Golden monkeys are a unique species that is on the verge of extinction and are noted for their unusual personalities and mannerisms. Monkeys primarily communicate by facial expressions, vocalizations, and hand movements. When toddlers wave their hands about to let people know what they need, the majority of them communicate with a purpose
Male primates utilize sound communications to exert authority over territory and to convey aggressiveness, whereas female golden monkeys use call signs to gather the monkeys. Call communications are commonly used by young golden monkeys to display their submissiveness to the adult ones.
The declining population of golden monkeys is thought to be partially caused by the small geographic range they once inhabited. The population is thought to be between 2500 and 3500, but it is rapidly declining. They all reside in the Albertine forests of the Virunga Mountains, but their existence is in jeopardy due to human activity, specifically the clearing of trees to make way for settlement and farming on vast tracts of land.
They can currently be found in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains. The yellow spots that are visible all over their bodies make them easy to identify. The only way to distinguish the Golden monkeys from other primates is by their noses, which are also known as “the Old world monkey.” The golden monkeys have a distinctive feature, which is that while most monkeys have nostrils that point to the sides, the nostrils of the golden monkeys face upward.
Golden monkeys construct their homes and nests by weaving various bamboo plants together. After a long day, they rest in beds made from these bamboo trees that have been woven together.
They live in the Albertine region and they are Albertine Endemics. Endemic refers to species that are confined in that specific area. The Albertine region refers to the area which is filled with valleys and Mountains including various tree species that make up the forests surrounding the area.
Ever since they were declared endangered, many people have come to see the yellow patched primates thus making it one of the popular activities in Rwanda.
How to do Golden Monkey Trekking in Rwanda?
Virunga mountain volcanoes are where the majority of Rwanda’s golden monkey treks take place, and there is only one session per day that begins in the morning. The headquarters is only fifteen minutes from the Park, so those who want to participate in the golden monkey trekking are advised to arrive there by 7:00 am for a briefing before the trek begins.
Golden monkeys in Rwanda are divided into two troops and the largest is located near Mt Sabyinyo slopes and this has 80 to 100 monkeys and it is the most visited troop in Rwanda. The other troop is located in the Volcanoes park and it is slightly smaller in number.
Additionally, golden monkey troops are present in Gishwati – Mukura national park. It’s also thought that a small group is still alive in the Nyungwe Forest National Park. However, tourists cannot trek them in Nyungwe Forest National Park and Gishwati-Mukura National Park Reserve because the groups here are still wild and have not been habituated.
Starting at around 7:30 am, a briefing is held at the park offices to begin the process of tracking golden monkeys. You might choose to hire a porter to help with extra luggage after the briefing before heading to the starting point. While it takes less time and effort to track golden monkeys than gorilla trekking, it does take some work to find them (about an hour). They are smaller than mountain gorillas and do not leave behind obvious signs of where they were the day before.
Trackers find them by keeping an eye out for recently harvested bamboo shoot remnants. The weather and the movements of the golden monkey troop determine how different each day is when tracking them. It can be challenging to take photos of these monkeys because they are constantly moving around on top of trees (flash photography is permitted with these monkeys, but not with mountain gorillas). The only times the monkeys remain motionless are when they seek shelter from the rain or excessive wind. They must be vigilant and have difficulty locating their prey due to the winds. The best setting for your camera to capture images of these adorable creatures is a fast shutter speed.
Since they are frequently on the move, jumping from tree to tree with their long tails, you will frequently need to follow the monkeys once you have located them. The long tails aid in balance but can become tangled and severed in bamboo trees, which explains why some troop members have short tails. Golden monkeys that have been habituated to humans are not overly shy and may approach out of curiosity. Similar to mountain gorillas, visitors are only permitted to observe golden monkeys for one hour.
Golden Monkey Trekking Permits & Costs.
Permits for golden monkey trekking in Rwanda go for $100 each and the beauty about the golden monkey trek in Rwanda is that it does not limit age and number of people who can participate in the trek.
Golden monkeys are easily found since most of them live just right at the based of Bisoke and Karisimbi Mountains and can be seen swinging from the bamboo trees in the forest. The tourists get to see monkeys which have short tails that were cut off because they got stuck in the bamboo trees and they get an hour to view the creatures and get to know about their different characteristics from the explanation of the guide who goes with them. Golden monkeys also move out in the open, feast on the corns and food in the fields owned by the farmers near the forest making it easy for tourists to see them as they swing back and forth.
What to carry while on a Golden Monkey Trek in Rwanda?
For this trek, travelers must bring food or snacks and drinks. Since there are no other stops where you can purchase food, it is suggested to bring snacks / food to eat on as you go. A rain jacket will also be necessary because the local weather is erratic. You will be protected from the strong rains, especially in the morning. Don’t forget to bring sturdy hiking boots that won’t slide on the slick trail, a wide-brimmed hat for the summer to protect you from direct sun and insect repellent to prevent bites.