Golden monkey tracking in Uganda and Rwanda
A guide to golden monkey tracking in Uganda and Rwanda helps you understand what it takes to go watch these amazing and beautiful monkeys. Golden monkeys are an endangered species endemic to the Virunga Massif. Visiting one of the parks within the Virunga Massif leads to hikes and slopes that benefit from watching the primates.
Golden monkey tracking has become another thriller for trekkers going to Uganda and Rwanda to trek gorillas. This adventure was only possible for the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo that share the Virunga Conservation Area.
About golden monkeys
Golden monkeys are listed on the IUNC red list of endangered species because they are endemic to only the central African forests of the Virunga Massif. These are small primate species that physically have a clear appearance. Golden monkeys are a subspecies of the Skykes monkeys, also known as blue monkeys. The golden monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis Kandti) are social mammals that live in larger communities called “troops” of about 60–100 individuals.
The monkeys mainly live on the slopes of the tropical volcanoes of the Virunga Conservation Area. The golden monkeys are identical with their golden or orange spots on their fur coats, which makes them one of the most beautiful primate species. It’s esteemed; in the wild, there are only about 5000 golden monkeys still roaming in the wild of Virunga Massif and the neighboring forests of Kahuzi Beiga Forest.
A male golden monkey can weigh about 4 to 12kg and stand at a height of about 48 to 67cm. The females can also weigh about 3–4 kg and are a bit smaller in size. A mature golden can live up to 19 years.
Human activities like civil wars and encroachment on their endemic natural habitats pose a greater threat to the monkeys. This has greatly affected their numbers in the wild and created a serious threat. So, several international and regional organizations have come out to ensure that the golden monkeys have their future. With this, several conservation programs have intensified, and among them is the introduction of a tracking method for sustainable conservation.
Where to find the golden monkeys
Golden monkeys are endemic to only two forests: Virunga Conservation Area and the neighboring Kahuzi Biega forest. The four national parks that accommodate the golden monkeys include Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and the two parks in DR Congo, Virunga National Park and Kahuzi Biega National Park. So, trackers who are wishing for the golden monkey adventure can choose among the four parks mentioned.
The four parks are strategically located within the arrays of the Albertine Rift, which are still endemic forests for the popular mountain gorillas. The intensifying number of trackers for gorillas has also made golden monkeys more popular after they became another thrilling activity to undertake alongside gorilla trekking. This created the selling slogan “Gold meets Silver”, as golden monkeys can be encountered living alongside silverback gorillas.
Parks where to trek golden monkeys
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda
Volcanoes National Park is the most popular national park in Rwanda due to the thrilling gorilla trekking adventures and the park’s status as an upmarket gorilla trekking destination. The park is an endemic park in Rwanda for both mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. The park has two habituated golden monkey troops, and the most visited community has the largest population of about 100 individuals living along the slopes of Mount Sabinyo. The golden monkeys here are habituated to enable a close-up encounter with the monkeys. It’s also believed that in Rwanda, golden monkeys are also seen in both Gishwati Makara National Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park, but tracking is not arranged within the two parks.
A permit to trek with golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park costs $100 per person per trek. The number of trekkers for golden monkeys is not restricted like for gorillas, which is limited to 8 trekkers. Even at the last minute, you can just walk into the park and have your permit issued at the park headquarters. However, it remains very important to reserve your trekking permit in advance through the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda
The best place to track the golden monkeys in the world is an endemic forest in Uganda, where you can watch these beautiful monkeys. The park has a single habituated gorilla family, and when visiting Mgahinga, it’s very tempting to spare some time and track these amazing, shy, gorgeous monkeys. The volcanic tropic forests feature both tropical and bamboo vegetation, and the golden monkeys have chosen the lower slopes of the volcanoes.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in southwestern Uganda; it shares borders with Rwanda and the DR Congo. This is Uganda’s smallest park, a stretcher of the larger Virunga Massif, and is among the four parks where tourists can find the golden monkeys. Mgahinga has two golden monkey communities available for trekking. The largest community has about 100 individuals, which can be tracked through the two daily tracking sessions. And the other smaller troop or community is reserved for habituation experience. It’s only at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park that trekkers experience golden monkey habituation. With the habituation experience, trackers have a chance to stay with the monkey for about 4 hours, following their movements and studying them.
To track golden monkeys at Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, one must have a permit. The Uganda Wildlife Authority is responsible for issuing permits. A permit to track in Uganda costs $60 per person, per track. Golden monkey tracking is not limited by the number of trackers, which is the case with gorilla and chimpanzee tracking. One can even reach out to the park information center and secure a permit to track on the same day.
Golden monkey tracking experience
The best golden monkey tracking experiences are at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Golden monkey tracking has no age limit, and there is no limit to the number of trackers in a habituated troop. There are two tracking sessions at both parks; the first one starts at 7:30 a.m. with a briefing on trekking etiquette. The tracking is not as strenuous as gorilla tracking, but some effort is needed on a walk to locate the monkeys. The second session comes after lunch hours, starting at 2 p.m. After the briefing, trackers bump into the forest under the lead of an experienced armed ranger guide, who leads them in the direction of the monkeys following the previous leftovers. Once the monkeys are encountered, trackers will follow their movements as they get entertained by their natural jumpiness for an hour. Though the golden monkeys are shy, these habituated monkeys are not too shy and can even draw closer on sight of human presence.
What to pack when tracking golden monkeys
You should have suitable clothing for tracking, and your packing list should consist of the following: hiking boots, long trousers, a rain jacket, a long-sleeved shirt, a hat, enough drinking water and sugary energizing drinks, a walking stick, insect repellent, cameras, binoculars, and a porter to help carry your extra luggage.