Trans Nzoia County

Attractions in Trans Nzoia County

1. Mount Elgon National Park

Mount Elgon National Park 169 km2 lying astraddle the Kenya-Uganda border comprises all the forests and the mountain area above 2440 metres contour, on the Kenyan side. Mount Elgon, the major geological feature of the park, rises to 4313 metres at its highest area known as Koitoboss Peak. This is Kenya’s second highest mountain.  The forest glades within Mount Elgon National Park contain plenty of wildlife, and elephants in particular, but the park is essentially more revered as a scenic park. It is particularly much-liked as a walking park and the relatively gentle slopes allow for easy expeditions, mostly aiming for the series of caves, some that are famous as elephant caves. There are 4 campsites within Mount Elgon National Park as well as Kapturo Cottages run by Kenya Wildlife Service. Chorlim Gate (the main gate) is located 30 kms west from Kitale Town.

Distance between Kitale and Chorlim Gate to Mount Elgon National Park
Distance between Kitale and Chorlim Gate to Mount Elgon National Park

2. Hiking Mount Elgon

The dome-shaped extinct volcano of Mount Elgon can be climbed in three days, round-trip on foot, without much trouble. There is no mountaineering difficulty involved in the ascent of the peak, but the climb is a mountain walk of pleasing beauty and interest, offering great opportunities for surveying the splendorous flora of the mountain. There are two main routes to hike up Mount Elgon: One in Kenya traditionally known as Kitale Route and the other in Uganda known as the Mbale Route. On the Kenyan side the Kitale Route, sometimes known as the Endebess Route, commences at the Chorlim Gate of Mount Elgon National Park. All hiking parties visiting here are required to drop-in at the park’s office. From Chorlim Gate the hike route takes to the well marked “Moorland Track”. In the dry weather, it is possible to reach the end the Moorland Track, at 10,000 ft, by vehicle – preferably using 4X4. From the end of the track a path ascends to Koitoboss Peak which takes about 5 hours going up, and about 3 hours down. There are a few accommodation options conveniently situated near the starting point that include Kapturo Cottages and Mount Elgon Lodge. A good watch for weather is important when planning a hiking adventure here. Best times are the dry months between December and February; and to avoid March and October.

3. Wagagai Peak Hike

If the Mbale Route is used to hike Mount Elgon on the western side, in Uganda, hikers take the Soroti Road to Budadiri and the usual launching point. Climbers wishing to use Uganda or the Mbale route should contact Mountain Club of Uganda, for latest information on the condition of the huts, porters and hut booking. From Bumagabula a path leads in 5-6 hours to the Uganda Mountain Club Hut, Sasa Hut. From here it is a further 5-6 hours to Wagagai, the highest summit. The alternative route up Mount Elgon on the Uganda side is through Bukalisi – about 34 kms south of Budadiri. From here it is a poor steep road via the Sasa River Trail to Bumasola, about 6 kms away. This travels over a rough underfoot. It is possible to drive to the southern edge of Bumasola and launch from there. From here the trail goes past “Wall of Death” and “Mudange Cliff” to Sasa River Camp, 5-6 hours away. The next morning the path is followed up the valley to the Mude Cave Camp passing the Jackson Springs and Jackson’s Summit and into a small valley with tarns and amazing pine flora, and Wagagai.

Wagagai Peak in Mount Elgon National Park

You will need to choose which trail to use to ascend the mountain from the Uganda side. Sasa (cross on the third day) and Sipi (cross on the fourth day) are the two most popular. Sipi has you camp in a giant cave of bats; Sasa has a cool section of staircases up a cliff (they are referred to as “ladders”, but they are definitely stairs). – Medium

4. Kitum Cave

Kitum Cave is one of five remarkable caves at Mount Elgon National Park. The other four extensive caves within the park are Making’eny, Ngwarisha, Kiptoro and Chepnyalil. Also known as ‘Elephant Cave’, the popular Kitum Cave, by far the most visited attraction within Mount Elgon National Park, extends for 165 metres into the side of Mount Elgon, and its walls, which are rich in salts, have enticed animals such as elephants for centuries – which venture into the cave in search of salt.  It is also thought that Kitum was at some point used as a refuge by the local Sabaot Tribe. In the 1987 study conducted on the caves of Mount Elgon, researchers led by Redmond concluded that at the least Kitum Cave was largely formed by elephants excavating its walls for salt. Even so, an opposing school of thought suggests that the role of the elephants in the genesis of Kitum is only secondary modification. One of the most interesting highlights of Kitum Cave are the very many fossil remnants it contains. These include trees, up to a metre in diameter, trunks with intact root, twig piles, and occasional mammal bones. The more distal parts of the quasi-circular cave, obstructed by collapsed slabs, are pitch dark and climatically isolated and host large populations of bats. The most recent collapse in Kitum’s main chamber and antechamber is known to have occured in 1982, when a large section fell, killing at least one elephant. Exploration of this area, beyond the collapsed blocks, is less accessible. Trippers to Mount Elgon National Park can choose to drive, walk or ride to Kitum from the main Chorlim Gate. An exploration of the Kitum Cave should be planned in good weather – that is not in April, May, August and October. Obvious perhaps, but apt to be overlooked, is to carry a working flashlight and wear sturdy shoes.

Map of Mount Elgon National Park.  Courtesy of Mama Savanna Safaris
Map of Mount Elgon National Park. Courtesy of Mama Savanna Safaris

5. Macking’eny Cave

Easily recognized by the spectacular waterfall over its cave mouth, Macking’eny Cave is situated 1.5 kms north of Kitum Cave, with equally scenically impressive interests. A visit to Mount Elgon National Park should not omit exploring this site.  Although the Macking’eny Cave is open year-round, it too requires a good watch for weather, sturdy shoes and a flashlight to scout its deeps.  Along the path which leads from Kitum to Making’eny there is plenty of wildlife and birds to be seen.  An estimated 400 elephants live in Mount Elgon Biosphere as well as buffalo, leopard, colobus and blue monkey’s, hogs, waterbucks and varieties of antelopes. There are over 240 varieties of birds present including cinnamon-chested bee-eater, hartlaubs, turaco and red headed parrot.  From Macking’eny Cave it is highly recommended for trippers to explore further up the road to the Endebess Bluff, a striking natural viewing ledge that beholds memorable views.

View from Endebess Bluff in Mount Elgon National Park. Published by Eaffeldt