Anticipation and excitement is killing me! Today I thought I should share some information about the mountain that some friends and I will climb next week. Here goes….
- Mt Elgon (an extinct volcano) is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features believed to have first erupted 20 million years ago.
- This mountain is capped by one of the world’s largest calderas, 40 sq.kms in size that was created after a violent eruption blew off the volcano’s magma reservoir.
- The size of Mt Elgon National Park is 1,145 sq. Kms
- The slopes of this mountain are home to mainly two tribes; the Bagisu (Bamasaba), and the Sabiny. Both tribes practice a cultural ritual known as Circumcision, which traditionally initiates an adolescent boy into adult hood, although the Sabiny circumcise both boys and girls
Main Attractions on the Mountain (What is There to see?)
- Caves like; the Kapkwai cave, Mude cave, Tutum cave and the Khaukha cave on Wanale ridge.
- Beautiful vegetation on the mountain. There are 4 vegetation zones on Mt Elgon ie; the Natural high forest zone (1,250 – 2500m), the bamboo zone (2,500 – 3,000 m), the Heath land (3,000 – 3,500 m) and the Moorland (3,500 – 4,000 m) above sea level. In each of these zones one can notice unique plants and trees which reduce in size with the changing altitude.
- Unique high altitude plants such as; the Lobelia, the Scenecios and the Everlasting flowers.
- Ridges like the Wanale ridge.
- Water falls ie; Chebonet, Dirigana falls
- Spectacular view points from which one can see the plains of Karamoja.
- Animals for example; the duikers (small antelopes), Baboons, Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Blue monkeys, Forest Elephants and Buffaloes.
- Mt Elgon is home to over 300 species of birds including; the Jackson’s Francolin, moustached green Tinker birds, black collared Apalis, bronze naped pigeon, Hartlaub’s Turaco and the endangered Lammergeyer.
- Peaks; the highest peak – Wagagai stands at 4,321m and the lower Jackson’s summit at 4,165 m and Mubiyi peak at 4,210 m above sea level.
- Crater pools; Jackson’s pool is at 4,050 m.
- Crater lakes are several and can be viewed well from the Caldera or peaks.
- Hot springs; these are found in the caldera towards Suam gorge.
- The Suam gorge which marks the International boundary between Uganda and Kenya.
- The Caldera at 4,000m above sea level is the largest mountain Caldera in the world.
We will do the Sasa Trail and this is what our hike will look like:
Day 1: Budadiri (1,250m) – Sasa River camp (2,900m)
Drive to Budadiri visitor centre. In the office meet the clerk who will give you info on Mt Elgon and also receive money from you for the chosen activities, then the guides and porters will be introduced to you. After you have arranged and packed all your food and camping gear, you will start walking to Sasa River camp (2,900m) for dinner and over night. The distance is 11kms and takes 7 to 8 hours depending on one’s walking speed. Altitude in one day is 1,700m.
Day 2: Sasa River Camp (2,900m) – Mude Cave Camp (3,500m)
After breakfast at the camp, proceed through the forest to Mude Cave Campsite. This 5 kms walk takes about 3 – 4 hours depending on one’s walking speed. On arrival at the camp, you can have lunch then after if you are not tired can take a walk to Dirigana falls which are 2 kms away then walk back to Mude for dinner and overnight. Enjoy the beautiful volcanic landscape views and thousands of giant groundsels, occasionally spotting Duikers and Hyraxes. Altitude in one day: 600m
Day 3: Mude Cave Camp (3,500m) – Wagagai Peak (4,321m)
Start after an early breakfast. Take with you a small pack bag carrying a few basics like a camera, pair of binoculars and a snack. After a short climb, trek directly to Wagagai peak (4,321 m), the second highest in Uganda after Rwenzori’s Margherita which is 5,109 m high. There is no steep climb and after about 3 hours the Jackson’s peak can be reached. Enjoy the beautiful view from the top, particularly of the Kenyan side of the mountain, later return back to Mude camp for dinner and overnight. Altitude in one day: 821m
Day 4: Mude Cave Camp (3,500m) – Kajeri Camp (3,383 m)
After breakfast, set off for yet another wonderful hike. Enjoy a beautiful walk through the crater rim, see the amazing landscape, Scenecios and the Everlasting flowers. The day long walk is about 37kms and takes about 7 – 8 hours.
Day 5: Kajeri camp (3,383 m) – Forest Exploration Centre (2,050 m)
After breakfast, start descending to Kapkwai through the natural forest. En route you will pass by a big cave (Tutum cave – 2,667 m) believed to house a big aircraft. However, cave exploration is possible only if you have the equipment such as; torches, extra batteries and ropes.
(Information from Uganda Wildlife Authority)