East Africa Travelogue Part 3 - Golden Monkeys

The Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus kandti) is an endangered species found only in the Albertine Rift of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. These brightly-colored monkeys live in groups of up to 80 individuals. Sadly, there are fewer than 3,500 of these playful primates remaining due primarily to habitat loss.

During our trip to Rwanda, we participated in a Golden Monkey trek led by the park rangers at Volcanoes National Park. After a short briefing at the park headquarters, we drove to the lower slopes of Mt. Sabyinyo to begin our trek. Even though this trek was shorter and less strenuous than the gorilla treks, I chose to hire a porter due to the muddy, slippery terrain and sometimes narrow paths.

To reach the park boundaries, we followed the park rangers through vast farms with crops like potatoes, beans and pyrethrum (a flower that acts as a natural insect repellent). Colorfully attired farmers worked the verdant land as we hiked passed, many laughing with pleasant surprise when we called out “Amakuru” (a greeting of hello in Kinyarwanda). All returned our greeting with a polite “Ni meza”. Friendly children ran joyfully through the farms and slopes - many wanting to say hello in English.


Farmland Just Outside of Park Border, photo by Steve Schnoll

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Crop Fields on the Park Border

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After crossing into the park boundary, it was a short and easy hike to reach the bamboo zone where the Golden Monkeys live. It was actively raining during the beginning of our hike, and at first we saw only a few monkeys sitting deep in the trees taking cover. Thankfully, the rain abated, and monkeys were soon venturing around us in all directions.


Meredith Among the Bamboo, photo by Steve Schnoll

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Juvenile Golden Monkey

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Golden Monkey Descends from Bamboo Tree

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Young Golden Monkey Eating Bamboo

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The face of a golden monkey is visually stunning, and each look into their piercing amber eyes is like seeing the pages of National Geographic come to life. After another short walk through the dense forest, we were suddenly surrounded by 30 or more of these spirited creatures. Some perched low in the trees while munching on bamboo, while others ventured down to the ground to forage in the tall grass. Many remained in the trees - deftly flitting from branch to branch.

Golden Monkey Portrait

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Such a Stunning Creature

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While Mountain Gorillas are the prime wildlife attraction in Rwanda, we were also won over by these extraordinarily colorful, agile and friendly lesser-known primates. Heading back down the slopes of Mt. Sabyinyo, we felt both grateful and exhilarated to have experienced this awe-inspiring journey.


A Tiny Golden Monkey

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