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Mount Elgon National Park

Moors on Mount Elgon, Kenya.

Best time to visit: January, February, March

Safaris: Adventure Camping in Kenya, Village Immersion Safari

Activities: Hiking, Game Walking

Accommodation: Lokitela, Adventure Camping

Day: 28-33° C, 82-91° F
Night: 17-20° C, 63-68° F

Mount Elgon is a large, extinct volcano that straddles the borders of Kenya and Uganda. Reaching a height of 4,320 meters and extending over 100 km in diameter, Mount Elgon is the largest, although not the highest of Kenya's mountains.

On the Kenyan side of the border, 340 square km of the mountain has been set aside as a national park, preserving a wide range of natural vegetation in an otherwise intensively cultivated area.

The mountain invites exploration, as you wind your way through a mixed forest of deciduous and evergreen trees, including magnificent specimens of the East African cedar and the podo, both reaching upwards of 30 meters. Branches are frequently festooned with lichen and a tangle of wild orchids.

With luck, you will observe black and white Colobus monkeys and the blue monkey, as well as the giant forest hog and red forest duiker. Many leopards, buffalo and waterbuck also inhabit the park.

A wide range of birds, including the rare forest francolin make Mount Elgon a bird watcher's delight. The forest floor, where many rare species of flower may be found, is also interesting for botanists

Black and white colobus monkeys are spotted in the treetops.

Hiking to the peak of the mountain, visitors pass through the forests, leading into glades of montane bamboo, open woodlands and finally open moorlands to the craggy summit.

The walk to the peak (no technical skills required) provides an exceptionally beautiful experience, offering views of giant Groundsels and giant lobelias, survivors of a remote ice age, as well as endless vistas over the African landscape.

A waterfall at the entrance to makingeny Cave, Mount Elgon, Kenya.

Mount Elgon is also well known for its four explorable caves, formed by the action of water on ancient volcanic ash. These caves play a vital and unique role in the area as families and sometimes entire villages of the El Gonyi, a Masai tribe, lived for centuries in the caves with their cattle.

The minerals contained in the rocks of the caves are vital to the well being of cattle and other grazing animals. High rainfall in this area has denuded the soil of natural salts and minerals; the caves provide the only source of salt. Elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, waterbuck, duiker, forest hogs and monkeys need a ration of salt from time to time; on Mount Elgon, they find it only in the caves.

A fascinating area, Mount Elgon National Park is one of the few parks where walking explorations are possible.

Copyright Melinda Rees of Eco-resorts

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