My Golden Cousins

“If you go to a desert, you will hear this mysterious voice: Be wise, protect your forests!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

The Golden monkeys are special as they are found in a restricted range of area; within the Virunga mountains spread across DR Congo (Eastern part), Uganda and Rwanda. Within these mountain ranges and the rainforests found therein, the golden monkeys are choosey of their habitat of bamboo forests, making their footprint narrower. Selected pockets of original bamboo forests remain their last refuge and the pressure of human presence and encroachment is ever increasing.

Curious yet Cautious – A good strategy to deal with humans

As per a ranger guide from the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, about (only,) 3000 golden monkeys live in the wild, where wild means four national parks i.e., the Virunga National Park in DR Congo (closed as on date, due to ongoing conflicts in Eastern DRC), the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Bwindi and the Mgahinga National Parks in Uganda.

A stroke of good luck brought me closer to the Volcanoes National Park and I could see the golden monkeys in their natural habitat.

An adult male golden monkey with a freshly dug potato. It will clean it and peel it before chewing on it. Though their primary diet remains to be fresh bamboo leaves and shoots, they do indulge in searching for food in nearby crop fields. Like in this case, a troop of golden monkeys visited a nearby field of potatoes which had been harvested and found some leftovers.

The Volcanoes National Park (VNP) Headquarters are located in a small town called Kinigi, near Musenza (former Ruhengeri). The place is very well organised and appointed with extremely efficient staff and rangers. Facilities including the coffee is outstanding.

They offer three main activities: the Gorilla trek, Golden Monkey trek and a trek to mount Bisoke (mount Bisoke has a crater lake at the top). Golden monkeys trip costs USD 100/- per person (and a RT-PCR Covid test to be taken before hand). For golden monkeys, it was easy to get the permit directly at the VNP HQ, however, for gorillas, one should book beforehand as the number of permits is limited which sell off pretty quickly.

For a better orientation, see the map of the region with insets providing a glimpse of the important points

Golden monkey trek commences through a village about 4 km from the VNP HQ and then enters into a bamboo forest. Since, I visited during the rainy season, the forest floor was wet and full of mud slush. Protecting one’s shoes is a futile exercise and a waste of time. Many lodges in the area offer an after trek clean up of shoes (a service included in your stay). Weather wise, it gets pretty cold and chilly even during the day, especially when it rains. For the trek, a rain jacket is a must along with adequate rain covers for your camera gear / phones / passports etc, because one could end up walking for an hour in the rain without any shelter. Remember, we are in the ‘rain-forest’.

The vegetation seen here is indicative of the rich rainfall the region receives. Of course, this is the natural habitat of the beautiful Golden Monkey.

Golden monkeys live in large troops, primarily managed by females, who remain in a general area of their choosing, owing to the availability of food. Males on the other hand roam about in a wider range and join the troop twice a year during mating season. The gestation period for a baby to be born is five months. These golden cousins of ours live upto 20 to 25 years.

A young golden monkey – see the relative size of bamboo (2 inches diameter) and its tiny hands. This was the smallest of all babies I saw.

These unique primates are creatures of habit, where they normally adhere to the same area and spots in the bamboo clumps for sleeping. This makes the golden monkeys territorial animals, especially the females. Hence, easy to find and in a more comfortable trek compared to trek for gorillas.

Another Curious Young One with its Mom
The monkeys left their usual habitat behind and came into the open agricultural land of the adjacent village. It is an easy meal to find some potatoes in already harvested field.

An interesting fact, which highlights the significance of Golden Monkeys – you can also find them on the reverse side of Rwanda 1000 Francs bill.

An interesting fact, which highlights the significance of Golden Monkeys
you can also find them on the Rwanda 1000 Francs bill.
Mount Sabyinyo (3645 m high) – one of the five volcanic nounts found in the Virunga Massif. The views in Kinigi are breathtaking and everchanging
A young male sitting pretty on his couch !!

Small, characteristic and beautiful, the golden monkeys are surely, one of the most adorable primates that I have come across. Each individual seem to be comfortable in its skin and yet they also adhere to group dynamics. On one occasion, I heard a big call from the lead female and the entire group of about 40-50 monkeys, just left the open field and melted into the bamboo forest – maybe the leader had sensed some danger and warned the entire group to move back to the forest cover.

Will I go again to see these lesser cousins (compared to the Gorillas) – yes, of-course, any day. A dwindling habitat and ever increasing human pressures have already debilitated the population of these wonderful primates. I hope that we do a better job of conserving these old world creatures in keeping them safe and thriving in the wild.

When you realise the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future.” – Diane Fossey.

Jo Written by:


  1. Ambika

    Simply awesome read !! Facts , pictures and story flow …. Enjoyed it all . Thanks for this precious addition 👍🏻🎊🎊

    • 01/05/2023

      Thank you, Ambika.

  2. Vasanta

    WoW. The world has so much to offer. Thanks for making it see through your eyes. Looking forward to a visit to meet these beauties 🤩

    • 01/05/2023

      Thank you, Sir.

  3. Mankanwal Jeet (MJ)

    Amazing – a beautiful narration of the wild in simple words. You describe the experience in a way that actually brings the feel of ‘being there’……

    God Bless and Protect the Nature and Life encompassed there-in from us humans ……

    You sure spread a lot of positive vibes to this entire experience of Nature and Wildlife …

    • 01/05/2023

      Thank you, Mankanwal.

  4. Vini

    Gracias for sharing this informative post. Well explained! I must compliment the clear & beautiful pictures. You are an inspiration!! Will wait for your next post.

    • 10/05/2023

      Hi Vini, Thank you for stopping by and appreciating !

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