A Guide To Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is 196km square park, 420km from Nairobi on the western border of Kenya and Uganda in Trans-Nzoia county. Mt Elgon, a volcanic mountain, is one of Kenya’s most beautiful parks, still wild and intact, with vast areas of untouched forest
Facts About Mount Elgon National Park
Area: 169 sq. km
Altitude: 2,100 – 4,301 m above sea level
Location: Astride the Kenya/Uganda border in Western Province.
Distance from Nairobi: 470 km north of Nairobi
Gazetted: Mt. El;gon was gazetted as a National Park in 1968
Climate: Wettest March to October. Driest November to February.
Rainfall: 1500-2000 mm pa Hail and freezing temperatures may be encountered at any time of the year on the upper slopes.
Flora: Ranges from wet montane and bamboo forests to Afro-alpine moorlands.
Fauna: Includes; elephant, leopard, giant forest hog, bushbuck, eland, buffalo, duiker, black and white colobus, blue monkey and golden cat.
Birds: There are more than 240 species of birds within the Park
Roads: Largely well-maintained dirt roads, suitable for 2WD for most of the year. 4WD is advisable in the wet season.
What To See At Mount Elgon National Park
The key attractions, besides the fauna and flora, is a variety of breathtaking scenery, including cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, calderas, hot springs and mountain peaks. The most popular areas are the four vast caves where elephants and buffaloes are frequent night visitors and lick the natural salt on the cave walls. The Kitum Cave, with overhanging crystalline walls, goes 200m into the side of Mt Elgon. The breathtaking natural beauty of the park is best seen at Endebess Bluff, where a panoramic view of escarpments, gorges and rivers is perfect.
Wildlife inhabiting the park includes the elephant, leopard, giant forest hog, bushbuck,buffalo, duiker, black colobus and white colobus, blue monkeys and golden cat, among others. Some 340 bird species have been recorded – 230 forest dependent and 110 forest specialist. They include the African-crowned eagle, Ross’ turaco and red-fronted parrot.
The park can be accessed by road through Kitale
and to the Chorlim Gate. An airstrip in the park comes in handy for visitors who fly. At present, the park does not operate the Safari Card system and entry is by cash.
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In the park, there are no lodges or tented campsites. But KWS offers self-catering accommodation at Koitoboss Guesthouse, which can take in six people. Kapkuro Bandas have four units each, which can accommodate three people each. Camping facilities are available at Nyati, Chorlim and Rongai campsites There is a Saltlick Special Campsite.
Mt. Elgon is dotted with caves formed from ancient lava tubes namely Kitum, Making’eny, Chepnyalil ,Ngwarisha and many others some of which are outside protected areas
Salt-Mining Elephants of Kitum Cave
Kitum Cave is regularly visited by herds of elephants, dubbed the troglodyte tuskers, as well as bushbuck, Red Duiker, Grey Duiker and buffalo, all in search of the salts that abound in the mineral-rich earth of the caves.
Making’eny Cave, located 1.5km from Kitum, has a spectacular waterfall over its mouth.
- Important bird area (IBA)
- UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) site
What to Do in Mount Elgon National Park
There are various game drives that will take you to some of the best game-viewing areas of the park, as well as to a few amazing look-out points and picnic sites. The KWS picnic sites are well signposted and are sited at a number of spots that offer magnificent vistas out over the dramatic landscape. Make sure your drive includes a visit to Elephant Platform and Endebess Bluff, two of the best viewpoints.
Climbing and Trekking
Mt Elgon is often overlooked as a trekking destination, but it has a great deal to offer visitors. For one thing, it is a lot less crowded than Mt. Kilimanjaro and the routes are less strenuous, making for a much more relaxed (but still challenging!!) climb. There is less chance of developing Altitude Sickness, and no technical climbing skills are required. There are several different routes to the peaks on the Kenyan side (Lower Elgon, Sudek, Koitoboss and Endebess Peaks) and they are all accessible to anyone with a good level of fitness and reasonable hiking or trekking experience. You can scale one of the summit in a day, but this is not the ideal way! Rather take your time and plan to spend around 3 – 4 days trekking to give yourself enough time to enjoy all the sights along the way. You will need to bring all your own food, water, a good sleeping bag and a light, waterproof tent.
Walking and Hiking
There are several marked trails for walkers and hikers, which will take you through some really spectacular scenery, and up to the caves. Most of these are day-walks and pleasant rather than taxing, and making your way through the stunning scenery on foot is your best opportunity to spot the wildlife. The walk from the parking lot to Endebess Bluff is quite steep and takes around 25 – 40 minutes, but the view is spectacular and makes up for the rather steep track.
Bird watching is excellent in Mount Elgon National Park, where 240 species of birds have been recorded. Your best chance of seeing as many birds as possible is to avail yourself of the marked walking trails and set off quietly with your camera and binoculars. The designated picnic sites are also good spots for birding.
One of the most striking attractions of Mount Elgon National Park are its Lava Tube caves. There are four accessible caves which can be explored on foot, namely Kitum, Makingeni, Chepnyalil and Ngwarisha, and what makes them so unique is that they are a favourite visiting place for Elephants and other wildlife who come to lick and scratch the mineral-rich salt deposits, to supplement their diet. Kitum Cave is the largest and extends over 200mt into the mountain; until fairly recently it was used by the local communities for traditional ceremonies. It is also a good place to observe Bats. Remember to bring a torch – the caves are dark!
If you love the idea of waking up to the dawn chorus of birds and stepping out of your tent into pristine African bush, you will love camping in Mount Elgon National Park! There are three public campsites, namely Nyati, Chorlim and Rongai. Ask your Tour Operator to book in advance through KWS in Nairobi. You need to be completely self-sufficient as there are no shops in the park.
Accommodation and hotels in Mount Elgon National Park
KWS Self Catering
Campsites Mount Elgon National Park
What to take with you
Plenty of water, picnic items, waterproof gear, warm clothing, walking boots, camera, sturdy hiking shoes, flashlight, camping equipment(if you intend to stay overnight) plus insect repellant.
Also useful are binoculars, hat, sunscreen and field guides.
How to get to Mount Elgon National Park
- By Road: One route leads from Kitale town, while there are two options leading from Eldoret. Both lead by murram (dirt) road to Mt.Elgon Lodge and Chorlim gate. Chorlim gate is the main gate which also leads to the park headquarters
- By Air: Visitors can fly to the Eldoret airport (70 KM away) or the airstrip within the park. Please contact the warden for airstrip details. Kitale airstrip, located 10km outside Kitale town on the main Kitale–Bungoma road, is 30 km from the park.
A Map to Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park fees
Adults KSH: 350
Child KSH: 250
Adults KSH: 700
Child KSH: 350
Non – Resident
Best Time to Visit Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon can be climbed at any time of year, but during the long rains in April and May, the trails become slippery, slow and tedious. The dry seasons (June to August and December to March) are best, especially in the spring months of November to December when the wildflowers are in bloom.
Mount Elgon National Park Contacts
Attraction Type: Wildlife, Scenery & Landscapes
Category: National Park, Birding Site, Waterfalls
City / Town: Kitale
Telephone: 254 20 353 9903