Mount Elgon

Mount Elgon

It is the oldest and largest solitary volcano in East Africa, covering an area of around 3500 km² located along Uganda-Kenya border and is the 17th highest mountain of Africa, located about 235km east of Kampala City. Its coordinates are as follows: 1.1183° N, 34.5250° E

The mountain’s highest point, named “Wagagai”, is located entirely within the country of Uganda, at 4,321 metres.

The mountain is a catchment area for Suam River downstream becomes Turkwel River and drains into Lake Turkana, Nzoia River flows to Lake Victoria and Lwakhakha River flows to Lake Victoria.

The mountain is the home of black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkey, de brazza monkey, Leopard, Buffalo, Sitatungas and Duiker. The mountain is also a home to s a rich variety of forest birds such as Jackson’s francolin, green tinker bird, Alpine chat, red-throated wryneck among others.


Elgon’s slopes support a rich variety of vegetation ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the giant lobelia and groundsel plants, the vegetation varies with altitude. The mountain slopes are covered with olive Olea hochstetteri and Aningueria adolfi-friedericii wet montane forest. At higher altitudes, this changes to olive and Podocarpus gracilior forest, and then a Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina zone. Higher still is a Hagenia abyssinica zone and then moorland with heaths Erica arborea and Philippia trimera, tussock grasses such as Agrostis gracilifolia and Festuca pilgeri, herbs such as Alchemilla, Helichrysum, Lobelia, and the giant groundsels Senecio barbatipes and Senecio elgonensis.

The botanical diversity of the park includes giant podocarpus, juniper and Elgon olive trees cedar Juniperus procera, pillarwood Cassipourea malosana, elder Sambucus adnata, pure stands of Podocarpus gracilior and many orchids.

Mount Elgon National Park

The area around the mountain is protected by two Mount Elgon National Parks one on each side of the international border. The park is also home to a variety of small antelope and forest monkeys, including the Black-and-white Colobus and Blue Monkey, elephants and monkeys. Over 300 birds can also be found in the area, including the Lammergeier, African Goshawk, and Baglafecht Weaver.

Organized climbs/treks on Mount Elgon

  • Travel Hemispheres, African Safari Management Company
  • Wild whispers Africa
  • The Mountain Club of Uganda
  • Mt. Rwenzori Climbing Adventures
  • Pinnacle Africa Safaris

 Beliefs and stories

Mt Elgon was known as “OI Doinyo IIgoon” (Breast Mountain) by the Maasai and as “Masaaba” on the Ugandan side. Mount Elgon was a mountain that remained the mountain of Wele Khakaba ‘Almighty God’ just like Mount Zion to the Jews. Mount Elgon was considered a shrine to Dini Musambwa followers and other shrines were in caves. ‘Dini ya Musambwa’ Religion of evil spirits whose founder was Elijah Masinde wa Nameme and his followers worshipped facing this mountain and offered sacrifices by slaughtering bulls, sheep and goats. This mountain was one of the shrines and sacred places that Masinde restored as a  sacred site among his followers from the Abaluhyia (Ababukusu), Pokot, Iteso, Sabawaot, Nandi and Abagishu.

Traditionally, the Abagishu in Uganda, also known as the Bamasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father Masaba, and sometimes call the mountain by his name. Local people have long depended on forest produce and have made agreements with the park to continue to harvest resources such as bamboo poles and bamboo shoots a local delicacy called Maleya or Kamaleya among the Bamasaba people.

Sipi Falls

Sipi Falls a are a series of three beautiful waterfalls formed by the Sipi River on the slopes of Mount Elgon.  Sipi Falls are 60km from Mbale Town on the Kapchorwa Road. They are 295 km from Kampala City, the capital city of Uganda.


Mount Elgon’s slopes are endowed with caves which include Kapkwai Cave, near the Forest Exploration Centre, and Khauka Cave on Wanale Ridge, other caves include, Tutum,Kitum, Ngwarisha, Makingeny and Chepnyalil caves.

The Forest Exploration Centre

The Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai, 13km from Sipi Town, doubles as an educational centre for schools and the trailhead for climbers using the Sipi trail to the caldera.

Jackson’s Pool and Jackson’s Peak

Jackson’s Pool stands at 4,050m and is a natural pool with shallow waters. This pool lies in the shadow of the 4,165m high Jackson’s Peak, a free-standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of the mountain. These features were named after the explorer Frederick Jackson, who in 1889 was the first European to climb Mount Elgon. The peak is used by the locals as a spot to communicate with their ancestors.

Nyero Rock Paintings

65km north of Mbale, the Nyero Rock Paintings are the finest of several rock art sites in the region. Three panels are found within the extensive granite outcrop of Moru Ikara, 10km from Kumi Town and 55km from Mbale on the Soroti Road. The most impressive is Panel Two which includes two canoes bearing human figures.

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve and Matheniko Bokora Wildlife Reserve

In the plains of Karamoja to the north of Mount Elgon lie Matheniko Bokora Wildlife Reserve and the expansive Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, the second largest protected area in Uganda, with an area of 2,788km2. Wildlife found here includes rare species such as the roan antelope, lesser kudu, Bright’s gazelle and ostriches which, in Uganda, are found only here and in Kidepo Valley National Park. Wildlife is concentrated around the Loporokocho swamp; bird species encountered here include Hartlaub’s Turaco, Eastern Bronze-napped Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Dusky Turtle Dove, African Hill Babbler, Alpine Chat, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Thick-billed Honey guide and Grey Cuckoo-Shrike.

Mountain Biking in Mt. Elgon

A mountain biking trail runs from Sipi trading centre to Chema Hill in Kapchorwa Town. It should take 1.5 hours and provides views of various waterfalls and the Karamoja plains


The main land use in the mountain slopes is subsistence agriculture; the main crops grown on the slopes of the mountain are maize, coffee, potatoes and matoke with a number of other seasonal vegetables. The main source of cash is from the sale of maize and coffee.

 Accommodation around the mountain

Hotel/ Lodge Contact
Suam Guest House (UWA)  Contact Mt. Elgon National Park office

Tel. +256 454 433170/ +256 772 674063


Kapkwata Guesthouse (self-catering)  Contact Mt. Elgon National Park office

Tel. +256 454 433170 / +256 772 674063


Masha Hotel  Plot 6 Mutui Close, Kapchorwa

Tel: +256 700 868193


Noah’s Ark Hotel  Kapchorwa

Tel: +256 772 646364                                                                  Email:

Savanna Guesthouse  3-5 Kasumbein Road, London Bridge/Kapchorwa Suam Road, Kapchorwa                                                                                       Tel: +256 772 350411, +256 110129                                            Email:
 Mt. Elgon Hotel Mbale, Uganda                                                                                            Tel: +256 454     433454

Email:                                                Website:

Green Gardens Bufombo, Mbale

Tel: +256 772 322884

Rose’s Last Chance – Community-run Camp  Budadiri Trading Centre

Tel: +256 4536172                                                                     Mobile: +256 772 623206, +256 752 203292


Sipi River Lodge  PO. Box 276, Kapchorwa, Uganda.                                                   Mobile: +256 751 796109                                                                  Email:                                                Website:
Sipi Falls Resort  Sipi trading centre

Mobile: +256 753 153000


Kayegi Hotel  Plot 45B, Masaba Road

PO Box 1777,Mbale,Uganda

Tel: +256 454 432119, +256 392 852311




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