Golden Monkey tracking in East Africa :  Golden monkeys are subspecies of the more common blue monkeys. These primates are identified with a gold color on their back and cheeks. Golden monkeys are found in only three countries – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They thrive on the slopes of Volcano Mountains especially where they can find nutritious bamboo trees. Golden monkeys are sociable primates and live in groups of about 60 individuals. They feed on mostly bamboo trees, fruits and occasionally on small insects. On a normal day, the monkeys head out to look for bamboo shoots and fruits before resting for the night. They sleep on the branches of large bamboo tree where they cannot be seen by their predators.

Golden monkeys are listed by the International Union For Conservation for Nature (IUCN) as endangered. About 5000 individuals believed to be still living on earth and because of that are actively supporting government programs to protect them.

Golden Monkey tracking in East Africa
Golden Monkey

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

In Rwanda, Golden monkeys are mainly found in the Volcanoes National Park. The monkeys can be spotted swinging on top of bamboo forests along the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo. The slopes of Mount Sabyinyo has the highest concentration of the primates and they number in the hundred. Other troops can be found in other areas of the park but in smaller numbers. Two groups have been set aside to be visited by tourists after undergoing the habituation process.  Apart from the Volcanoes National Park, the golden monkeys in Rwanda are also found in Nyungwe National Park and Gishwati-Mukura National Park. The golden monkey families in these two national parks are not habituated hence not open to tourists. They can however be spotted during nature walks or while tracking chimpanzees in Nyungwe national park.

Kahuzi Biega National Park

Apart from the above two national parks, golden monkeys are also found Kahuzi Biega national park. However, golden monkey populations here are not open to tourism. The monkeys can only be seen while on a nature walk or while tracking eastern lowland gorillas.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga is also a popular mountain gorilla and golden monkey habit but in Uganda. The golden monkeys in Mgahinga national park are seen on the slopes of Mount Gahinga and Muhavura. These two volcanoes have the highest concentration of golden in the world. It is also where most tourists come to spot the primates. Mgahinga National Park also has two habituated groups of golden monkeys that are open to visitors.

Uganda and Rwanda came up with a creative way to raise funds for golden monkey conservation. They introduced the golden monkey trekking experience where tourists pay a certain amount of money to spend one hour with the primates. Every year, thousands of visitors visit Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to spot the primates. Most combine gorilla trekking with tracking the primates for a truly amazing experience. Golden monkey trekking in both Uganda and Rwanda offer the same experience because the terrain is very similar. The rules and regulations are similar. On a typical golden monkey-tracking day, tourists gather at the park offices to attend a compulsory briefing session. During the briefing, the park officials share important information about the primates, their status and how to act while in their midst. After the briefing, the Rangers lead visitors deep into the forest in search of the monkeys.

Golden monkey trekking is less tiresome compared to gorilla tracking because the monkeys don’t move too far away from their main sleeping grounds. It takes about an hour to find the primates. The experience is less intimate than gorilla trekking because golden monkeys tend to spend a lot of their time on the top of trees, swinging from one branch to another. Even while on the ground, they are always on the move hence making photography more difficult. The interaction with the monkeys takes only one hour. The one hour is enough to take photos, watch as the group interact, groom, mate and feed. Golden monkeys are some of the cutest monkeys out there. Their glittering and unique gold color make them stand out from most of the monkey species out there. Apart from observing the primates, golden monkey tracking will reward you with magnificent views of the Volcanoes within the Virunga ranges. You will also encounter birds, other smaller primates, forest mammals and if you are lucky mountain gorillas, Golden Monkey tracking in East Africa

Golden monkey Habituation in Mgahinga National Park

Apart from standard golden monkey trekking, tourists also have an opportunity to take part in what is known as the golden monkey habituation experience. This experience is only possible in Mgahinga National park in Uganda. Golden monkeys generally avoid humans like any other wild animal. Before tourists can visit them, they have to undergo the habituation process in order for them to feel at ease in the presence of humans. The golden monkey habituation process is carried out by a team of primatologists who start with studying the social structure and behavior of a particular troop, which they then use to their advantage to gain their trust. The habituation process can take up to 3 years. The golden monkey habituation experience is open to tourists who are interested in learning how the researchers win the trust of the monkeys. It is a more expensive and longer activity in which tourists spend more time in the jungle studying and observing everything there is to know about the monkeys. Under the guidance of Researchers/ primatologists, tourists will also learn what is being done protect them globally.

Golden Monkey tracking in East Africa
Golden Monkey tracking in East Africa

Packing list for Golden Monkey Trekking

In order to have the most comfortable time tracking the monkeys, you need to consider packing the right items, water, snacks and clothing. Golden monkey trekking involves hiking for long distances and in unpredictable terrain. The packing list for golden monkey trekking is similar to that of gorilla trekking.

  • You will need hiking boots with good traction.
  • You also need clothes that cover the entire body – long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
  • You will also need a raincoat in case it rains.
  • During the dry season, a cap and sunglasses will protect you from the strong sunlight.
  • Do not forget to pack drinking water and snacks or else you will get hungry.
  • Hand sanitizers are also important but an insect repellent is even more important for keeping off tropical insects.
  • Do not forget to show up with a binocular and a good camera to take photos of the primates.
  • Porters are available for hire at the starting point for about $15.
  • If you have a hiking stick, come with it. Park officials will also offer you simple hiking sticks.

Golden Monkey Permits

In Rwanda, the Tourism Department of the Rwanda Development Board is responsible for issuing out permits while in Uganda, it is the Uganda wildlife Authority. Travelers can acquire golden monkey permit directly from the two government bodies or indirectly through the local operator planning their trip. Since golden monkey trekking experience is not as popular as gorilla tracking, the permits are usually available. A traveler may not need to book them in advance throughout the year. In fact, it is possible to acquire them at the park offices a day before the trek. However, we recommend that you book the permits in advance especially if you are traveling in the peak seasons that is from June to August and December to March.

In Uganda, the golden monkey trekking permit costs $60 per person for all the foreigners. East African residents only need to pay 40,000 Uganda shillings. The golden monkey habituation permit goes for $100 for foreigners and 100,000 Uganda shillings for East African citizens. The permit fee includes Park Ranger fees but excludes park entrance that is at $40 per person for foreign non-residents, $30 for foreign residents and 20,000 UGX for East African Citizens.

In Rwanda, the golden monkey trekking permit goes for $100 person and includes park entrance and Ranger costs.

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