Golden Monkey Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda – Facts & Info

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Golden monkey tracking or hiking up their natural habitat is a thrilling adventure that every traveler has to experience on their Uganda and Rwanda safari. It offers the opportunity to encounter these cute primates in the wild at close range. This guide therefore gives you up-to-date information about golden monkey tracking including where to see, when to visit and cost of a permit.

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The Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus kandti) is one of Africa’s primate species of Old World monkeys. It is endemic to the highland bamboo forested region of the Virunga which comprises Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Golden monkeys live only in moist montane forests, mostly made up of bamboo or mixed with bamboo. There is an estimated population of between 2000 and 4000 individuals left in the wild which makes them an endangered species. These amazing creatures are only found in the Virungas and they live in troops of about 100 individuals led by an Alpha male.

Golden monkeys feed on a varied range of seasonal fruits, bamboo shoots, leaves, flowers, lichens, sprouts, and small invertebrates. They mostly remain in areas where ripe fruit is available in dry seasons and move to areas where bamboo is growing at the beginning of the rainy season.

Golden monkey tracking is a thrilling experience you can add to your bucket list African adventures. Most travelers on a Uganda or Rwanda safari usually combine golden monkey tracking with gorilla trekking or big five safaris.

Where can I see golden monkeys in Uganda?

In Uganda, golden monkeys can be seen in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, situated in south-western Uganda. It is a portion of the Virunga massif and one of the places to see golden monkeys and mountain gorillas in their natural habitat at close range. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park alone provides a home to an estimated population of between 3164 and 5059 individuals.

Mgahinga offers better golden monkey tracking adventures than it does gorilla trekking, although it is another option for gorilla trekking in Uganda. In Mgahinga, the number of tourists joining the daily excursions to see golden monkeys is not restricted as it is with mountain gorillas, and the treks begin at 08:00 AM at the Ntebeko Visitors’ Center.

There are two daily golden monkey tracking excursions offered at Mgahinga: the regular half-day excursion where visitors have only one hour to see them, and the more captivating and unique golden monkey habituation experience, where visitors have an extended period of time. It is a newly introduced product in Mgahinga.

Golden Monkey Habituation Experience in Uganda

Golden monkey habituation experience in Uganda.  Golden monkey habituation experience is an activity where wild golden monkeys are trained to get used to human presence and made available for daily treks. Because golden monkeys are shy and wild creatures, they have to be habituated before being declared open to visitor experience.

Golden monkeys have been part of a long-running study in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, with the habituation process which gradually gets a troop of wild golden monkeys comfortable in the presence of humans. The golden monkey habituation experience allows visitors a maximum of four hours with the golden monkeys while following them around and learning about them.

Where can I see golden monkeys in Rwanda?

In Rwanda, you can see golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park. This remarkable park is also popular for gorilla trekking in Rwanda. There are two human-habituated golden monkey troops in Volcanoes National Park. The largest troop is located in Sabinyo and consists of about 80 to 100 individuals. This is the most visited group in Rwanda so far.

Regular golden monkey tracking excursions start at 8:00 a.m. from the park headquarters at Kiningi. Visitors are advised to be at the park headquarters by 7:00 a.m. for a safety briefing before embarking on the golden monkey tracking. Only one session per day is offered here.

How much is Golden Monkey tracking?

In Uganda, a golden monkey tracking permit costs $60 per person for foreign non-residents and foreign residents and UGX 40,000 for East African residents. Golden monkey habituation experience permit costs $100 per person.

You need to purchase a golden monkey tracking permit which allows you to see the golden monkeys in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The permit accounts for armed ranger services, expert local tracker guides, and the time you spend with the primates but excludes park entrance fees.

In Rwanda, a golden monkey tracking permit cost $100 for foreign non-residents, $65 for foreign residents and East Africans, $80 for East African foreign residents, and RWF 4000 for Rwandan citizens. Students or children pay $45 for all categories except Rwandan citizens, who pay RWF 2000.

There are no restrictions on the number of visitors since golden monkey tracking excursions don’t attract as many tourists as mountain gorillas. Permits can be purchased on ground from the park headquarters at Ntebeko in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or Kinigi in Volcanoes National Park.

Where to Stay when Tracking Golden Monkeys?

Since golden monkey tracking is conducted in the same destinations as gorilla trekking, we encourage you to read about where to stay when gorilla trekking. Otherwise, below is a list of some of the lodges to stay at.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

  • Lake Mutanda Resort (Mid-range $155 pp)
  • Birdnest Bunyonyi (Mid-range $180 pn/r)
  • Chameleon Hill Lodge (Mid-range $125 pp)
  • Gahinga Lodge (High-end $800 pp)

Volcanoes National Park

  • Bisate Lodge (High-end $1750 pp)
  • Virunga Lodge (High-end $1210 pp)
  • Singita Kwitonda Lodge (High-end $1950 pp)
  • Gorilla’s Nest (Mid-range $750 pp)
  • Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (Budget $280 pp)
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (Mid-range $970 pp) 

Comparing Golden Monkey Tracking with Gorilla Trekking

Moutain Gorilla Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Golden monkey tracking is similar to gorilla trekking. However, visitors may find golden monkey tracking less challenging or strenuous since these tiny creatures normally maintain the same foraging range. They will feed and then return to the same sleeping area for some time which contrasts with mountain gorillas that build new nests every evening in different locations and forage away from the previous day’s spot.

Golden monkeys are more active the entire time you spend with them compared to mountain gorillas. They are curious and cheeky, like chimpanzees play on the branches, but not aggressive. These little primates will walk up close to you, then jump up into the tree and move on.

You’ll probably have to move faster through the tangled jungle to keep up with them. Mountain gorillas typically spend hours in the same position, gripping and eating nearby plants and foliage while farting and grunting. They won’t move until they have consumed all of the nearby edible greens. Occasionally, a baby gorilla will approach the visitors out of curiosity, but they will quickly get back in line as soon as their father expresses his disapproval.

Photography is easier with gorillas which are usually positioned in one place, while it is trickier to photograph golden monkeys because of their active movements every time.

Although there are no restrictions on the number of visitors allowed to see golden monkeys, it’s still rare to have more than a handful of people in a tracking group. Gorilla trekking is limited to eight people per group, and usually permits are sold out months in advance.

There is no minimum age restriction when tracking golden monkeys. So, if you’re traveling with children, golden monkey tracking offers an excellent opportunity for a primate experience. However, children may find tracking through the rough terrain challenging, not teenagers, though.

Regular permits for golden monkey tracking in Uganda and Rwanda cost $60 and $100, respectively, whereas permits for gorilla trekking cost $800 and $1500, respectively.

Best Time to See Golden Monkeys

Best time to see golden monkeys is during the dry seasons of June to October and December to February. During this time, the trails are dry and easier to navigate and spending a precious hour with a habituated troop might be more enjoyable when it isn’t raining.

However, the dry season is when demand shoots up (peak season), and the majority of descent lodges are fully booked. So even though it’s not difficult to get the golden monkey permit during the peak season, we highly recommend booking your accommodation in advance, especially between June and October.

March to May, and November is the low season which experience high rainfall. The forest trails are challenging during this time of year, and the forest is misty with so much undergrowth. Nonetheless, you could find yourself alone tracking with the ranger guides since lodges are almost empty, but discount offers are available for ardent adventurers who don’t mind the weather.

What to Pack for Golden Monkey Trekking

The golden monkey trekking packing list is not different from what you need for gorilla trekking because you’ll be trekking in the same rain forest jungles to see golden monkeys and gorillas. You can read the gorilla trekking packing list for a complete guide.

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