Mount Elgon straddles the border between Kenya and Uganda. The Kenyan portion of the mountain has been a national park for several decades, and the upper slopes of the Ugandan portion were gazette as a 1,145km² national park in October 1993, with the primary aim of protecting a watershed that supplies over two million people with water.
Like most other large mountains in East Africa, Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano, a relic of the volcanic activity that formed the Rift valley several years ago. Its main peaks, including Wagagi, circle the jagged but largely intact caldera, which at 7 km by 8 km is one of the largest in the world. With crater lakes filling the caldera, which was formed by glacial activity during the Pleistocene era.
Mount Elgon national park Flora and Fauna
While ascending Mount Elgon’s enchanting slopes, you will meet four-distinct forest types: the lush Montana forest where you will find the Elgon peak, the mixed bamboo belt, the fascinating heath and spectacular moorland hierarchs which contain stands of some of the rarest endemic plant species, like the giant lobelia elgonensis and dotted clusters of peculiar groundsels which are unique in Africa.
You will also encounter the dense shrubs and brilliant wild everlasting flowers that will add to your Mount Elgon adventure.
Bird lovers will enjoy about 300 bird species, including the endangered lammergeiers, the rare Jackson’s francolin, guinea fowls, sun-birds and turacos, among others.
A number of primates inhabit the mountain, other animals include bush-buck, antelope, civet, and wildcat and the elusive leopard roams below. Bush duiker, hyena, jackal, rock hyrax, buffalo and elephant rove between the forest and the moorland. Many of these animals visit Mount Elgon’s bat-filled caves for their valuable mineral deposits.
Mbale is the third-largest town in Uganda, and despite a run-down appearance, it has considerably more going for it than either Tororo or Busia towns. For one thing, it has a most attractive setting; nestling at an altitude of roughly 1,200m in the Mount Elgon foothills, Mbale’s eastern skyline is dominated by the 2,348m Mount Nkokonjeru, towered over on a clear day by the volcanic peaks of the 4,321m-high Mount Elgon.
Mbale is also a healthily bustling town, markedly less sleepy than it was a few years back and offering good facilities to travellers. This destination sees a substantial number of travellers at present because of its popularity of the organized Mount Elgon climbs which start at eh nearby village of Budadiri.
Mbale is a useful base for excursions in the Elgon region, but – a couple of striking Asian buildings aside – there is not a great deal to do in the town itself. If you have a free afternoon, the walk through the leafy suburbs to the Mount Elgon hotel is the most attractive prospect on offer.
The area around Mbale is occupied by the Bagisu, one of the few groups in Uganda who practice traditional circumcision. During the year of circumcision, parties are much evident in both the rural areas and marching down the streets of Mbale itself. Circumcision (Imbalu) is seen as the mark of adulthood, and it is evidently taken very seriously.
You could visit Jinja from Mbale town.