Mount Elgon National Reserve

Mount Elgon

Travel to Mount Elgon National Reserve – Home to the Elephant Cave

Rising from the jungles that border Uganda, Mt Elgon is an impressively craggy extinct volcano. This remote region makes for interesting trekking through deep forest and across broad moorlands. The peaks are ideal for climbing, and shelter a series of warm geothermal springs.

The mountain has many caves for the visitor explore. In these caves, known collectively as Elkony, ancient cave paintings decorate the walls, and bats and rock hyrax are found among the winding passageways.

The most famous cave of all is Kitum, where each night elephant herds gather and begin a slow procession deep into the mountain. The elephants make their way through the caves, following well worn paths made by generations before them. Deep in the cave, they use their tusks to excavate the walls, seeking the natural salt which they lick from the scarred rock.

When the 19th Century explorer Joseph Thompson first visited the Mount Elgon region he discovered a series of deep caves in which herds of cattle sheltered and great piles of grain were stored.

The forests around Elgon are a haven for many species of monkey, as well as elephant, buffalo, and leopard. The higher moorland plains are popular with grazing game. The mountain is deservedly famous for its elephants, which enter the caves at night to excavate salt from the walls with their tusks. The best way to witness this remarkable sight is to visit the large Kitum Cave at Dawn, and see the procession of elephant as they make their way out of the gloomy caverns and into the morning light.

This is an important bird area, species of interest recorded here include the Slender billed Starling, Sharpe’s Longclaw, Crowned Eagle, Ring necked Francolin, Striped Rufftail, Red chested Owlet, Thick billed Honeyguide, Toro Olive Greenbul and Purple throated Cuckoo Shrike.

Spend some time souvenir shopping – the Kisii people of Western Kenya are gifted stone carvers. They use a locally quarried soapstone to produce a range of carvings. The most popular items are small animals, chess pieces based on traditional African designs and more functional items such as egg cups, soap dishes, coasters and ash trays. The soapstone here varies in colour from white (the easiest to carve) through various shades of pink to a deep lustrous red (the most difficult to carve).

The high isolated passes and moorlands of Mount Elgon make for excellent trekking. The series of craggy peaks around the caldera reaching 4,321m makes for an enjoyable climb, but equally rewarding is exploring the forests, geothermal springs and caves.

Trekkers should be adequately prepared. Despite its equatorial location the mountain can be cold, and it often rains. All trekkers should have plenty of warm clothing, and sturdy footwear. There are several established routes on Elgon, but the mountain lends itself to exploration and free hiking. Local guides and rangers are your best resource.

There is good rock climbing to be found on the cliffs of lower Elgon and Sudek. There are many beautiful viewpoints in Mt. Elgon Reserve – ensure you take time to sit and admire the panorama.

Main road access to Mt Elgon is via Kitale. Elgon’s remote location makes private transport advisable.

  • Watch the elephants as they leave the Kitum Cave at dawn.
  • Climb or trek to the craggy peaks of Mount Elgon.
  • Souvenir shop for some intricate local soapstone carvings.


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