One National Park, the same name, but two different states and stories. Mount Elgon National Park is shared by both Uganda and Kenya, but it had become a protected area in Uganda first, back in 1937. As for the Kenyan side of the region, it was the pastoral territory of local tribes. It was then taken by the British settlers who used it for their agricultural farms. As the colonies period ended, the tribes wanted their lands back and the government had big troubles trying to find an agreement. Only in 1968 the Kenyan Mount Elgon National Park was established. Now, the board of the national parks is trying to make up for so much time lost and is promoting it for tourism.
About Mount Elgon National Park
The two national parks cover the body of the big extinct volcano Mount Elgon, whose top crater – at 4321 metres asl – is the largest in the world (8 km diameter). Even though the volcano is very high, its flanks are soft and regularly inclined so it is not difficult at all to climb it to the top. And as you climb, you will pass through incredible landscapes. Mount Elgon’s biosphere is very varied and complex, but 80% of it belongs to the Ugandese part of the park.
Kenya has a few of it left, but it still is a very interesting region. There are forests, mountain moorlands, alpine savannahs on this side, all worth the visit. As for the fauna, the whole area of this mountain is a bird sanctuary. On the highest part of the volcano live monkeys, shrews and small mammals, some very rare too. The local Tragelaphus Scriptus Heterochorus, a sub species of the Bongo (tragelaphus eurycerus), is a very ancient kind of animal, now endangered to extinction. At the foot of the mountain you will certainly meet elephants, leopards, antelopes.
Tourism at Mount Elgon National Park
There are 4 roads that let tourists climb to the top of the volcano. The walk is not hard, and you will not need any special tool or shoes to try it. You will need a good guide, for sure, though. Three of the 4 trails are in the Ugandese territory, so if you are in Kenya you can only climb from Suaum Trail, from the village of Suaum – on the border between Kenya and Uganda. But climbing Mount Elgon from the Kenyan side is much more interesting.
On this flank, in fact, there are many grottos you can explore. Starting from 2400 metres, you will meet Kitum Grotto, then McKingeney, Ngwarisha, Chepnyalil and Kiptoro. Make sure you never go to explore these grottos without a guide, because often elephants live in there. Or they use them as a temporary shelter. It is not nice to meet a nervous elephant that is trying to rest in its rocky “nest”!
How to get to the Park
Airplane is the best way to get to the National Park. You can land at the local airstrip at Kitale (10 km away) or at Eldoret Airport, which is set 70 km away from Mount Elgon. If you prefer to arrive by car – better a jeep car – Eldoret and Kitale are 340 km away from Nairobi and connected by road A104. But the bad condition of the road make a 3-hour normal trip turn into a hard 6-and-half-hour transfer.