What to expect while Tracking the Golden Monkeys in Volcanoes National Park
Golden monkey tracking is one of the most extraordinary and exceptional tourism activities that draws thousands of visitors from all corners of the world to Volcanoes National Park. This striking activity leaves a total contentment in the hearts of the participants because they get an opportunity to trek and hike through this body refreshing mountain and meet face to face with these rare and endangered primates.
So when you are planning a safari in Rwanda, don’t forget to include golden monkey tracking in your package and visit Volcanoes National Park for a convenient and most remarkable golden monkey tracking experience. This small national park is 160 square kilometers in size. Located in Northwestern Rwanda and runs along the Border of Uganda and DRC. In case you are interested in participating in this life changing activity, this Park can be accessed by air or by road. It is 105kims West of Kigali Town, by road it takes only 2 hours to drive on a comfortable tarmac road to the Park.
The Golden Monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis kandti) are subspecies of the blue monkeys (Sykes’ monkey or Diademed monkey).They are endemic to the Virunga Volcanoes and Volcanoes National Park is not exceptional. They live in the Bamboo forest towards the foot of the mountain (from 2500m to 3200m above sea level) and mostly feed on bamboo shoot. In terms of size, the males are between 48 and 67cm and the females between 45 and 53 cm, they weigh between 4.5 and 12 Kgs for males and the females weigh from 3.5 to 4.5 Kgs.
They can be distinguished from other monkeys by their reddish color on their backs, and the dorsal parts of their sides together with some grayish brown patches. But females are lighter in color and have less grayish brown patches on their skin. These idiosyncratic primates are frisky and curious and spend most of their times jumping from one bamboo branch to another or from tree to tree being aided by their extra long tails that provide them with balance, also seen on the top of bamboos much as they also climb along the tree to eye level and are seen scampering on the forest floors. Just like the Mountain Gorillas, they also live in groups (troops) comprising of 30 to 100 individuals.
Presently there are two (2) habituated golden monkey groups open for tourist visitation. Each of the two groups has around 80 members and one of the groups has its residence at the base of Mount Sabyinyo. The habituation was meant to make them used to the presence of humans (especially tourists and researcher) hence overcoming their shyness.
A golden monkey permit costs $100 per trekker which can be acquired at the park headquarters in advance or on the morning of the activity (because there is no limit on the number of people to trek them per day) but to allow your proper and advance planning, you can book for it some days prior to tracking. This cost includes park entry fees, tour guide fee and the actual activity but does not include the cost of hiring a porter to carry your luggage during this astonishing activity. In case of the need for porters, they can be hired from the park entry.
Just like gorilla tracking, the golden monkey trek begins by reporting to the park headquarters at 7:00am for pre-tracking briefing. You will meet with friendly and professional guides who will brief you on what to expect on your trip and the guidelines (the do’s and don’ts).You will then be driven to the trailhead at the edge of the park and is about 15 minutes away. The actual trek in search of these wonderful creatures then starts by 8:00am. You go through villages and farmland before going to higher elevations.
Unlike gorilla trekking, there is no limit on the number of tourists to participate in this activity, no minimum distance with these primates and age limit is 12 years though not so stringent as in gorilla trekking. They can easily be found (within about 30-60 minutes) since they usually inhabit the foothills of the mountains in the bamboo forest. One of the hints of locating them is by following the leftovers of freshly eaten bamboo shoots. Once they are found, visitors are allowed only one hour of a magical encounter with these extremely alluring primates to observe their behavior or take photographs. They occasionally go into gardens of surrounding villages to eat Irish potatoes that have been left after harvest. What is so astonishing about watching these primates is their behavior of digging and hastily cleaning sweet potatoes before eating it.
Surprisingly, these beautiful creatures are less timorous as you can get even one meter closer to them without them getting scared, do not fear flash cameras and apparently flash cameras are allowed when taking their photographs unlike with other primates like Mountain gorillas and Chimpanzees.
Before embarking on this heartwarming and adventurous activity, make sure you are of good physical health (basic fitness) although it is not so strenuous to track them. So you can trek the golden monkeys a day before embarking on a gorilla trek. Do not forget to carry drinking water, put on hiking boots because in some cases the trails can be muddy and slippery, carry a rain jacket because the possibility of it raining or not cannot be predicted within this Park, also carry your camera to keep memories of the most wonderful moments of this trek.
In conclusion, besides gorilla trekking you should not forget to add golden monkey trekking in your package and enjoy your time to trek and learn about these remarkable creatures that will leave beautiful memories in your minds as silver meets gold (silverbacks and golden monkeys). For those interested in unleashing their passion can contact Maranatha tours for a magical experience.