. As you climb through the various sections of the mountain, you will see an increasing variety of species.

Bird spotting

birds live on Mount Elgon National Park (2)
About 300 species of birds live on Mount Elgon, including some afrotropical species such as Moorland Francolins and Moustached Tinkerbirds. PHOTO/BrilliantUganda

Mount Elgon is home to around 300 bird species, including some Afrotropical highland biome species such as Moorland Francolins, Moustached Tinkerbirds, and Alpine Chat. 

Other bird species include the Black Collared Apalis, the White Chinned Prinia, the Black-shouldered Kite, the Cinnamon Bee-Eater, the Tacazze, the African Goshawk, and the Chinspot Batis.

This is excellent news for bird-watching fans. Even if you are not very interested in birds, you can uncover species that you [probably] were unaware existed or are unable to view in any other place.

Cycling in the mountains

In 2012, the Uganda Wildlife Authority developed mountain bike paths on Mount Elgon. Sipi River Lodge rents bicycles. One 12-hour trek connects Sipi Trading Centre, which is located at an elevation of 1,775m, to Chema Hill in Kapchorwa.

The ascending routes’ rocky and challenging terrains make for a very thrilling mountain riding experience. 

The elevation and vegetation variations immerse you in a rare sense of connection with nature – all while enjoying your favourite sport of motorcycling.

Campsites

Camping is probably not that exciting for the majority of people. They prefer four robust walls and a door, which makes sense, yet camping on the rim of a volcano is an unforgettable experience.

Mount Elgon is home to the world’s largest volcanic caldera. Camping atop the Elgon caldera is unquestionably unique and worthy of talking about. At the summit, you’ll come across numerous volcanic characteristics such as hot springs and geysers.

For a charge, you can have your camping gear carried by a porter, ensuring that you do not exhaust yourself and lose out on the experience. All of this is pre-arranged by safari professionals.

Abseiling

This exhilarating adventure takes place on one of the Sipi falls’ cliffs. You descend 100m to a basin of water from one of the Sipi falls. 

As you abseil down the rock, take a dip in the pool before ascending back up the cliff at the top of the hill.

Waterfalls

On the northern and western flanks of Mt Elgon, the mountain rivers plummet over tremendous cliffs, generating some of the most spectacular waterfalls. 

Among these are the Sipi Falls, a collection of three stunning waterfalls. These are located outside of the park, and hiking to all three is a rewarding experience. 

The smallest of the falls cascades over a 100-metre cliff, followed by Simba at 69 metres and Ngasire at 87 metres.

There are further waterfalls in Wanale, Chebonet, Bulago, and Sisyi.

Conclusion

The above-mentioned activities and attractions are the top 6 things to look out for at Mount Elgon. However, there is so much more you can do to have a good time.

Additional activities available in and around Mount Elgon include the following:

  • Visits to coffee plantations and education on the traditional methods of coffee production
  • Visits to numerous communities in search of folktales and accounts of the people’s history
  • Visiting community initiatives such as schools and craft shops.

Mount Elgon can be visited independently or in conjunction with a tour to Kidepo, Pian Upe, Murchison, or Jinja.

We also recommend visiting Lake Mburo National ParkQueen Elizabeth National Park and Semuliki National Park on our Uganda tour guide for a complete experience.