Mount Elgon is an eroded, dormant volcano with a huge caldera around the rim of which are a number of distinct peaks. Wagagai (4321m) is the highest and, together with Sudek (4176m), serves to demarcate the Kenya-Uganda border. Another prominent summit is Koitobos --- a spectacular mass of basalt on the boundary of the Mt. Elgon National Park.
Elgon has sometimes been called “the Mountain of Illusion” — a name bestowed on it by the many people who, over the years, have become lost in its forests or on its high moorlands. The scores of almost identical ridges and valleys, that traverse the very large area of the mountain, become a trap for the unwary when the dense mountain mist descends and clings to the slopes, perhaps for several days without a break.
Mt. Elgon National Park stretches from the densely forested lower slopes, up the mountain, to the high moorlands where the giant Lobelia and Senecio plants flourish, and then down to the caldera and the massive Suam Gorge that breaches the caldera’s eastern rim.
The Park was established in 1967 and has an area of 169 km2; relatively small, but capturing the mountain’s spectrum of ecological zones and biodiversity.
Elgon birdlife is amazing in its variety, particularly in the forest; Ross’ Turaco and the Red-fronted Parrot are particularly beautiful ---- but a whole book would be needed to describe all the resident and transient species. A Species List of the avifauna of the larger mountain area is available. Possible additions through the observations of competent "birders" are welcomed. Send data, together with your contact to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Animals include buffalo, leopard, baboons, waterbuck, bushbuck, zebra, giraffe, tree hyrax, Giant Forest Hog and a variety of duikers. The elusive forest elephants are remarkable for their exploitation of the many Elgon caves. For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years they have made nocturnal forays into the caves to dig out salt ---- and the work of their tusks has deepened the caves significantly. Kitum Cave, more than 60m deep, is probably the most well-known; but there are many others.
For guides to the park, the caves and the climbing routes and advice about the weather and what to carry, contact the KWS office at the Chorlim Gate or a reliable tour operator with special knowledge of the region. A tour operator will, anyway, have to cooperate closely with the KWS.
Photography, horse riding and the gentle hike up Endebess Bluff are some of the activities that are suitable for those who are not so fit or have limited time.
Accommodation is available at the Mount Elgon Lodge, outside, and 2 km from, the Chorlim Gate. Inside the park, a number of nice campsites and the self-catering Kapkuro Bandas are provided by KWS. Otherwise, a variety of hotels can be found in Kitale only 26 km away.