Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is 470km (292 miles) north-west of Nairobi, straddling the border between Kenya and Uganda. It is 11km from the town of Kitale, and close toSaiwa Swamp. The park covers 169km² with Mount Elgon, Kenya’s second biggest mountain, situated at its center. The mountain is covered with vast areas of natural forest and huge Elgon teak and cedar trees that tower 80 feet (24m) above the forest floor. Mount Elgon is also known for its lava tube caves, which are frequented by the resident elephants.
The wild and remote location of this national park offers excellent viewing of African animals found in Kenya. There are over 400 elephants plus buffalo, leopards, the colobus and blue monkeys (a protected species), hogs, waterbucks and various species of antelope. They can be viewed from a 4×4 wheel drive truck and the many hiking trails which wind around the park.
There are also three nature trails that lead to both the caves and Elephant Bluff. You will also find breathtaking views of the park from Endebass Bluff.
Mountain climbing or trekking is another attraction in Mount Elgon National Park. For those who want to combine their safari with a visit to the peak of Mount Elgon, which sits at 4,155 meters above sea level, climbing can be accomplished in two to three hours depending on one’s pace.
The park is also home to at least 240 different species of birds, including the cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Hartlaub’s turaco and redheaded parrot. A unique attraction in Mount Elgon National Park is its four explorable caves. They are called Kitum, Makingeni, Chepnyalil and Ngwarisha and they are favored gathering places for the elephants. Every night, trails of elephants venture up the narrow path and go deep into the caves to scratch off the salt-rich deposits with their tusks. They have consequently been nicknamed the “underground elephants”. The longest cave is Kitum, which means “Place of Ceremonies” and it extends for about 200m (656 feet) into Mount Elgon.
Saiwa Swamp National Park is the smallest national park in Kenya. It was established in 1974 and is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. The park covers just 2.9km² and was created specifically to protect the habitat and preservation of the rare sitatunga, an aquatic antelope.
The vegetation is a mixture of forest and swamp habitat with tall bushes and reeds along its marshy edge. There are tree platforms overlooking the swamp from which visitors are guaranteed to view the sitatunga. The park also hosts other Kenyan animals but due to its miniature size, it’s not as popular as Kenya’s other national parks.
Saiwa Swamp National Park has a mixture of smaller African animals, including black and white Colobus monkeys, otters, genet cats, mongooses, bushbucks and De Brazzas monkeys as well as the sitatunga antelope.
The sitatunga antelope stand 1.5meters (5 feet) tall and have shaggy, waterproof coats. Sitatunga antelope are good swimmers and hide underwater when danger threatens, with just the tip of their noses showing.
Sitatungas have long legs and elongated hooves that allow them to outrun danger in the swamps, but make them less swift on land. The females have a reddish-brown coat while the males are dark brown and have a mane and horns. The remarkable twisted horns can reach a meter (three feet) or more in length