Golden Monkey safaris in Uganda offer the opportunity to venture into the bamboo forest of the country’s smallest National Park to search for the endangered and frisky golden-colored primates in their natural habitat. Also known as Cercopithecus mitis kandti, they are one of the 20 primate species in Uganda and join the mountain gorillas in making visitors’ experiences unforgettable.
In Uganda, these amazing creatures are trekked from only Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the 34-square kilometer Protected Area found in the south-western corner of Uganda, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. These primates are also found in Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda as well as Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo and one common thing about all these places is that they lie within te Virunga Conservation Area.
Their present World population stands at 2000 to 4000 individuals and one of their characteristics is that they live in large troops of up to 100 members led by an Alpha male. The ones visited/trekked are actually habituated to make them used to humans, although their frisky and exciting behavior still remains regardless of habituation. There is no limit to the number of visitors undertaking the trek but once found, visitors are offered only one hour of observation and photography. However, Golden monkey safaris in Uganda are like no other because visitors are also provided the opportunity of joining researchers and conservationists in training these primates to become accustomed to human presence, thus more time in their presence. Therefore, you can join the “Golden Monkey Habituation Experience” for an insight on how they are habituated.
Having prepared for the golden monkey safari in Uganda (by booking the trekking permit and finally landing into the country), the next thing is transferring to the Park where the adventure will take place. On the actual trekking day, briefing is at the Park Headquarters on the guidelines to be followed while trekking these primates in their natural habitats. Start the search for the allocated golden monkey troop by 8:00am by walking slowly and following the lead of the experienced Ranger guide. The trek is less strenuous compared to gorilla trekking, owing to the fact that these creature occupy the lower slopes of Virunga Mountains (less than 2500 meters above sea level) compared to their counterparts that live in areas ranging from 2500 to 4000 meters above sea level. The entire trek will last 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the location of the golden monkeys but more animals, plants and birds will be spotted during this trek. Unlike mountain gorillas, golden monkeys are very playful and therefore a lot of stamina and keenness is required when photographing them.
The Golden monkey permits for foreign non-residents and foreign residents cost $60 while for the East African Community residents cost Shs. 40,000 per person. The Habituation Experience is more costly are permits go for about $100 for the foreign non-resident and foreign resident visitors as well as Shs. 100,000 for the East African Community visitors. These permits can be booked even on the actual trekking date, although it is advisable to book in advance for proper planning of the golden monkey safari in Uganda.
On how these permits are booked, visitors can directly contact Uganda Wildlife Authority via email, telephone or physical address in Kampala City. This process is considered cumbersome thus most travellers choose option B, which is booking through a trusted Tour Operator. In this case, you will not go through the hustle of booking via UWA but instead pay and everything will be done on your behalf and also, these Operators can organize the entire Golden monkey safari in Uganda.
The best time to go for the golden monkey safari in Uganda is during the dry months of December to February and again from June to September with long and bright sunny days that favor walking through the jungles of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Given the little or no rains experienced in these months, hiking trails are drier thus more comfortable to walk through while searching for the endangered Golden monkeys.
The wet season on the other hand comes with heavy rains, making soil loose and hiking trails become muddy/ or slippery. Also, the possibility of receiving downpours in the middle of the trek is high but some of the advantages of golden monkey trekking in the wet season is that treks are shorter (because the primates have more food). Additionally, the sky is cleared of dirt thus expect better views for photography, in addition to the season being the blooming time for birding. Not only that, travellers that trek golden monkeys during the wet season are likely to enjoy discounts on accommodation because it is also a low season where a number of Lodges reduce costs to at least break even.
As simple as it might seem, packing for golden monkey safari in Uganda is sometimes challenging and one thing to bear in mind is that the activity is undertaken in a mountainous jungle and therefore consider the weather, terrains and vegetation when coming up with a packing list. Therefore, done forget to pack lightweight and breathable clothing (long sleeved shirts and safari pants) and make sure it is khaki and neutral-colored.
Don’t forget hiking boots for hiking through Virunga slopes while searching for the golden monkeys, cotton socks, wide brim hat and sunglasses for sun protection, re-usable water bottle, gardening gloves, a good camera, rain jacket, pair of binoculars, a backpack, snacks, first aid kit (with anti-malarial tablets, anti-nausea tablets, plasters, liniment and others), toiletries (nail clipper, wet wipes, hair comb/brush, toothpaste and toothbrush and moisturizer as well as sunscreen), insect repellant and so much more.
A number of accommodation options exist within or around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park for visitors planning to undertake Golden Monkey safari in Uganda and they include Mount. Gahinga Safari Lodge, Travellers Rest Hotel, Lake Chahafi resort, Lake Mutanda Resort, Mucha Hotel, to mention but a few.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is perched in the south-western corner of Uganda and accessible in two ways - air or road. This Park is served by Kisoro Airstrip, about one hour’s drive from the Park and it is where flights from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip can land.
For the road users, be prepared for a long day’s drive lasting 8-9 hours with options of stopping at Uganda Equator for photography, driving through Lake Mburo National Park for game viewing before proceeding as well as lunch break at Igongo Cultural center or Mbarara Town.