The name is derived from Maasai “Ol Doinyo Ilgoon” (Breast Mountain). The local residents call it “Masaba” while on the Ugandan side by the Bamasaba. Mount Elgon is a massive solitary volcanic mountain on the border of eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Its vast form, 80 kilometres in diameter, rises 3,070 metres above the surrounding plains. It’s cooler heights offer respite for humans from the hot plains below. The higher altitudes provide a refuge for flora and fauna.
Mt. Elgon consists of five major peaks.
- Wagagai (4,321 metres (14,177 ft)), in Uganda.
- Sudek (4,302 metres (14,114 ft)) on the Kenya/Uganda border.
- Koitobos (4,222 metres (13,852 ft)), a flat-topped basalt column in Kenya.
- Mubiyi (4,211 metres (13,816 ft)) in Uganda.
- Masaba (4,161 metres (13,652 ft)) in Uganda.
Other features of note are:
– Elgon’s is one of the largest intact calderas in the world.
-The warm springs by the river Suam.
– Endebess Bluff – 2,563 metres
– Ngwarisha, Makingeny, Chepnyalil, and Kitum caves
Kiptum cave is over 60m wide and 200m long. The cave contains salt deposits and it is frequented by wild game including elephants that converge to lick the salt exposed by gouging the walls with their tusks. It was featured by Richard Preston’s book “The Hot Zone” in 1994 for its association with the Ebola-like virus.
– The diverse terrain and dramatic ascents of altitude combined with the vagaries of rainfall and weather produce four distinct vegetation zones on Mt. Elgon.
(a) The Lush Montane Forest (2000m-2500m)
Highland evergreen type and includes over 100 species as well as epiphytic orchids, ferns and trailing lianas. The best place to see this type of forest is on the Chelulus circuit.
(b) Mixed Bamboo and Podocarpus Zone (3000m-3500m)
The forest also contains the highest biodiversity on the mountain
(c) Heath Zone (3000m-3500m)
Characterized by dense scrub, brilliant wildflowers
(d) Moorland Zone (3500m-4321m)
Boasts of the highest number of endemic plants species on the mountain. The open moorland grassland is dotted with clusters of peculiar Giant grounded plus Lobelia plants which are unique to East Africa.
The mountain is the water tower for several rivers. Suam river and river Turkwel which feeds Lake Turkana, River Nzoia and the Lwakhaka feeds Lake Victoria. The park has earned the status of Important bird area (IBA) and UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) site.