Uganda and Rwanda are two of the lucky countries in the world to home the Endangered Golden monkeys, found within the Virunga Massif. These primates belong to the Blue Monkey species, and are estimated to be about 4000 – 5000 individuals surviving within the Virunga region. The golden Monkeys-scientifically known as Cercopithecus kandti are differentiated by the Golden-Orange patches on their backs and flanks. This is one of the features that make them attractive, distinctive from other monkey species and worth visiting
Tourists who are interested in tracking the golden monkeys can do it from only four National Parks that include Volcanoes National Park found in North-western Rwanda, Mgahinga National Park situated in South-western Uganda, Virunga National park and Kahuzi-Biega National Park located in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and are confined to the Mountainous forest especially close to the Bamboo zones. These Individuals live in groups of up to 100 individuals and their diet mainly comprises of young bamboo branches, leaves and shoots, other plant leaves, fruits and some insects. The Mountain gorillas live in groups of 3-30 individuals (smaller groups).
Due to the recurrent conflicts within the Eastern part of DRC, tourists are left with the option of tracking the golden monkeys from Uganda and Rwanda. However, tourists always get confused on where to go for this adventure because both countries offer unforgettable golden monkey tracking experiences.
First of all, Golden monkey tracking in Uganda takes place in the tropical rainforests of Mgahinga National park while with Rwanda, golden monkey tracking takes place in the Bamboo zones of Volcanoes National Park. This makes tracking within Mgahinga National Park more strenuous than within the Volcanoes national park. Just like Volcanoes national park, there are two habituated golden monkey groups in Mgahinga National Park.
Golden Monkey tracking in Rwanda is conducted from the Volcanoes National park, situated about 105 Kilometers/two to three hours drive west of Kigali City. With this distance, a tourist can track these primates and even go back home that same day, while golden monkey tracking in Uganda can be conducted from Mgahinga National Park, situated in South-western Uganda about 8-9 hours drive from Kampala City. This makes it difficult for tourists to track these primates and go back home the same day. Instead the minimum number of days therefore is 3 days with day one involving transferring to Mgahinga National Park, day two is when the actual adventure takes place then day three is transferring back to Kampala. If you are someone limited by time, then you better choose to track these Golden Monkeys from Rwanda.
The cost of a golden Monkey tracking permit in Uganda is $50 for foreign non residents and foreign residents and Shs 20,000 for the East African Residents while for Rwanda, the permits cost $100 for all categories of tourists. This means that it is cheaper to track the golden monkeys from Uganda than it is in Rwanda. If you are looking for a destination with lower costs of golden monkey tracking permits, then Mgahinga is your perfect choice for a Golden Monkey tracking experience.
In Uganda (Mgahinga national park), there is a more detailed and thrilling adventure that allows tourists to spend over 4 hours (instead of the one hour for golden monkey tracking adventure), and it is called the “Golden Monkey Habituation Experience” where tourists join researchers during the habituation process of these primates. Just like the Mountain gorillas and the Chimpanzees, Golden monkeys that haven’t undergone habituation tend to be wild and fear the presence of humans. Habituation that takes about 2 years is therefore done to make them used to the presence of humans especially tourists. This interesting adventure is not available in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park. This leaves you with Mgahinga National Park as your next destination.
Golden monkey tracking in Rwanda and Uganda are similar in the following ways; tourists are allowed to spend only one hour once these primates have been sighted, this activity starts with briefing of tourists at the Camping Center (Park headquarters) where in Mgahinga National park it starts from Ntebeko Visitor Center while in volcanoes National park is starts from Kinigi Park Headquarters, and the tracking guidelines apply to both National parks (for example maintaining a distance of 7 meters away from them and a maximum of 8 persons are allowed to track a golden monkey group).
Besides gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking is also an important adventure that takes place in Rwanda and Uganda. However tourists always get confused of where to track from considering the fact that both National Parks can offer the same experience, but based on the cost of a golden monkey permit, distance and time taken to access the Parks, you can choose your destination based on your personal preferences.