Mount Elgon National Park safaris, tours & holiday packagesAncient volcano on the Kenya/Uganda border
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The eighth-highest mountain in Africa is known for its unearthly high-altitude vegetation, forest birds and the spectacular Sipi Falls.
Straddling the border of Kenya and Uganda, Elgon is an ancient jagged-peaked volcano with the broadest base of any freestanding mountain in the world. Associated with the same tectonic activity that created the Rift Valley, it first erupted at least 20 million years ago, and remained active for another 10 million years.
In its prime, it was taller than Kilimanjaro is today, and even now it rises to an impressive 4,321 metres on the southwest caldera rim. A notable landmark on the Kenyan side is the salt-lick at Kitum Cave, which is mined by elephants that gouge out the walls with their tusks, extending the shaft deeper into the mountain, a phenomenon only likely to be seen on a nocturnal visit.
Elgon is quite a low-key national park and, while I've spent a couple of enjoyable nights around the entrance gate, it wouldn't rank on my list of Kenya's must-sees. Nearby Saiwa, by contrast, is bizarrely underrated and an excellent place to see the remarkable sitatunga and De Brazza’s monkey.
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The upper slopes on both the Kenyan and Ugandan side of Mount Elgon are protected in national parks that offer much to hikers and wildlife lovers but are little visited and rather poorly developed for tourism. Mount Elgon supports a rich birdlife, with more than 300 species recorded, among them moorland francolin, moustached green tinkerbird, black-collared Apalis, Hunter’s Cisticola, Alpine chat, Weyns’s weaver and the endangered lammergeyer, or bearded vulture.
The most accessible of Elgon's high altitude habitats, dominating the landscape around the entrance gate to the Kenyan national park, is a belt of montane forest inhabited by blue monkey, black-and-white colobus, leopard, bushpig and buffalo. The upper slopes of the mountain support a beautiful but chilly moorland habitat dotted with clumps of giant lobelia and giant heather.
A worthwhile excursion near Elgon is Saiwa Swamp National Park, where a series of rickety wooden viewing platforms offer a rare opportunity to see the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope, the white-bearded De Brazza’s monkey, and the colourful Ross’s turaco and double-toothed barbet.
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