Mount Elgon and The Elephant Caves in Kenya and Uganda

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Mount Elgon takes the second place as the tallest mountain in Kenya, towering over 4300 meters. Formed over millions of years, during the creation of the Great Rift Valley, this mountain stands some 140 kilometers north-east from Lake Victoria at the order between Kenya and Uganda.

Today the mountain is an old eroded volcano with a huge caldera and covered with a spectacular basaltic column. The best view however is the series of tubular caves formed by old lava flows.

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Some of these caves have a width of about 60 meters and are frequented by elephants and other wild animals, in search for salt. When the African explorer from the 19th century, Joseph Thompson, went beck to England, his stories of elephants living in caves were most likely regarded as fables.

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It was later discovered that there are indeed a series of unique caves at the base of Mount Elgon in Eastern Africa, where elephants and other animals come in search for salt. The largest four caves are: Kitum, Makongeni, Chepnyalil and Ngwarisha; all of which being thoroughly explored.

Kitum is the largest and the best known, stretching for 200 meters inside the heart of the mountain. In the native Masai language, the cave’s name means “the place of ceremonies”. For centuries, the locals have been using these caves as storage space for supplies and as stables for cattle. In other, more troubled times, these cave have been used as safe heavens.

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Their fame grew exponentially when it was discovered that they were a favorite gathering place for many elephants. Each night, herds of these beasts travel through the mountain’s forests to reach the heart of the mountains and savor the salt inside. The curved walls are a testament of hundreds of generations of elephants grinding away at them with their tusks.

Mount Elgon an its surroundings is one of the wildest regions in Kenya with miles of virgin forests all around. It’s home to over 400 elephants, may buffaloes, leopards, monkeys, antelopes and over 240 species of birds.

 

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