Mount Elgon National Park is a good alternative to climbing Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains or Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania since it offers a milder climate, lower elevation and much more reasonable prices. Also, it’s arguably a more scenic climb than the latter. The park encompasses the upper regions of Mt Elgon to the Kenyan Border and this is said to be one of the largest surface areas of any extinct Volcano in the world.
Elgon whose name is derived from the Massai name Ol Doinyo Ilgon (breast mountain) has five major peaks with the highest, Wagagai(4321m), rising on the Uganda side. It’s the second tallest mountain in Uganda (after Mt Stanley at 5109m) and the eighth in Africa, though millions of years ago it was the continent’s tallest. The mountain is prepared with cliffs, caves, gorges and waterfalls, and the views from the higher reaches stretch way across eastern Uganda’s plains.
The lower slopes are clothed in tropical montane forest with extensive stands of Bamboo. Above 3000m the forest fades into heath and then afro-alpine moorland, which blankets the caldera, a collapsed crater covering some of 40 sq km. The moorland is studded with rare plant species, such as giant groundsel and endemic Lobelia elgonensis.
Mt Elgon may be a relatively easy climb, but this is still a wild mountain. Rain, hail and thick mists aren’t uncommon, even in the dry season, and night-time temperatures frequently drop below freezing. The best time to climb is from June to August or December to March but the seasons are unpredictable and it can rain at any time, Pack adequate clothing and at least one day’s extra food just in case.
While in is beautiful mountain you will often see Duiker bounding through the long grass. In September it’s decorated with wildflowers and you will probably see few primates.
The Forest Exploration Centre lies in the Forested Chebonet Valley at an altitude of 2057m with a network of trails providing access to the surrounding montane forest. The secondary forest and thick scrub along the Chebonet River near camp supports Africa Goshawk, Chubb’s Cisticola, white chinned prinia, African blue flycatcher, Chin-spot Batis, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Doherty’s and Luhder’s Bush-Shrikes and Baglafecht weaver.
At the correct season when wild Tabacco or Exotic gum trees bring in Green-headed, Northern Double-collared and Bronze sunbirds. Seedeaters such as Grey-headed Negrofinch, Yellow-billed and Black-crowned Waxbills, Yellow-crowned Canary, African Citril and Streaky Seedeater, Cinnamon Chested bee-eater, Mountain Wagtail, Olive Pigeon, Black and white-casqued Hornbills, Slender-billed and Mountain Greenbuls, Red-winged, Slender-billed, Waller’s, Bristle-crowned and Stuhlmann’s Starling, Grey-throated Barbet and Montane Oriole.
Search for any feeding Flocks you will encounter Shelley’s and Mountain Greenbuls, African Hill Warbler, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Chestnut-throated, Grey, Black-throated and the attractive Black-collared Apalises, White-tailed crested flycatcher, Black-throated wattle Eye, Brown-capped weaver, Straw-tailed Whydah and many more to see.