The world’s Prime Mountain Caldera
While the beaten tourist track runs south-west from Kampala, those heading in the opposite direction can discover some equally stunning but far from crowded destinations. Mount Elgon is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya.
Its vast form, 80 km in diameter, rises 3070m above the surrounding plains, providing welcome relief in more than one sense of word. Its mountainous regional landscape. Its cool heights offer respite for humans from the hot plains below and its higher altitudes provides refuge for flora and fauna.
The park is an ideal setting for both short and extended hikes. The park’s forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai offers half day and full day guided walks through montane forest to visit caves and waterfalls. Expeditions, several days in duration, ascend to the 4,321m summit of the mountain from a choice of trailheads. Nights are spent in basic huts and campsites. The main peak form the shattered wall of a collapsed central caldera at 8km in diameter, said to be the world’s largest which contains glacial lakes and hot springs. Excellent opportunities for walking also exist outside the park, notably around Sipi village, where the Sipi River plunges in quick succession over three lofty waterfalls. If these gems are not sufficient incentive, the Sipi Valley’s elevated location affords fabulous sunset panoramas over the vast plains and lake at the base of the mountain.
Culture and People
The Bagisu people on the southern slopes of Mount Elgon are known for their biannual imbalu ceremony in which boys are initiated into manhood through circumcision. The Karamojong, who lives between Mount Elgon and Kidepo Valley are pastoralists who continue to resist change in favour of their traditional, semi-nomadic lifestyle.
The mountain is home to 296 bird species including 40 restricted range species. Birds whose Ugandan range is limited to Mount Elgon include Jackson’s Francolin, Moutached Green Tinkerbird, and black collared apalis, the Ugandan ranges of which are limited to Mount Elgon. The bronze-napped pigeon, Hartlaub’s uracoand tacazze sunbird are limited to Mount Elgon and a few other mountains in eastern Uganda. Mount Elgon is also one of the few places in Uganda where the endangered Lammergeyer can be seen, soaring above the caldera and Suam gorge.