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Mt Elgon National Park, Western Kenya’s hidden gem

Karen Karimi Knaust  @Karimi_Karen  

Mt Elgon is at least 24 million years old and one of the hidden gems that nature lovers will particularly fall in love with. It is north of Kisumu and west of Kitale on the border of Uganda and Kenya and was once Africa’s highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m, but millennia of erosion has reduced its height to 4,321m.

Mount Elgon National Park is accessible all-year round for camping, animal viewing, mountain climbing, bird-watching, cave exploration and elephant tracking. It consists of five major peaks: Wagagai, Sudek, Koitobos, Mubiyi and Masaba.

Mountain climbing here can be done in three to four hours, depending on one’s pace. It also has the advantage of being less crowded than Mt Kilimanjaro.

There are over 400 elephants, buffalos, leopards, the colobus and blue monkeys, which are a protected species, hogs, waterbucks and antelope. It is also home to at least 340 bird species, but it is the cave elephants that Mt Elgon is renowned for worldwide.

The ancient volcano of Mt Elgon has four explorable caves, the longest of which is Kitum, which means ‘place of ceremonies’. It extends for about 600 feet into the mountain and its walls are covered in salt

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When the Kitum cave was first discovered, the many marks, scratches and furrows along its walls were assumed to have been the work of picks wielded by ancient Egyptians searching for gold or diamonds.

Every night, trails of elephants venture into the narrow, dark path and walk up to 150 metres, being led only by their trunks in order to scratch off the salt-rich deposits which aid in water retention.

Unfortunately, the African Savannah Elephants are endangered and face two main dangers; poaching and encroaching of their natural habitat by humans.  Plan your next trip to Mt Elgon to learn more about the Savanna elephant and why protection of this species in this environment is critical for all of us.

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