Mount Elgon & Sipi Falls Uganda

Mt. Elgon is an extinct volcano that first erupted more than 24 million years ago. With the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world (50 km by 80 km ), Mt. Elgon is the fourth highest mountain in Eastern Africa, with the second-highest peak in Uganda. Mt. Elgon contains crater covering over 40 kms at the top of the mountain, surrounded by a series of rugged peaks.

Mount Elgon & Sipi Falls Uganda

The national park was declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. The main tourist attraction is mountain hiking to the caldera with the highest peak Wagagai at 4321m, Sudek at 4303m, Koitobos at 4222m and Mubiyi at 4210m.

This mountain is a significant watershed for a number of rivers such as River Sipi that forms the renowned spectacular Sipi falls.

Wildlife in Mt Elgon national park

 

Animals of Mt Elgon national park

The wildlife is mainly found in the lower slopes but rarely seen in the forest setting; Defassa waterbuck, Elephants, Oribi, Bushbucks, Buffaloes and Spotted Hyena.

The dense montane forest contains primates such as the black-and-white colobus monkey and the blue monkey.

 

Birds of Mt Elgon national park

Mt Elgon national park is home to 296 bird species and 40 Ugandan species whose range is limited to Mount Elgon and these include black collared Apalis, Jacksons Francolin, Lammergeyer, Black-shouldered Kite, and Tacazze sunbird. If you are looking for unique birds and beautiful scenery then Mt Elgon is should be on your bucket list.

 

Local Culture

Mount Elgon National Park is home to 2 tribes, the Sabiny and the Bagisu. The Sabiny speak Sebei, a Nilotic language and the Bagisu speak a dialect of the Lumasaba language called Lugisu.

The Bagisu believe that Mount Elgon is the manifestation of their founding father, Masaba, and call the mountain by this name. Both tribes undertake subsistence farming.

The Bagishu also called Bamasamba has one of the unique cultures in Uganda. The tribe leaves around the park to the nearest Mbale town. They have their annual circumcision ceremonies that are conducted around the region. The dance commonly known as “Mbalu” is more spiritual, cultural and unique. This is a dance they use to escort the youth who are supposed to be circumcised, the victims will be sprayed with dust, soil, ash, and other items and they make you dance while moving from place to place.

 

Safari Activities to enjoy in the park

 

Bird watching

Birding in Mt Elgon national park will give you species that you cannot find anywhere else. The common trail is one in Kapkwai forest exploration center, which continues along Chebonet river. Here you are likely to see the white-chinned Prinia, Luhders and Doherty’s Bush-shrikes, Chubb’s Cisticola, African Goshawk, African Blue Flycatcher and Baglafetcht weaver.

 

Mountain Hiking

Mt Elgon is generally less strenuous climb like other East African mountains but offers same scenic views. The park is explored on foot via different routes and trailheads ranging from day walks to hikes over several days. The Sasa trail is the shortest but steepest route to the peaks taking only four days – bamboo forest and Jackson’s pool. Sipi trail takes four to six days, starts at the forest exploration center at Kapkwai – tutum cave. The Piswa trail is a seven-day round trip starting at a village off Kapkwata – podocarps forest. One can alternatively combine the different trails, ascending by Sipi trail and descending along Sasa trail allowing you to experience more features of the mountain.

 

There are local porters available to make your hike easier each carrying supplies in addition to collecting water, cooking and preparing the camp. Hikers should consider symptoms and treatment of hypothermia and other forms of altitude sickness. Above 2500m, altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of age, fitness, or previous mountain hiking experience. The most effective treatment is descent to lower altitude.

 

Abseiling

This thrilling activity is done down one of the cliffs of the Sipi falls. You drop down 100m overlooking the ridge next to a pool of water from one of the Sipi falls. Enjoy watching the different scenery as you abseil down the rock, on reaching down you can take a dip in the pool before ascending back up the cliff to the top of the hill.

 

Rock Climbing

Another engaging activity outside Mt Elgon national park is rock climbing. This takes place at Sipi with 14 climbs that require rock-scaling techniques. The toughest climb is 35m while the easiest is 15m – for anyone interested in rock climbing, then you want to try this.

 

CAMPING

Five basic campsites are located at strategic points along the trekking circuit. Please respect Park regulations by camping only at designated campsites. No camping is allowed within the caldera. MENP camping is primitive, and all necessary camping equipment must be carried with you. Some items such as tents and sleeping bags can be hired through the Park office in Mbale. Make sure not to forget a warm jacket and rain gear, as extreme weather conditions will add to your Mt. Elgon adventure! Also please take a fuel-efficient camp stove if possible to avoid placing additional pressure on MENP firewood resources.

 

Sport fishing

At the highest of the Sipi falls, there is an opportunity for sport fishing which will keep you busy as some of the locals join you. It provides a good challenge to anyone interested in the rainbow trout. Remember to bring your own equipment and obtain a permit from Sipi river lodge.

 

Nature and Hiking walks

There are numerous trails both inside the park and outside walking through Mt Elgon vegetation. At Sipi falls guides from the community take you on walks that can start from two hours to a whole days walk where you will have views of the Karamajong region and Sebei region.

There is full hike through Budadiri to Mudange cliffs, which is known as the walls of death. These cliffs are located in a tropical forest at the boundary of the national park. You will have sights of Black-and-white Colobus monkeys and Baboons along the trail.

 

Water Falls

The mountain rivers plunge over massive cliffs on the northern and western sides of Mt Elgon forming some of the most beautiful falls. Among these are three beautiful falls together known as the Sipi Falls. These are outside the park and a hike to all the three is a fulfilling experience. The lowest of the falls flows over 100m cliff, followed by Simba at 69m and then Ngasire at 87m.

More waterfalls are found in Wanale, chebonet, Bulago and Sisyi.

 

Mountain Biking

Kapchorwa and the entire Mt Elgon region provide great mountain biking routes that will keep your adrenaline high as you traverse the area. The mountain biking routes start from Sipi trading center to Chema hill in Kapchorwa. You have beautiful views of Karamoja plains and several water falls enroute.

 

Caves

Like most mountains, Mt Elgon slopes have caves, which were left by moving lava when the mountain was formed many years ago. The most accessible are Kapkwai cave and Khauka cave on Wanale Ridge. Hikers used the caves as shelter and currently they act as locations for camps.

 

Agro-tourism, Cultural encounters and Community trails

The best coffee in Uganda is from this rich and fertile region of Mt Elgon. Experience the entire coffee process by taking a guided walk through the coffee shambas on the slopes of Mt Elgon. You will visit the shambas and homes to experience coffee planting demonstration, picking, grinding, storage, and washing. The coffee from here is Arabic and also known as Sipi or Bugisu coffee.

 

Getting to Mount Elgon National Park

From Kampala

The journey from Kampala to Mount Elgon National Park is around 235km.

The first leg is on a tarmac road that runs through Jinja to Mbale, a city in the Eastern Region of Uganda. The road then climbs to Kapchorwa on Mount Elgon’s north-western side.

The second leg of the journey is on dirt roads that lead off the Mbale-Kapchorwa road to reach the various trailheads.

You can also take chartered flight from Entebbe to Soroti and then drive back wards.

 

What should you expect on a Climb up Mt Elgon?

Expect to see the gradual change of vegetation belts as you go higher. On the lower slopes you will find dense forest and due to the rainfall in the area the trees are often covered lichen, vine like lians and epiphytes while the forest floor seems to be carpeted with ferns and flowering plants such as wild orchids. The Bamboo forest region is next at about 2,000 plus meter elevation, beyond that is the open woodland, further on up you have giant heathers in meadows of grass and flowers, onward and upward to the Afro-Montane zone with its giant lobelias an groundsel. The climb is an exhilarating exercise and a good way to spend a few days of your safari. There is a lot of history and geography to be learnt as you climb and explore this great caldera. On the foothills of the mountain, you can hear the sounds of the sipi falls, which are also a must see on your visit to eastern Uganda.

 

Where to Stay at Mount Elgon National Park

Simple accommodation facilities are available inside the Park at the Kapkwata Rest House and the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai. Prior arrangements through the MENP Visitors’ office in Mbale are necessary as these facilities do not accommodate large numbers of visitors. Kitchen services are available, but visitors should bring their own food supplies or provide money to buy food on arrival . The Forest Exploration Centre also conducts a four-day environmental program for school groups of up to 30 students which allow children to experience a living forest ecosystem while learning the importance of conservation. It has dormitory – style rooms and bathing facilities with running water.

Sipi River Lodge

Our favourite luxury accommodation is situated in the foothills of Mount Elgon. This lodge has spectacular views of Mount Elgon National Park. For travellers who are seeking secluded accommodation, Sipi has 4 Waterfall Cottages: Aniet, Kapsurur, Chepkui, and Toben.

Each cottage has an exclusive view of Kapsurur Falls, as well as an en suite bathroom and a private veranda. Sipi also offers 3 Riverside Bandas, Piswa, Sasa, and Suam.

The bandas fuse luxury with local building traditions. Their round walls and authentically crafted thatched roofing allow the bandas to seamlessly blend in with their beautiful surroundings.

Mount Elgon Hotel and Spa

Located in the suburbs of Mbale, this mid-range accommodation was converted from an old colonial building in the 1950s. Mount Elgon Hotel offers 3 types of accommodation: Junior Rooms, Superior Rooms, and Executive Suites. The Executive Suites have hosted several VIP guests, including politicians and members of royal families.

After a long day of trekking, you can choose whether to recuperate in the spa, the mini-gym, or the restaurant. You can even book a cocktails and wine tasting experience and enjoy a bespoke drinking experience.

Kapkwai Cottages

Situated at the entrance of Mount Elgon National Park, this budget accommodation was originally built as a base for students who came to visit the rich forest.

The accommodation is functional but comfortable and travellers can choose between 4 cottages and 4 stationed tents.

The on-site canteen sells food and drink, allowing you to refuel after a long day of activity.

 

Resources

Visit http://www.ugandawildlife.org/ Bwindi – a resource for tourists looking to visiting Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with lots of information on what to see, what to do, how to get there and more

https://www.kagerasafaris.com/mount-elgon-national-park/amp/

https://www.brilliant-uganda.com/mount-elgon-national-park

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