Mountain Elgon National Park Uganda, Mountain Hiking Safari Uganda, Mountain Climbing Tours
About 228Km (3Hrs 30min), North east of Kampala capital, lies Mount Elgon National park. The park is situated in the Eastern region of Uganda and spreads along the border with Kenya. It covers a total area of about 1,279Km, stretching from Uganda to Kenya. However, Uganda covers most of the national park with a total of about 1110Km area possession, shared by districts of Mbale and Kapchorwa. Kenya possess only 169Km of the national park. Mount Elgon national park derives its name from its most distinctive feature, Mt.Elgon. The area where the park lies was gazzetted as a forest reserve by the British protectorate government in 1929. Later, in 1937, the reserves boundary was surveyed and degazzetted to provide land for settlement to the locals. In 1940, they named the area the “mount Elgon Crown forest and Mt.Elgon Central Forest Reserve in 1951. 21yrs after the 1962 Uganda independence, a total of 6,000 hectares (60Km); the size of about 20 villages, were set aside from Mt Elgon Forest Reserve in 1983 by the Government of Uganda.
Attractions at Mount Elgon National Park
The mountain is an extinct/in active volcano with the largest volcanic base spreading to about 80Km in diameter; and is also the largest free standing mountain in the world. It is one of the oldest Mountain in East Africa and was formed by volcanic activity. It first erupted more than 24millions years ago. At an elevation of about 4321m, Mt.Elgon is the 4th highest mountain in East Africa, and 7th in Africa. The maasai and the Masaba people used to call the mountain ‘OlDoinyoIIgoon which literally means breas mountain.
It has 5 major peaks; Masaba(4161) Mubiyi(4211m), Koitobos(4222m), Sudek (4302m); and the highest that marks the mountains peak elevation, Wagagai(4321m). Wagagai peak was first recorded in 1911 by European explorers, Kmunk and Stiger. Uganda is fully in possession of Wagagai, Mubiyi and Masaba. It only shares one peak with Kenya, Sudek.
The water fall lies at the age of the national parks’ area cover in Uganda, Kapchorwa District. Situated about 275Km away from the Kampala Capital, Sipi has a series of 3 waterfalls; the highest and most magnificent drops off a cliff at a height of 100m; the second, Simba, dropping at a height of 69m; and Ngasire dropping at a height of 87m, off a ridge. Sipi falls derives its name from a plant known as ‘sep’. The plant grows along the banks of the river and is used as a herb by the locals to treat measles and fever. The area where the falls is situated is at an elevation that ranges from about 1600 to 1900m altitude. The altitude of the place has favored the growing of Arabica coffee. Arabica coffee only grows in areas with an altitude like that of sipi.
Mt.Elgon National Park is characterized with rich red laterite fertile soils and is a water catchment area having a number of rivers such as Suam River; which drains into Lake Turkana in Kenya; Nzoia and Lwakhakha Rivers which flow into Lake Victoria. The park’s vegetation is composed of tropical Montane rainforest and open moorland studded with giant lobelia and groundsel plants. The vegetation is determined by altitude.
- The mountain slopes are covered with less but wet tropical montane forest which moves up to 2500m altitude. It is characterized with trees such as the olive Oleahochstetteri, Elgon teak, cedar, podocarpus, Cordia, prunusafricanas etc.
- Higher between 2500mm and 3000mm altitude is the bamboo and low canopied forest. It is characterized with Pod carpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpine.
- Above, between 3000m and 3500m altitude is the heath zone characterized by giant heather , grassy swards dotted with pink and white everlasting flowers, flame-colored gladioli, blue delphiniums and red hot pokers etc
- Higher is the theHageniaabyssinica zone characterized by montane forest; And above it between 3500m and 3800m altitude is the moorland characterized by heath Erica arborea and herbs such as Alchemilla, Helichrysum, Lobelia etc
The national park is home to a number of species; Over 300 bird species such as the Jackson francolin, black collared apalis, the mustached green tinker bird etc; over 144 mammal species such as buffalo, antelope, waterbucks, elephants etc; and primates such as, blue monkey, red tailed, black and white colobus among others.
The Masaba people are found in Mbale district. They are also known as gishu or Bagisu, an ethnic group part of the Bantu people. Mbale has a population of about 521 thousand people (2015 census) who lve on the slopes and valley of Mt.Elgon. The official language spoken is Lumasaba.
Before the arrival of Europeans, Bamasaaba were organised into a decentralized system. They had a strong fighting force of youths, whose pre-occupation was to herd livestock and hunt. When the Europeans arrived in the area in the late 1890’s, they established a British colonial base in the area and changed the political system of the Bamasaba into an Anglican system.
The bamasaba are famously known in Uganda for their act of male circumcision, locally known as “Imbalu”. The Imbalu is a circumcision ceremony whose purpose is to initiate a male into adulthood. Without being circumcised, one is not considered a man. The ceremony is spearheaded with the “Kadodi”, a type of dance which involves shaking elbows, twisting waists and stumping feet. The dance is meant to give the subject moral before he is finally circumcised. He goes door to door collecting gifts from well-wishers and finally circumcised. The circumcision doesn’t involve sterilizing, one is meant to feel and endure the pain wholly. Impalu ceremony is held every after a period of 2 years.
Their main food is Malewa. Malewa is smoked bamboo shoot which is also dried for preservation. The bamboo shoot is got from the Mountain of Elgon. The Malewa is the main food served on all the traditional ceremonies such as the Imbalu.
Belonging to the Nilotic ethnic group, Sebei’s are found in Kapchorwa District, East of Uganda, with a total of about 230 thousand people (2015 Census). The language spoken is known as Sebei and the people are known as sabiny’s. The people live on the eastern slopes of Mt.Elgonand there major economic activity is pastoralism. They also cultivate crops such as millet, sorghum, maize etc., which they store in granaries.
The similarity between the Bamasaba and the Sebei people is that they both carry out circumcision, a practice that they believe to initiate one from childhood to adulthood. However, the Sebei carry out the practice on both genders.
The circumcision ceremony is known as ‘Meriket’ and doesn’t involve sterilizing. The whole process of finalizing the ceremony takes a maximum of 6 months. It as well involves body piercing and marking.
Boys undergo the initiation at the age of 18 or 20yrs; girls however undergo the act at a much younger age of around 10 to 14yrs.Circumcision of the females involves slicing off of the clitoris, arguably the most sexually sensitive female organ. Uncircumcised women are not allowed to collect food from granaries or to enter the cattle kraals.
Tourist Activities at Mount Elgon National Park
The park is a habitant to over 300 bird species. They include White chinned Prinia, African blue Flycatcher, African Goshawk and many more. Birding is possible around the Kapkwai exploration center.
The activity is done on a series of trails. While hiking or nature walking; primates, elephants and other species can be seen. The time taken to complete the activity is determined by what trail taken.
Sasa trail: It is the shortest but toughest route. It lasts for 4days and the start point is at Budadiri town. At an elevation of 1250m, the hiking kick starts and by the end of the day, a climb of over 1600m altitude is covered. There is crossing of the parks largest forest concentration and jackson’s pool on theway to Wagagai peak. (4 days)
Piswa trail: It is the gentlest trail.It starts in the village of Kapkwata, north of the mountain. It crosses the podocarpus forestand a Spectacular view of wildlife; and Karamoja plains. It passes the hot springs to the caldera and the peaks. (7 days 49Km round trip)
Sipi Trail: It starts at Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre, northwest of the mountain at an elevation of 2050m altitude. It is the longest trail to the peaks. It goes through Tutum cave to the Caldera and finally to Wagagi peak. It begins gently and becomes tougher by the 3rd day. (4 to 6days 56km)
Hiking on the mountain is suitable during the dry season in the months of mid-December to March; and in June. However, one can hike throughout the year.
- Sleeping bag
- Warm clothes
- Hiking shoes
- Water bottle
- Rain gear
- First aid kit
- Cooking equipment
- Sufficient food.
Rate: US$75 (per day)
Porters are needed to carry luggage during the hike. They charge 15,000Ugshs per day.
Community Encounter as a Tourist Activity at Mount Elgon National Park
The two districts of Mbale and Kapchorwa are a home to the Masaba and sebei people respectively.
The Masaba/ Bagisu are a famous tribe well known for the practice of circumcision, accompanied by the famous Kadodi Dance. The rhythm of the Kadodi must be having some Magic attached to it because you will not remain firm upon hearing the drums and other instruments being played; you will find yourself moving your body and nodding the head to the tune. Before you realize it, you will be shaking your body and dancing to the Kadodi tune. Kadodi is a very influential rhythm that will take you be surprise. During the encounter of the Masaba, you will have a community walk to different sites. The tour offers unusual and unforgettable insight into the everyday life of the people in the community. If happen to visit the community during the period of circumcision, you will become a witness to the theImbaluCeremony where you will also dance to the famous Kadodi rhythm. On several occasions, even if it is not the period of circumisssion, you can still be able to watch the Kadodiperfomed by local Masaba dancing groups.You will also eat Masaba’s staple food, Malewa prepared from bamboo shoot.
It takes courage and a lot of bravery to be a Sebei person. The tribe is famously known for the act of circumcising females by slicing their most sensitive organ, the clitoris. While in the sebei land, you will have a community walk to different sites, experience the everyday life of the Sabiny’s. Forget the technology advancement where everything is made simple; in sebei land, you will have to grind millet and Sorghum on a local grinding stone and pound a couple of food in a pounder made out of wood. It requires a lot of energy to pond and grind; therefore, you will use the opportunity to test your energy level. After the grinding and pounding, the food is stored in granaries, a small house made out of soil and sometimes smeared with Cow dung to make it more firm. The house is usually raised by sticks firm into the ground and is used as a store place for food. You will be entertained by the sebei people with traditional dancing and singing.
Accommodations in Mount Elgon National Park
At Sipi Falls:
Sipi River Lodge:
The lodge offers Luxury and midrange accommodation. It has a bar and all accommodation comes with full board. A 10% discount is given to EAC clients and the prices for children depend on the age and number of adults. It is divided into:
Kaspurur and Aniet Cottage:US$248for 2adults
Chepkui family cottage: vary from US$210, 285, 359 to 434; for 2 to 5adults respectively.
The seven Dwarfs House(family): vary from US$210, 285, 359 to 434 for 2 to 5adults respectively.
Piswa and Bandas:(giant bed,shared bathroom) US$132 double and US$107 single occupancy
Suam Bunkhouse; (shared bathroom) US$64
It is a budget lodge having camping grounds with tents and cottages. It is found about 100m away from the falls.
|Cottage twin beds||US$50 pp|
The hotel is a deluxe 5 star hotel in the city center with 94 rooms ranging from standard, double, twin and triple rooms; suites and deluxe rooms. The rooms hav facilities such as mini bar, Wifi, telephone, hair dryer, coffee maker and an LCD TV with satelite channels. Other facilities include fully stocked bar, restaurant, dining area, spa, gym and swimming pool.
|ROOM||SINGLE US$||DOUBLE US$|
|Executive double, Twin &tripple||125||152|
|Deluxe Double, twin||78||87|
|Standard Single Room||43|
How to get to Mount Elgon National Park
Kampala – Mukono – Lugazi – Jinja – Iganga – Mbale228km² 4hrs
Kampala to Mukono town: Drive distance is about 23Km and drive time 54Min. Between the two points; you will be able to view Uganda’s National Stadium from a distance, Mandela National Stadium, at Kireka, a small town that is located 10Km East of Kampala city center( 23min Drive time). You will also be able to view one of Uganda’s busiest industrial area at Namanve, about 14Km east of Kampala city center (40min drive time). It is here that one of the famous compaies in Uganda is located, just along the road, century Bottling company; a company that manufatures a famous soft Drink, Coca cola and other drinks.
Mukono to Lugazi town: Drive distance is about 24Km and lasts for about 30min.
Lugazi to Jinja town: Drive distance is about 36Km ad lasts for about 40Min. The journey between the two points is indeed rewarding. As you drive through Lugazi town, you will view one of Uganda’s biggest sugar manufacturing Company, Lugazi sugar work; just on your left as you go round the main the round-about. If you love feasting on roasted meat and chicken, Namawojolo area will be the perfect stop for your feasting. Locally known as ‘Muchomo’, the roasted meat and chicken at Namawojolo is said to be the best compared to all Muchomo points along highways in Uganda. When you drive further, about 6Km (10min) away from Lugazi town, towards Jinja; you will encounter one of the breath taking and spectacular rainforest in Uganda, Mabira. Mabira is the longest and largest rainforest in Uganda stretching on an area of about 300Km². It is home to several primates, mammal, butterflies, reptile, birds and many more wildlife species. While driving through the forest, take the opportunity to breath in Fresh Air and you will realize how Nature is good to Humanity. As you approach Jinja, you will encounter one of the biggest Beer manufacturing company in Uganda, Nile Special. Nile special is named after the longest river in Uganda and the world stretching about 4,258miles through several African Countries, River Nile. However, the most Unique thing about the presence of the river in Uganda is that it is in Jinja where you find its Source. The river marks the boundary of Jinja and Buikwe district. Therefore, you are required to cross into Jinja via a bridge. Below the bridge, lies the biggest Hydro Electric damn that generates electricity serving most of areas in Uganda, Owen falls damn. Jinja is one of the prime tour destinations in Uganda, with a number of tour activities all centered on the Nile River. The activities include water rafting, bungee jumping, fishing, boat cruise, quad motor biking, Kayaking and many more.
Jinja to Iganga: Drive distatance is about 40Km and lasts for about 40min.
Iganga to Mbale: Drive distance is 107Km via tirinyi road and lasts for about 1Hr and 30min.
Kampala – Mukono – Lugazi – Jinja – Iganga – Palisa – Mbale 281Km² 4Hrs 30min.
This was done in order to resettle the Benet-Ndorobo people who had lived in the forest all their lives.
The idea was to protect the forest reserve from destruction but also to ensure that landless people are not abandoned.Unfortunately, the civil servants and district leaders who were in charge of distributing the 6,000 hectares among the landless Benet-Ndorobo people instead shared out the land amongst themselves and people they wished to have part of the land. The rest of the Benet people who were lucky enough to own part of the land had sold off their allotment to the rich civil servants; and encroached on the national park. This caused a further 1,500 hectares of land to be encroached on, totaling to 7,500hectares (75Km) from the original 6,000hectares. However, the reserve was finally declared a national park in 1994 by the Ugandan Government and is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. In 2002, the 1,500 hectares that had illegally been occupied was degazetted. The park has a moist to moderate dry climate with annual rainfall of about 1270mm. It has 2 rain seasons, from March to April; and September to November. However, the wettest months are from April to October.
The mountain determines rainfall in the National park and the surrounding areas. There is mean annual rainfall of about 1500mm on the east and northern slopes; 2000mm on the south and western slopes. The rest of the year is the dry season with temperatures ranging from 15 to 23°C. It is hottest from December to February.
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