Golden monkey trekking is very similar to gorilla trekking. Golden monkeys are indigenous to the same high altitude rainforests in central Africa as mountain gorillas, for instance. Only the slopes of the Virunga Mountains, which are split between three countries and three protected national parks, are home to golden monkeys. In the south, populations have been found in Rwanda's Nyungwe National Park and the DRC's Kahuzi Biega National Park.
On the Virunga Mountains' slopes, only the Rwandan and Ugandan Mgahinga National Parks—where a few groups have been habituated for tourism—offer golden monkey trekking. Daily guided golden monkey trekking expeditions take place in both locations, starting at 7:30 at the park's administrative center and lasting anything between 30 minutes and four hours to locate a habituated golden monkey group.
These locations allow visitors to spend an hour with the primates where they may observe their unusual traits and social interactions. Nevertheless, Uganda offers a longer experience known as the golden monkey Habituation experience, which involves spending at least four hours with the golden monkeys.
Golden monkey trekking in Uganda
In Mgahinga, Uganda provides golden monkey trekking with a habituated troop of roughly 30 people. With the second golden monkey group, which is unique and only found in Mgahinga National Park, Uganda offers the golden monkey habituation experience.
In comparison to trekking in Rwanda, golden monkeys in Mgahinga browse in the bamboo forest zone, around 2 km from the Ntebeko visitor center. This means that walking time is relatively reliably calculated.
You can pick to go on the 07:30 or 14:00 golden monkey trekking trip in Mgahinga. Because time fixing is dependent on the amount of visitors on a given day, contact the park office first.
Your trekking group will follow a knowledgeable guide who will radio ahead to locate the habituated monkeys after receiving a briefing at the Ntebeko park headquarters. Two armed rangers will also monitor your security as you enter the bamboo slopes in search of the golden monkeys.
If you're lucky, you might encounter mountain gorillas or a notable forest resident like a forest buffalo, elephant, or duiker. Throughout your hike, keep an eye out for the more than 70 different mammal species and several bird species that call Mgahinga their home.
Similar to Rwanda, Uganda charges $100 per person for a golden monkey ticket that covers one hour of viewing the monkeys, a guide, two rangers, and park admission fees. Each person must get a habituation permit, which costs $140 total. You can make a direct reservation for a golden monkey permit at the UWA headquarters in Kampala, through your travel agent or operator, or on the day of your hike at the Ntebeko Part offices. Contact Dav Safaris at firstname.lastname@example.org for up-to-date details on permits.
In comparison to Rwanda, Uganda is far more reasonable for independent and thrifty travelers to combine golden monkey trekking and gorilla trekking in one trip. Compared to $800 in Uganda, the cost of a single gorilla and golden monkey permit in Rwanda is $1600 per person.
With the difference, you could stay in a nice lodge near a forest for more than two extra nights in Uganda or go on safari in one of the savannah parks north of Mgahinga.
In contrast to Rwanda, Uganda will provide you with a wider variety of safari activities to add to your golden monkey trekking safari. In contrast to Rwanda, which only has four parks and a few tourist spots, Uganda boasts 10 safari parks.
An average golden monkey safari in Uganda will begin with a night in Entebbe (32 km outside of Kampala), travel for around 10 hours through the mountainous interior of the country to the southwest, and then stay two nights outside of Mgahinga National Park. In each of the two mornings, you'll go on a mountain gorilla and golden monkey hike. After that, you'll drive up north and spend a further couple of nights in savannah parks.
Energetic travelers typically remain in Mgahinga for an additional day of hiking the Virunga Volcanoes or birding the park. Tourist lodging is rare around Mgahinga compared to the plentiful hotel around Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. The majority of visitors opt to stay in Kisoro town, which is about an hour's drive away and has an excellent selection of hotels.
Golden monkey trekking in Rwanda
With two habituated golden monkey populations only accessible to tourists in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda provides golden monkey trekking. one on Mount Karisimbi's slopes, and the second on Mount Sabyinyo's bamboo grove. These troops are thought to be the biggest, with each unit consisting of between 80 and 100 people.
At the Kiningi Tourist Center, trekkers go for the golden monkey hike at seven in the morning. The Golden Monkey permit now costs $100 per person, and the number of trekkers is not restricted like the gorilla walk. The permit can be reserved either in advance or the morning of the walk at the park headquarters.
Rwanda's permit application process and cost are very similar to those in Uganda. Due to the activity's lower popularity than gorilla trekking—where the number of trekkers will seldom surpass a dozen on any given day—both countries charge the same for the permit and do not impose a limit on the number of travelers.
You must stay the night close to Kiningi in order to arrive in time for the adventure. Quite a few tourists fly from Kigali to trek the golden monkeys the same day.
Unlike Uganda, which gives the experience twice daily, Rwanda only offers one regular expedition at 07:00, the same time gorilla tours start. You can't do both activities on the same day because most tourists to the park come to view mountain gorillas and extend their trip with a golden monkey trek. As a result, you'll need to stay one or two extra nights to see the golden monkey.
Three nights are typically spent on a gorilla and golden monkey vacation in Rwanda, with one night in Kigali and the other two spent outside of Volcanoes National Park at the foot of the Virunga Mountains.
The disadvantage of tracking golden monkeys in Rwanda as opposed to Uganda is that independent and low-budget tourists will find it difficult to organize a safari there. It is challenging for travelers on a tight budget to locate acceptable lodging options and reasonably priced transportation because Rwanda Tourism has established itself as being at the top end of the price spectrum.
What to pack for golden monkey trekking
In both Rwanda and Uganda, you'll spend the night at a high altitude, where it becomes very chilly late at night and occasionally pours with rain. Bring clothes that will keep you warm and dry while traveling.
Trekking is done on occasionally muddy, uneven trails that are relatively steep. Bring along a pair of thin, waterproof walking shoes, some pants, and gaiters. For protection of your arms and to keep your devices dry, wear a long sleeved shirt. While golden monkey trekking is a physically difficult activity, be sure to only bring the bare necessities.
On the plus side, you can hire a porter at the visitor center for $20 if your load is hefty and you are unsure of your physical health. They'll assist you get through difficult situations and carry your daypack. Also, it's a great opportunity to support the local communities near these parks and boost your self-confidence.
When is the best time to go for golden monkey trekking?
The greatest times to go golden monkey trekking are during the dry seasons, which are June to August and December to February, although the golden monkey parks in Rwanda and Uganda are open all year round. The walking routes are simple to follow during the dry months, and you can expect a nice experience since it won't rain.
But, you should be aware that everyone chooses to visit these primate destinations during the dry seasons, which means that when making vacation plans, lodging availability could be a major issue. If a traveler plans to visit the golden monkeys during the dry season, we advise them to reserve their lodging well in advance. The rains arrive in the area in March, April, May, October, and November.
Most tourists will stay away from Rwanda and Uganda during this time, but independent travelers who wish to benefit from lower hotel rates shouldn't. If you can handle the rain, now is the perfect time to go gorilla and golden monkey trekking on a budget.