Golden Monkey Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Golden monkey trekking or hiking the Virunga mountains to see golden monkeys in the wild is a popular tourist activity on gorilla safaris in Uganda and Rwanda. Here's vital information you'll need to plan the activity.

A simple guide for planning golden monkey trekking adventures in Uganda and Rwanda

Imagine a flash of gold darting through lush bamboo forests, a glimpse of a creature both playful and endangered. Golden monkey trekking in East Africa offers an unforgettable wildlife encounter alongside the iconic gorilla treks of Uganda and Rwanda. These vibrant primates, found only in the Virunga Mountains and Rwanda’s Gishwati-Mukura National Park, face threats to their habitat. Yet, a trek to see them is a thrilling adventure, a chance to witness their unique beauty and support conservation efforts.

About the golden monkey (Cercopithecus kandti)

With their striking golden-orange fur shimmering against the vibrant green of their bamboo forest home, golden monkeys (Cercopithecus kandti) are a dazzling sight. These Old World monkeys stand out from their cousins with their distinctive coloration, contrasting with their black limbs and tails. Slightly larger than most monkeys, males can weigh up to 12 kg, while females are a bit smaller.

Golden monkeys thrive in the high-altitude bamboo forests of the Virunga Mountains, a volcanic chain spanning Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can find these charismatic primates in Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), and Virunga National Park (DRC). Additionally, a smaller population dwells in the Gishwati-Mukura National Park in Rwanda.

Golden monkeys are social creatures that live in large troops of up to 100 individuals with intricate family structures. A dominant male leads the troop, while females and their young form the group’s core. You’ll often see them grooming each other, playing, or foraging for bamboo shoots, their primary food source.

Golden Monkey Trekking in Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Encompassing the Virunga Mountains on the Ugandan side, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a unique opportunity for mountain gorilla encounters and the vibrant golden monkey and hike three of the volcano peaks. And, it’s the only place in Uganda where you can trek alongside these dazzling primates.

Mgahinga boasts a healthy golden monkey population, with one group fully habituated for daily trekking excursions and another dedicated to research and the immersive habituation experience. Unlike the limited gorilla trekking permits, golden monkey treks welcome visitors without strict numbers, allowing for more flexibility in your itinerary.

While gorilla trekking often steals the spotlight, golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga is an equally unforgettable adventure. These playful creatures are smaller and more agile than their gorilla cousins, offering a dynamic and captivating viewing experience.

Trekking Options:

  • Golden Monkey Trekking: This classic half-day experience begins at 8:00 am and offers you one precious hour with the golden monkeys.
  • Golden Monkey Habituation Experience: Dive deeper into the world of these primates with a four-hour experience alongside researchers. Learn about their behavior, habitat, and the vital work of conservation.

Permit Information:

  • Golden Monkey Trekking Permit: $60 (foreign non-residents), $40 (foreign residents). UGX 40,000 (East African residents).
  • Golden Monkey Habituation Permit: $100
  • Park Entrance: $40 (foreign non-residents), $30 (foreign residents), UGX 20,000 (East African residents).

Booking in advance, especially during peak seasons, is recommended to guarantee securing your spot.

The Experience: Though similar in structure to a gorilla trek, prepare for a more active golden monkey trek. Their agility means you’ll be moving at their pace!

Mount Gahinga Lodge - Best Lodges For Gorilla Trekking
Gahinga Lodge – A high-end forest retreat at the entrance of Mgahinga National Park

Accommodation for golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga

Gahinga Lodge (High-end $800 pp) — Nestled in the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes, Mount Gahinga Lodge is an exclusive vacation lodge with a tranquil charm enthralled by the dramatic backdrop of three of the extinct Virunga volcanoes. Its rustic charm creates an absorbing atmosphere of tranquillity, and its closeness to the park offers an excellent base to see golden monkeys and gorillas in Mgahinga National Park.

Birdnest Bunyonyi (Mid-range $180 pn/r) — Idyllically set on the shore of Uganda’s most beautiful lake, Birdnest offers luxury resort hotel accommodation near Kabale town. It is about a 1.5-hour drive to Mgainga.

Lake Mutanda Resort (Mid-range $155 pp)Mutanda Lake Resort is a charming little lodge sitting on a peninsula at one of the most beautiful lakes in Uganda. Although located about a 1.5-hour drive away from Mginga, this enchanting little getaway heaven provides an excellent base to track golden monkeys in Mgainga, gorillas in the south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and explore the Nepal-like attractions around this misty lake. 

Chameleon Hill Lodge (Mid-range $125 pp)  — Vibrantly glows atop a hill overlooking Lake Mutanda’s tranquil rift valley in the shadows of the Virunga Mountains. This charming little retreat is a perfect base for trekking gorillas in southern Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and exploring the slope of the Virungas in Mgahinga National Park.

Tailor-made safari package

Golden Monkey Trekking in Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park might be synonymous with gorilla trekking, but it also harbors a hidden gem: the chance to encounter the captivating golden monkeys. Add a touch of gold to your Rwanda safari adventure by spending an unforgettable hour immersed in the world of these playful primates.

Rwanda offers a classic golden monkey trekking experience, similar to neighboring Uganda. You’ll join a daily excursion to find one of the two habituated groups within the park, the largest boasting up to 100 individuals! Treks begin at 8:00 am, with a briefing at 7:00 am at the Kinigi Park headquarters.

One advantage of golden monkey trekking in Volcanoes is the flexibility. Unlike the limited gorilla permits, you have a higher chance of securing a last-minute spot. Still, booking in advance is always wise, especially during peak seasons.

Permit Information:

  • Golden Monkey Trekking Permit: $100 per person

Why Add Golden Monkeys to Your Itinerary?

  • Unique Contrast: Experience both the gentle giants (gorillas) and the vibrant, acrobatic golden monkeys.
  • Ease of Access: Adds a fascinating day trip to your existing gorilla trekking plans.
  • Supporting Conservation: Your visit directly supports efforts to protect these endangered creatures.

Accommodation for golden monkey trekking in Rwanda

Bisate Lodge (High-end $1750 pp) — Located in the foothills of Mt. Bisoke, on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, this oasis of vacation lodging offers an eco-luxury experience accompanied by unique insights into the remotest parts of Rwanda.

Virunga Lodge (High-end $1210 pp) — Perched on a 2,300-meter (7,500-foot) ridge between Lake Ruhondo and Lake Bulera, this remote lodge offers a bush-chic experience and breathtaking views.

Singita Kwitonda Lodge (High-end $1950 pp) — Set right on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, Singita Kitonda’s eight luxurious suites feature a private heated plunge pool, wellness treatment area fireplaces, and large timber-framed windows that welcome breathtaking scenery and volcano views inside. 

Gorilla’s Nest (Mid-range $750 pp) — Surrounded by swaying eucalyptus trees, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest awakens a wild spirit of adventure. A place that encourages you to gaze into the mirror through eye-opening encounters with majestic mountain gorillas and experience the story of Rwanda

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge (Mid-range $970 pp) — Surrounded by the tropical Volcanoes National Park rainforests, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge’s guests can unwind in their choice of stone cottage or suites, each with a large sitting room, fireplace, stylish ensuite bathroom, and private veranda.

Mountain Gorilla View Lodge (Budget $280 pp) — Sensitively designed and built using local, sustainable resources, the lodge’s 30 cottages are well spaced from each other and come complete with fireplaces and en suite bathrooms.

Mgahinga National Park; you can track both gorillas and golden monkeys in Mgahinga.

Golden Monkey Trekking Vs Gorilla Trekking

Africa’s lush forests offer two extraordinary primate encounters: golden monkey trekking and the iconic gorilla trek. Both promise unforgettable experiences, but they differ in accessibility, the primates’ behaviors, and the challenges they present.

The Trek:

  • Golden Monkeys:  While the trek itself is similar to gorillas, golden monkeys are often found more easily due to their more predictable habits. Be prepared for a fun, active chase as they leap through the trees!
  • Gorillas: Mountain Gorillas are slower-paced, moving less frequently. This offers a calmer trekking experience and sometimes easier photo opportunities.

The Experience:

  • Golden Monkeys:  These playful creatures are full of energy. Expect close encounters, but be ready to move quickly to keep up with their acrobatics.
  • Gorillas:  Gorillas are gentle giants, known for their quiet strength and social interactions. Their size and presence are awe-inspiring.

Accessibility:

  • Group Size: Golden monkey treks allow more visitors than gorilla treks and are a less expensive experience than the limited gorilla permits.
  • Age: Golden monkey trekking has an age restriction of 12 years and older. It’s a fantastic adventure for teenagers and adults. Gorilla trekking has a higher age limit of 15 years old.
  • Cost: Golden monkey permits are significantly more affordable than gorilla permits (Uganda: $60 vs. $700, Rwanda: $100 vs. $1500).

Which to Choose?

If you’re seeking a budget-friendly, active primate adventure perfect for families, golden monkeys are a fantastic choice. If you long for close observation of the legendary mountain gorillas, their impressive size and power, go for the gorilla trek.

Best Time for Golden Monkey Trekking

While you can trek to see golden monkeys year-round, the best time to experience these dazzling creatures is during the drier seasons (June to August and December to January). Trails are clearer, the weather more pleasant, and you can fully enjoy watching their playful antics without the distraction of rain.

But beware – these drier seasons are also peak tourism times in Uganda and Rwanda. Lodges fill up quickly, so even though golden monkey permits are easier to come by, it’s crucial to book your stay well in advance, especially if you’re traveling between June and September.

Feeling adventurous? Consider the low seasons (March to May and October to November). Expect rain, muddy trails, and a touch of mist in the forests. However, you might find the trade-off worthwhile: fewer crowds, the thrill of a more challenging trek, and potential discounts at lodges.

Your Golden Monkey Trekking Packing Essentials

Trekking to see golden monkeys means navigating high-altitude rainforests, so your packing list needs to prioritize comfort and protection. Think of it as very similar to gorilla trekking! Here’s what to pack:

Footwear & Clothing

  • Waterproof Hiking Boots: Choose a pair with good ankle support for uneven terrain.
  • Long-Sleeved Shirt & Trousers: Lightweight, breathable fabrics protect from insects and scratches.
  • Warm Sweater/Fleece: Perfect for chilly evenings at the lodge.
  • Waterproof Rain Jacket: A must-have for unpredictable weather.
  • Waterproof Backpack: To protect your gear from the rain.
  • Warm Socks: Keep your feet cozy in the evenings and during the trek.

Photography & Observation

  • Camera with Zoom Lens: Capture those amazing golden monkey moments, even from a distance.
  • Binoculars: A great alternative or addition to a camera for close-up views.

Additional Essentials

  • Hat: Shield yourself from the sun or rain.
  • Insect Repellent: Protect against mosquitoes and other bugs.
  • Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, high-altitude sun is stronger.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated during the trek.
  • Snacks: Energy bars or fruit for a quick energy boost.

Golden Monkey Trekking Safaris in Uganda & Rwanda

Choosing between Uganda and Rwanda for golden monkey trekking depends on a few factors. Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park offers easier access from Kigali International Airport and a generally shorter drive to the park. Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park may involve a longer journey from Entebbe but it rewards you with the chance to trek both gorillas and golden monkeys in one location at a cheaper cost. Permit prices favor Uganda ($60 vs. Rwanda’s $100). Trekking difficulty can vary in both parks depending on the location of the golden monkey group. Additionally, consider nearby attractions: Uganda offers proximity to Queen Elizabeth National Park and other wildlife reserves, while Rwanda boasts a vibrant cultural scene in Kigali.

Whether trekking to see golden monkeys in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park or Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, your trip can easily extend into an unforgettable multi-primate experience. Here are some ways to make your adventure even more extraordinary:

Effortless Planning with Nkuringo Safaris

Let us take the stress out of crafting your dream African safari. We’ll customize your primate adventure based on your wishes and budget, finding perfect accommodations and securing those precious permits. Our private, all-inclusive safaris free you to simply immerse yourself in the experience and create unforgettable memories amongst these magnificent creatures.

get quote from best tour company for gorilla trekking safaris in uganda
get quote from best tour company for gorilla trekking safaris in uganda

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Golden Monkey Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
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