Mount Elgon national park
Mount Elgon national park is found north east of Lake Victoria and it borders Kenya close to mbale town. The national park covers an area of 1145 square kilometers and was named after the elgonnyi tribe that once lived in the caves on the south side of the mountain and the highest peak wagagai was named after the wife of masaba named `kakai’ which measures 4321 meters. There are also other impressive peaks on the mountain which include Jackson’s summit at 4165 meters, kiongo and mubiyi at 4303meters and 4210 meters respectively. Mount elgon national park is commonly visited by tourists interested in hiking and mountain climbing experience though the park has got interesting activities within and outside the park.
ATTRACTIONS IN MOUNT ELGON NATIONAL PARK
On the slopes of mount elgon there are various caves which were left by erosion and moving lava of soft volcanic deposits that erupted in the earlier days. The accessible rocks are kapkwai cave and khauka cave on wanale ridge. Long ago these acted as shelter for livestock of the people who were the original inhabitants of the mountain. Campsites have been put in place at the formerly hunters cave, siyo cave that is near the hot springs and mude cave, the tutum cave are also good for overnight expeditions.
JACKSONS POOL AND PEAK
The pool is standing at 4,050meters in a natural pool occupied by shallow waters. It lies in the lowland of the 4,165m high. The free-standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of the mountain and were named after the explorer Frederick Jackson, who was the first European to climb mountain Elgon in 1889. The peak has an attachment to the locals that use it to communicate with their ancestors who left them long time ago.
THE PEAKS AND THE CALDERA
The highest peaks of mount elgon were formed by high points around a jagged rim enclosing the world’s largest calderas with 40 kilometers long and 8 kilometers wide. The tallest peak which is wagagai with 4,321meters which is followed by sudek with 4,303meters, koitobos with 4,222meters and mubiyi with 4,210meters.
The caldera which was formed as a result of magma which was drained from the chamber. Since it couldn’t hold the overlying volcanic cone it collapsed into a depression like shape. Within the eastern corner of the caldera there are hot springs at the start of deep Suam gorge, while in the north west Simu gorge which was formed by sheer weight of the water cutting two stream bed of the weak volcanic ash and agglomerate walls.
Mount elgon vegetation is categorized into broad zones with characteristics that are known by altitude and rainfall. The lower mountain slopes are covered by dense forest and regenerating forests, hung with vine like lianas, epiphytes and lichens. The ground is covered by ferns, orchids and flowering plants. The tree species that are viewed in the tropical montane forest are olive oleahochstetteri, prunus africanus, elgon teak, Podocarpus, cedar, Cordia, neoboutania among others.
NKOKENJERU RIDGE AND WANALE
Nkokenjeru is a figure of the forest extending outwards from the main forest of mount elgon and it lies at an elevation of 2,347meters and covers 25 kilometers long tongue of lava which flowed out of the river side of the volcano after the cone collapsed to block the main vent. The ridge builds up the amazing wanale cliffs which tower above the mbale town. The seasonal nabuyonga and namatyo waterfalls are found here. A trail at the western end leads to khauka cave where petrified wood is found. On clear days tourists may enjoy the panorama of wagagai peak and the areas of western Kenya. The locals have a saying where they believe that no throwing a stone into nabuyonga stream because if you do so thunderstorm will strike before you leave.
Within the north and western side of mount elgon there’s a series of massive basalt cliff where the mountains rivers plunge as amazing waterfalls. The common waterfalls at sipi on kapchorwa road with the lowest which is the most viewed as it cascades over a 100meter cliff. The second one is Simba with 69meters over the entrance of the cave and the third being the ngasire which gushes over 87meters high ridge. The falls are amazing and give the best experience on a Uganda safari.
ACTIVITIES IN MOUNT ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Mount elgon national park has over 300 bird species and over 50 afro tropical highland biome species. The only bird species that tourists will find in mount elgon national park include moorland francolin, moustached green tinker bird and the alpine chat. Therefore, within the national park birds can be viewed most especially the bird lovers.
This is the major activity done within the national park. Hiking mountain elgon gives tourists a very amazing experience which bonds them with mountains and nature. There are hiking trails that are used and along there are various sceneries to see that makes the hiking activity amazing. These include; sasa trail, piswa trail and sipi trail.
The sasa trail; this is considered to be the most accessible route and tourists are able to view the bamboo forest through Jackson’s pool on to wagagai peak.
The sipi trail; this begins a few meters from sipi falls and gives tourists a chance to pass through the Tatum cave. The more the tourists hike it gives them a view of a forest and the many waterfalls.
Piswa trail; this trail is the longest trail and tourists can use it if they are coming from kidepo national park. The tourists get a chance to view the Podocarpus forest alongside birds and wildlife.
In 2012 the Uganda wildlife authority opened up trails for mountain biking. While biking the rocky and rugged surface of the trail gives an amazing experience. The tourists become so attached with nature due to the altitude and weather changes. The activity takes place at one of the trails that run from sipi trading center to Cheema hill in kapchorwa town and it can take 1 -10hours.
This takes place outside mount elgon at sipi falls and there are various routes that need the rock scaling techniques. The easiest route is 5 meters while the hardest is 35-meter climb. The rock-climbing activity is rewarding with amazing views of the falls and the Karamoja plains.
GUIDED NATURE WALKS
The tourists can choose either to do a full day or half a day of the walk. The walks can be carried out at mudange cliffs greatly known as the walls of death found in the tropical forest which give tourists a great view of baboons, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys. The walk leads the tourists to sipi which makes them to enjoy amazing water falls, African sunrise across the Karamoja plains.