Golden Monkeys: A Glimpse at one of Africa’s Rarest Primates

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Close your eyes and try to envision a golden monkey in your head – no peeking.

What image came up? I have a degree in Primatology and while I had heard of Golden Monkeys, I still failed to come up with a clear impression of what they look like.

A very wet Golden Monkey in Volcanos National Park, Rwanda
A very wet Golden Monkey.

A Little Bit About The Golden Monkey 

The Golden Monkey gets its name from the golden-orange fur on its lower back. The rest of the golden monkey’s pelt is dark and its face is a beautiful azure blue. They have long tails and a round face with short ears. These monkeys are quite beautiful with their specific color combinations. They are social primates that like to stay in groups. Although due to the wars that have ravaged their habitat they have become quite isolated.

Where Can You Find Golden Monkeys?

Perhaps it’s because Golden Monkeys are one of Africa’s rarest primates, found only in the bamboo forests of the Virunga volcanic mountains. I eventually saw Golden Monkeys during my unforgettable Rwanda adventure. I had just had my most EPIC day the day before observing Mountain gorillas in the same park. And while I was looking forward to seeing the Golden Monkeys, my enthusiasm couldn’t compare to what it was for the gorillas.

Multi-tasking Golden monkey eating on the run in Volcanos National Park, Rwanda
Multi-tasking Golden monkey, eating on the run

It didn’t help that it was pouring rain as you can see from how wet the monkey’s fur is in the photo below. The troop of Golden Monkeys in Volcanos National Park is habituated in theory – meaning they are used to people. From my observations, I would say they were semi-habituated.

Golden monkey eating a bamboo shoot in Volcanos National Park, Rwanda
Golden monkey eating a bamboo shoot and getting drunk.

Golden Monkeys In The Wild

Despite being just the tracker, guide and myself, the click of my camera would send them scrambling further into the already dense forest. Trying to get photos of monkeys scattering up higher on bamboo, in the rain and having more rain scattered onto my camera lens from the tree branch above every time they jumped off…. Well, let’s just say that the Golden Monkeys were not the easiest subjects to photograph.

golden monkey side profile

Fortunately, after about 30 minutes they seemed to adjust to our presence and became less skittish. Just like the gorillas, the Golden Monkeys were also eating bamboo shoots and getting drunk (who knew!). But I can’t say that I witnessed any outlandish behavior or have any really good stories about them (unlike my gorilla story) getting drunk unless observing Golden Monkey sex counts.

golen monkey good

Don’t worry there are no photos of it in this post, a travel blogger does have her limits! Having said that I really enjoyed the opportunity to get THIS CLOSE to one of Africa’s rarest primates – even in the pouring rain.

golen monkey good
golden monkeys troop

So there you have it, now you can identify a Golden Monkey! Just watch out for the drunk ones!

Know Before You Observe Golden Monkeys in Volcanoes National Park:

  • A permit/reservation of $100 USD is required in advance to see the Golden Monkeys. Part of this money is re-invested and goes towards helping to save the monkeys. There are a limited number of permits available each day. 
  • The trek to the Golden Monkeys is usually less than an hour and while the terrain is a steady uphill, it’s not that steep.
  • While I wouldn’t consider seeing the Golden Monkeys EPIC as I did for my gorilla experience, I would still recommend it – especially for animal lovers.
Golden Monkeys in Rwanda

They may not be the main attraction in Volcanoes National park. But considering how rare the Golden Monkey is I would definitely not miss out on seeing them.

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