Golden Monkeys In Mgahinga National Park
Uganda is a primate country with variety including the Gorillas, chimpanzees, baboons, and monkeys, but one of the primate species that stand out is the golden monkey. The golden monkeys are a rare monkey specie of the old world monkey that reside in the Virunga volcanic mountains of East and Central Africa. Golden monkeys specifically occupy the south western Park of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and the North-western part in Volcanoes National park in Rwanda.
The Golden monkeys prefer living in bamboo and forest zones, their movement depends on the prevailing season and climate. They shelter and slumber at the top in the bamboo trees, and their feeding is usually done next to their shelters. When the ripening season is on (Dry season), these primates stay still in a particular area of residence, likewise when the rainy season that promotes germination and shooting of bamboo begins, the Golden monkeys are prompted to stay in those areas or change to better locations if conditions worsen.
Therefore an area with a multitudinous combination of both can maintain a dense population of the Golden monkeys than any area with just simple bamboo plantation(s). So a forest with bamboo is a sincere residence for the Golden monkeys, as well as, their love to travel in factions of several sizes.
Social life of the Golden monkeys
Golden monkeys live in big numbers whereby a group has a range of 60-80 members. Endemic to the Albertine Rift, the golden monkey is identified by its bright orange-gold body, cheeks, and tail, contrasting with its black limbs, crown and tail end. This ensures travelers with a high opportunity to see the golden monkeys with clear views due to their unique color.
They keep moving from one place to another in search of the fresh foods for their survival. They leave their sleeping areas and go in the jungle searching for food then later return to sleep at the top in the bamboo trees. They highly focus and stay in zones with assorted bamboo and fruit. They sleep up in the bamboo trees in groups of 4 or more individuals.
Golden monkeys are so playful and stubborn but very shy, they keep jumping crossing over tree branches even in presence of human trackers/visitors. Their playful lifestyle makes spending time in their presence more interesting for travelers who engage in this activity. Visitors must follow the guidelines of the guides in this park to avoid altering the behavior of these primates at any time.
Food and Diet
Golden monkeys mainly feed on fruits and bamboo. They mainly consume delicacies that primarily constitute of youthful bamboo leaves, forest fruits, bamboo branches, shoots shrubs, flowers, and invertebrates. Its dietary patterns are shaped by the prevailing seasons; the dry season is characterized with fruit ripening implying that these primates shall entirely relish on fruits and vice versa when the rainy seasons begin they feed on young leaves and shoots. The feeding on edible flowers and shrubs is more frequent when they are plenty and available.
How to See Golden Monkeys
For anyone to participate in Golden monkey trekking, a permit has to be obtained like for the case of mountain gorillas and chimpanzees from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) or from the park headquarters in Kisoro district. A Golden monkey permit is charged at 50 USD per person in Uganda and US$100 in Rwanda and that permit is only valid for the date it is meant for. This activity only happens in Mgahinga National Park and a maximum of 6 people are allowed to interact with the golden monkeys for one hour. The visiting group of people will be allowed to spend one full hour with these monkeys as they learn about their ways of life.
We recommend booking your permits in time to avoid missing on this fascinating activity, a period of 4-6 months is necessary especially in the peak season when there’s a high number of visitors and the permits are on high demand. These permits are can only be acquired from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) through trusted tour operators. Golden monkey tracking can be added to your Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga to make your travel experience more satisfying.
What to Expect on a Golden Monkey Tracking Tour?
Trekking the Golden monkeys involves hiking into the Virunga Mountains in search for this endangered primate in their natural habitat. The activity was introduced in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to balance on the Nyakagyezi gorilla family tracking activity in the park to diversify tourism in this park and increase the number of tourism activities offered there for a greater experience of the travelers. Mgahinga National Park is one of the homes for these endangered species in the Virunga Mountains. Golden monkey tracking is one of the major tourist activities in this park after Gorilla tracking.
These endangered creatures are endemic to this region sharing their habitat with the Mountain Gorilla, forest elephant, buffalo, and other species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. It was hard to find the monkeys because they are small do not make nests and leave little evidence of their presence on the forest floor, and can at times be quiet.
However, after they were discovered, they were habituated and are now used to the presence of human beings without running away or altering their behavior. The experience in the wild with monkeys is never the same as the monkey group decides how to go about their day. Trekking in the mountain may not be easy sometimes as you may encounter strong winds, heavy rainfall (sometimes) and extreme coldness, you will, therefore, need to be prepared enough for this jungle experience. When it rains these primates take shelter and stay in one place making it easy for trackers to have closer views of them.
Cost of Golden Monkey Tracking Permit in Uganda
A golden monkey permit in Uganda costs $50 per person for foreign nonresidents, $40 per person for foreign residents and 20,000 Ugx for East African Residents. This cost excludes the park entry fee, but includes the guide who will share his knowledge of the golden monkeys in the one hour you will spend. Travelers that desire to spend more quality time and understand the detailed information regarding the golden monkeys can contact the Park officials to engage golden monkey habituation experience that costs only $100 per person.
How the activity is conducted?
Golden monkey tracking is not so different from Gorilla tracking; it starts with at the Park headquarters with a briefing at 7:30 am on the guidelines for tracking. The visitors start the hiking at 8:00 am into the forests in search for habituated golden monkeys and this could take just about 3 hours or less because they live in lower areas compared to the mountain Gorillas. Once the tourists find a golden monkey group, they will be allowed to have a full hour encounter of these endangered species as they learn more about their lives and taking pictures.
What to wear/carry during golden monkey tracking
There are several requirements that tourists need to have a memorable and fun-filled experience during golden monkey tracking. These include pair of Binoculars, Camera with extra batteries, hut to protect your head from the scorching, insect repellant, sunglasses sun, walking stick, waterproof hiking boots, long trousers, long-sleeved shirt and carry a backpack for your lunch, drinking water, snacks, and your documents. You can hire a porter to help you during climbing in slippery places and they carry your backpack.
A hiking safari to spend time with the remarkable golden monkeys is yet another absolute climax and so rich in experience, a Golden Monkey trek is usually better in the mornings when the sun is not too hot to for the visitors to climb the mountains and visitors are granted chance to last with the monkeys for about an hour.