Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti) is one of the primates tracked on African safaris. The golden monkey is a species of the Old World monkey found in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Africa. Unfortunately, due to loss of their habitat in the past wars, the golden monkey is listed as endangered. About 2000 to 4000 individuals are estimated to be existent in the Virungas.
Golden monkeys are found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in south western Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and in Congo. The golden monkeys are restricted within the highland forest especially near bamboo.
The golden monkey was previously thought to be a subspecies of the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) but found to just be similar. The golden monkey is differentiated by the golden-orange patch on the upper flanks and back. They are mainly herbivorous known to eat mainly bamboo branch lets, shoots, flowers, fruit and leaves. However, they are opportunistic feeders whose diet is easily influenced by availability of fruit. In rare cases, they also feed on insects.
Because of their kind of diet, the golden monkeys live in habitats with a lot of bamboo and fruit, which is part of the Virunga Volcanoes. They move between areas depending on where there is food. In the dry season, they look for ripe fruit and stay in those areas with fruit. When the rainy season begins, they move to the bamboo areas since the bamboo is shooting at that time. In most cases they prefer places with both bamboo and fruit.
They live in groups of different sizes sighted from 3 to as large as a group of 100 each group led by an alpha male. In size, the golden monkeys that live in the higher elevations are smaller compared to those in lower elevations.
In most cases, the golden monkeys sleep in one of their sleeping areas after a day of feeding. They sleep on top of dense bamboo plant or several bamboo plants that they weave together to make a sufficient foundation to sleep, they do this in small sub groups of 4 individuals. When they make a sleeping area, the next day, they will feed close to the sleeping area such that they return in the evening to sleep. This is different from the mountain gorillas that spend each night in a different place.
The golden monkey is one of the primates in Uganda preferred for primate tracking by tourists on Uganda safaris. They are only found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. This same park is home to mountain gorillas and best for a Uganda gorilla safari, this is why it is dubbed “where gold meets silver”.
The golden monkeys in Mgahinga go through a habituation process to familiarize with humans before they are opened up to tourism. The habituated troops are available for tracking and the semi-habituated groups are available for golden monkey experiential.
Golden monkey trekking isn’t as exhausting as gorilla tracking since the golden monkeys do not build new nests each day and therefore their movement is easily traceable.
The golden monkey experiential is the best way of having a greater insight of the lifestyle of the monkeys. You spend more time with the golden monkeys and learn their behavior before being fully habituated.
In Rwanda, golden monkeys are found in Volcanoes National Park which is also the gorilla safari Rwanda destination. There are two habituated golden monkey groups in the park one of them comprising of 80-100 members. This group is mainly found in the foot of Mt. Sabyinyo. The trek starts from the park headquarters in Kinigi at 7:00 am.
Unlike gorilla trekking where a maximum of 8 individuals can trek a single group of mountain gorillas, there is no restriction to the number of people who trek golden monkeys. However, a maximum of 1 hour is what is allowed for tourists to spend with the golden monkeys. Golden monkey trekking permits can be booked early or bought at the park headquarters in the morning of the trek.
If you want have a great primate tracking experience, then choose golden monkey trekking. To have a much amazing experience, you can tailor your golden monkey safari with gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda, birding or hiking in all of the parks. The safari can also be tailored on a Kenya safari or Tanzania wildlife safari for a well-combined tour.