Uncovering the Gentle Giant Mt Elgon

Mt. Elgon is one of the extinct volcanos in Kenya. It falls in the same category as Mt. Kenya and Mt. Longonot. It is estimated to be 24 million years old and so, it is naturally a point of awe and mysteries. Here are exciting and informative points about the same.

Mt. Elgon Peaks

Mt Elgon is 4,321 meters high, making it the fourth highest peak in East Africa after Mts. Kilimanjaro, Kenya and Ruwenzori respectively. The mountain has 5 major peaks namely Wagagai, Sudek, Koitobos, Mubiyi and Masaba peaks. Of the five, only Koitobos is found fully in Kenya. Sudek occurs within the Kenya-Uganda border while the rest are in the Ugandan side.

Mt. Elgon Rivers

On the Kenyan side, Mt. Elgon is a source of three rivers and several other streams that either join the larger rivers or result in waterfalls. The three rivers include the River Turkwel, which drains its waters into Lake Turkana. Rivers Nzoia and Lwakhakha both drain into Lake Victoria. River Nzoia is famous because it is the second-largest river in Kenya and it also has a significant population of crocodiles.

Mt. Elgon Caves

The Mt. Elgon has four famous caves, three of which are open to the public. The caves are named Kitum, Makingeny, Ngwarisha and Chepnyalil. The Kitum Cave is the most popular because it receives several guests, especially at night. The animals residing in the Mt. Elgon wilderness go to the caves at night to mine salt rocks and lick them. The other caves also have the rock salts but Kitum seems to be the favourite perhaps because it is easier to access. Kitum has also become recently famous because the salt mining elephants have turned it into a maternity space where they give birth to their young ones. Makingeny Cave has a strong aesthetic pull because of the beautiful waterfall that freely falls over the mouth of the cave. Chepnyalil is popular because of rock painting and artefacts that were formally discovered there.

Mt. Elgon National Parks

Coincidentally there are two Mt. Elgon National parks. One on each side of the border. The Kenyan side park was established mainly as an effort to draw local and international tourists to the little-explored mountain. Amazingly, Mt. Elgon National Park is a hub of activities. From game watching, bird watching, hiking, nature trails, bike rides and cave exploring, to taking in picture perfect views from the various elevated parts of the mountain such as the Endebbes Bluff. Some of the animals you can see here are zebras, antelopes, duiker, bushbucks, elephants, and cheetahs. The park is also home to 144 bird species and over 300 plant types.

Other Mt. Elgon Features

The mountain has other features including several waterfalls, gorges, rock formations and hot water springs that can reach up to about 50 degrees Celsius in heat the springs get their high temperatures from the underground volcanic activities.

Getting there

From Nairobi, Mt. Elgon is 420 kilometres via the Eldoret-Kitale route. The park is also accessible from Bungoma and Kisumu. A 4×4 car is best to explore the park and the mountain trails. The best months are between June and August. The area generally receives a lot of rain throughout the year that may make the murram roads hard to manoeuvre.