Golden monkey trekking is a mesmerizing experience you want to include on your African Safari specifically while on a Rwanda safari. The experience can only be enjoyed within the Virunga ranges of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Golden monkeys are endangered species remaining about 5000 individuals in the Virunga ranges and they have been mainly affected by the loss of habitat to agriculture.
Golden monkeys are distinguished from other species by their beautiful golden fur coats and outstanding cheeky character which makes them intriguing to visit. Golden monkeys are naturally curious creatures, very playful often jumping between tree branches. They mostly feed on bamboo shoots, tree branches, insects and ripe fruits on occasion. They have sometimes been seen to raid the gardens near the park for potatoes. They are unfortunately prey to the golden eagles.
Golden Monkey Trekking in Rwanda
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is home to two habituated golden monkey troops that are open for trekking. The largest group has about 80 to 100 individuals and lives on the slopes of Mt. Sabinyo. It is also the most visited troop. In addition, there are more golden monkey troops found in Gishwati Forest Reserve and Nyungwe National Park but these are not habituated and therefore not open for tourism.
Golden monkey trekking adventure in the Volcanoes National Park is done in one session. Please note that to trek golden monkeys, one needs to have purchased a trekking permit. The activity starts at 7:30 am with a briefing at the Kinigi Park Headquarters presided over by the park rangers where visitors are taken through the rules and regulations for golden monkey trekking. Unlike mountain gorillas, trekking golden monkeys is less strenuous given that the individuals live at the base of the volcanoes. However, energy and physical fitness are still required considering the nature of the terrain. Locating these jumpy monkeys is not easy though, they are mobile creatures that do not leave many traces of their location behind except left overs of their feeding – especially fresh bamboo shoots. Unlike gorillas, golden monkeys move in trees and occasionally come down to get the bamboo shoots.
After meeting the golden monkeys, visitors are given one hour to spend watching the creatures in their natural habitat. You get to watch them feed, play, and jump between tree branches with their long tails. Because they are rarely in one spot, visitors need to keep following them slowly as they jump from tree to tree. Golden monkeys are very curious and will often try to approach the visitors. After spending an hour with the primates, visitors are then guided back to the Park headquarters for appreciation and certification. Golden monkey trekking can take up to 2 – 6 hours depending on the location of the habituated troop, and the speed of the trekkers.
Golden Monkey Habituation Experience in Rwanda
For travellers’ who are interested in spending more time with the golden monkeys, there is an option of the golden monkey habituation experience. The experience allows a maximum of 4 hours for visitors to spend with the primates. Golden monkey habituation refers to the process of training wild olden monkeys to get accustomed to the presence of human beings before they are open for trekking. This is done by allowing regular visits. Every day, travellers get to accompany a group of researchers and rangers to watch, observe and learn about these beautiful monkeys. They often have to be trailed until they settle down, allowing visitors to see and observe them.
Best time to Trek Golden Monkeys in Rwanda
Golden monkey trekking in Rwanda can be an add-on activity to a gorilla trekking safari BUT yet stands alone for someone with a tight budget or one who prefers these creatures. Golden monkeys can be visited at any time of the year. However, the best time to trek them is during the drier months of December to February and June to September. Trekking golden monkeys during the wet season can be a bit difficult as the terrain is slippery and the trekking trails are difficult. Nonetheless, the wet season is a good time to trek the primates especially for travellers’ who prefer fewer crowds in the park. The wet season is usually from March to May and October to November.
What to Pack for Golden Monkey Trekking Safari in Rwanda
- Good hiking boots for the rough terrain in the forest.
- Plenty of drinking water and packed lunch or snacks in case of thirst and hunger.
- A good camera to capture the best photos of the monkeys.
- A rain poncho or rain jacket since weather in the tropical rainforest is unpredictable.
- Long trousers and long-sleeved shirts for protection against sharp branches and thorny plants.
- Insect repellent for protection against insect bites.
- A hat and sunglasses.
- A walking stick for support during the trek.