Mount Elgon National Park

 


Mt. Elgon is Kenya's second highest mountain. It lies 140km North East of Lake Victoria and is bisected by the Kenya-Uganda border. It is an ancient eroded volcano with a huge caldera and, on its summit, the spectacular flat topped basalt column known as Koitobos. Another unique feature of the mountain is the lava tube caves, some over 60m wide and frequented by elephants (and other animals) digging for salts. The mountain soils are red laterite. Mt Elgon is an important water catchment for the Nzoia river which flows into Lake Victoria and for the Turkwel river which flows into Lake Turkana.

Mt Elgon National Park was gazetted in 1968 and covers a narrow transect up the North Eastern slopes of the mountain, from lower montane forest to the caldera edge. The remaining forest and moorland is part of the Mt Elgon Forest Reserve. The Ugandan side of the mountain is protected within Uganda's Mt Elgon National Park.

Together with the fauna and flora, the park is endowed with variety and breathtaking scenery of cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and the mountain peaks.

The most popular areas are the four explorable, vast caves where frequent night visitors such as elephants and buffaloes come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. Kitum cave, with overhanging crystalline walls, enters 200 m into the side of Mt. Elgon.

The breathtaking natural beauty of the park can be best appreciated from the Endebess Bluff where one gets a panoramic view of the areas' escarpments, gorges, mesas, and rivers.

The highest peak of Mt. Elgon on the Kenya side, Koitoboss, measures 13,852 ft (4,155 m), and is easily reached by hikers in about two hours from the road's end.

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.

Of the 400 species recorded for the area the following are of particular note as they only occur in high altitude broad-leaf montane forest: Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Carduus afromontanus, Echinops hoehnelii, Ranunculus keniensis (previously thought endemic to Mount Kenya), and Romulea keniensis.

 

KATO    Ecotourism Kenya