Mount Elgon National Park and Sipi Falls
Mount Elgon is the eighth highest mountain in Africa covering 1121 sq kms and fourth tallest mountain in East Africa. It is located on the border Kenya and is one of the World Largest Mountain Caldera. It’s an extinct volcano of 4321 meters above sea level, the tallest peak – Wagagai at 4321m laying in the southwest caldera rim. Other peaks are Kiongo 4303m in the south, Mubiyi 4210m in the north and Jackson’s Summit 4165m in the east. Besides the peaks in the park, there are hidden caves, clear waterfalls and historic rock sculptures.
The park also boasts 305 bird species, Antelopes, Elephants, Buffalos and Forest Monkeys. Mount Elgon surroundings include the Sipi Falls on the upper slopes that cascades down the foothills by over 7kms forming 4 series of waterfalls. Sipi Falls is situated on the foothills of Mount Elgon one of the beautiful waterfalls in Uganda in 3 levels. Mount Elgon National Park is managed and operated by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
This extinct volcano is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features, first erupting around 24 million years ago.
Mount Elgon was once Africa’s highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m. Millennia of erosion have reduced its height to 4,321m, relegating it to the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th on the continent.
Mount Elgon is home to two tribes, the Bagisu and the Sabiny, with the marginalized Ndorobos forced to dwell deep within the forest of Benet.
The Bagisu, also known as the BaMasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father Masaba and refer to the mountain by this name.
Together with the fauna and flora, Mount Elgon national park has a variety of scenery; this includes cliffs, caves, gorges, waterfalls, hot springs, mesas, calderas, and the mountain peaks. The most popular areas are the four explorable, vast caves where frequent night visitors such as buffaloes and elephants come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. Kitum cave, with overhanging crystalline walls, enters 200m into the side of Mount Elgon. At the Endebess Bluff there a panoramic view of the areas’ escarpments, mesas, gorges, and rivers.
Tourists on a Uganda safari circuit can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season and it is usually advisable to use 4×4 vehicles to access the park. Available tourist accommodation include; Lacaam Lodge, Sipi River Lodge, the UWA Bandas, and a number of accommodation facilities in Mbale town.
The major tourist activities in Mount Elgon national park include; game viewing, caves exploration especially Kitum, Chepnyali, and Mackingeny, primates and bird watching, butterfly watching, Hiking to the peaks, self guided walking trails, and camping photography. There are also visits to the hot springs in the former volcano’s crater which bubble at temperatures of up to 48 °C.
Mountain Climbing an alternative to the strenuous climbs of East Africa, there are five designated campsites at Sasa River, Mude Cave, Hunters Cave, Piswa Patrol Hut and Kapkwata with basic amenities for the mountain climbers. The Sasa Trail is a 3-4-day a round trip to the summit of 1650m from Budadiri. The Sipi Trail begins at Forest Exploration Centre and takes 4- 7 days descending via Sasa Trail. The Piswa Trail best for wildlife viewing and takes 6-7 days descending through Sasa Trail (6days) or Sipi Falls(7days), Suam Trail is a 5-day route climbing through Suam Gorge right along the Kenya Border.
Mountain Biking – Trails along Sipi Trading Centre to Chema Hill for 1.5 hours and provides views of the water falls.
Birdwatching around Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre along the trail to Cheptui Falls and on the Sipi Falls Trails. Look out for the African Blue Flycatcher, White-chinned Prinia and African Goshawk among others.
Rock Climbing can be done both inside Mount Elgon andat Sipi along 14 different routes with the most challenging a 35m climb and the least a 15m climb.
Sport Fishing (Mountain Trout Fish) is done on the highest of the 3 water falls at Sipi Falls with a catch and release method.
The Budadiri Community Walk – this community-based tourism experience allows tourists to explore some of the verdant arabica coffee plantations and also learn or participate in the different regional cultural dance performances, traditional food preparation methods, legends in addition to tasting the popular Malewa dish (prepared from bamboo shoots).
Imbalu Bagisu Circumcision taking place in August and December as a cultural heritage , a right of passage for Bagisu men done publically.
Nature walks offer amazing views of the sipi falls, the walls of death and the African sunrise across the Karamoja plains just outside Mt. Elgon National Park.
Nyero Rock Painting – This can be visited as a day trip from Mt. Elgon. Get to explore the three cave that contain the drawings. Nyero 1 – depicts geometric and abstract paintings probably used for sacred rituals, such as: rain-making and fertility.
Nyero 2 – This is the biggest and highest paintings, painted using ladders and made by Pygmies.
Nyero 3 – This depicts a small low shelter with ceiling paintings that includes sets of concentric circles painted in white.
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Best Time to Visit
|Best time to go:||December to February and June to July (Dry seasons)|
|High Season:||June to September (More people visit Uganda since it is the peak time for gorilla tracking)|
|Low Season:||March, April, May, October and November (A number of camps and lodges close)|
|Best Weather:||Mid-December to February (Less rainfall)|
|Worst Weather:||Mid-March to May and mid-August to November (High rainfall, roads can become impassable)|
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For a relatively small country, there’s a lot that’s big about the place. It’s home to the tallest mountain range in Africa (Rwenzori Mountains), the source that feeds the world’s longest river and the continent’s largest lake. And with half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas residing here, as well as the Big Five to be ticked off, wildlife watching is huge.
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