Mt. Elgon - Elephant Den

It is often referred to as the “Elephants Den” due to its unique ecosystem, and the high fertility rate in this species at this location. The elephants here thrive on healthy reproduction that is un- matched anywhere else in East Africa. The secret lies in the privacy and additional nutrition of the Lava Tube Caves—elephants hidden and tucked away in the slopes of Mt. Elgon, North West Kenya bordering Uganda. The landscape of this ecosystem consists of rocky slopes of the mountain, forest trees and shrubs, with surrounding historic volcanic caves that contain a high-level of salt; a much favored nourishment for the elephants. This hidden backdrop and the high-level of salt nutrition (aids in water retention) provide the environment that has enabled survival for continued generation of elephants. Come witness this amazing journey to learn more about the hidden dark caves, the stirring elephant trunk trumpets that rumbles through the mountain, and learn why protection of this species in this environment is critical.

The lure of salt draws a special group of elephants to a place they are rarely found, deep underground. For thousands of years, Kitum Cave at the base of Mt. Elgon in Kenya stretches almost 200 meters into Mt. Elgon and it is believed that the salt-licking Elephants and other animals have contributed over time in the expansion of the caves. One generation teaches the next the secrets of the cave, despite the horrific memory of poachers who attacked their ancestors at the very mouth of this sacred place, reducing their herd from about 1,000 to just about 100. Therefore, under the cover of night, out of sight and fearful of harm at the hands of humans, the elephants journey to the cave to cure their salt cravings. The last remaining elephant population of Mt. Elgon is the world´s only elephants which go underground into huge, dark caves and holding the unique culture of salt mining. For thousands of years, the caves on the slopes of Mt. Elgon in Kenya have been personal salt mines for this elephant’s population. The elephants mine, by the use of their tusks, breaking the salty rocks from the cave walls, deep inside the volcano. The elephants on Mt. Elgon are Savannah Elephants, not the forest elephants of West and Central Africa. On Mt. Elgon, the only natural source of salt is more difficult to understand, it is found in deep natural caves in the side of the mountain. The elephants enter these caves, as whole families with youngsters, and walk as far as 150 meters into the pitch darkness to find a salt layer in the rock. Elephants mine the rock for its sodium rich salts. They excavate the mineral-rich rock with their tusks to break off pieces of the cave wall, chipping off rough chunks and eating these hidden gems as a vital dietary supplement, leaving the walls scratched and furrowed; their actions have likely enlarged the cave over time. 

You will learn about their environment, survival, and why so many baby elephants are born and survive here. Enjoy a day in Mt. Elgon National Park, an Eco-footprint of these unique salt-licking Elephants habituating in Kitum caves which stretches about 200 meters into the mountain. You will be exposed to the diversity of the surrounding of animals and plants in the forest; nocturnal caves—a favourite elephant and other animals hideaway; a forest diversity that includes Elgon Teaks, Cedar trees, and natural basalt columns; the protected blue monkeys, a Rift Valley native; and numerous bird species. Come learn, enjoy this natural eco-system and appreciate Kenya’s passion to continue to conserve it.

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