Golden Monkeys are indigenous to the low lying bamboo forestland in Central Africa, and owing to the wars in this region have been listed as an endangered species. You can spot them in Rwanda and whilst they may not be as exciting to find and see as the majestic Mountain Gorilla’s, they are pretty darn cute and make for a nice active morning if you have some extra time in Rwanda.
The trekking protocol is pretty much the same as that of tracking the Gorillas. You start out at the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters in Kinigi at 7:00 am for a briefing before you make your way to the starting point of this trek. Golden Monkeys live in the bamboo forests on the gentle slopes of the Volcano Mountain Chain in the Volcanoes National Park and the hike to see them is quite easy, nothing gruelling compared to the trek to see the Gorillas. The start of the journey is through gently sloping farmland to the boundary wall, and then you cross into the bamboo forest. This is perhaps my favourite bit of the trek. The forest is thick with tall, green bamboo leading up to the sky and forming a canopy, letting just enough light in to give it an air of mystery. The cool breeze rustling away and the flat terrain make for a pleasant hike, although you do have to watch out for buffaloes!
Although the information is that you trek in groups of 8, we were in a group of almost 20. For the most part it was fine, although yes, I was unapologetically slow at times (yes, I am one of THOSE annoying people) because you know what? At the time, and even as I write this, I don’t understand where everyone was rushing to. I’m going to get a tad bit philosophical here, especially in light of current world events. We are on one heck of a ride right now with everything that is going on, which means that the precious moments that we do have to just BE are exactly that: precious, and few and far between. We just skip or even worse, sleepwalk through life and rarely stop to smell the flowers. I feel like the human race is on a hamster wheel running running running, and always planning the next step, the next moment without fully living and pausing to appreciate THIS moment. Back to the bamboo forest: I was enjoying my Alice in Wonderland reverie in the lush greenery so much that I decided to carpe diem and just took a moment and stood still in the forest amongst thick bamboo that towered up to the sky and breathed in the clean air and stared ahead for a while, and on the way back from seeing the monkeys I stopped to smell the pyrethrum flowers in the field, much to the chagrin of my group mates! I just couldn’t help myself! And if you are anything like me, I know you will resonate with what I am saying and be nodding your head vehemently because you would have done the exact same thing. What did I come away with? A renewed sense of joie de vivre, and a determination to appreciate these precious moments that life has bestowed me with a little more than I currently do.
Philosophy aside, you get to spend an hour with the monkeys once you spot them and it is quite amusing to observe them go about their monkey lives in the bamboo forest, eating and swinging from tree to tree. I can’t say that there is anything earth shattering or mind boggling about watching them other than it being a nice change of pace and getting to hang out in the bamboo forest amongst nature. A word of warning: do watch out for that fine mist that you think is a drizzle of rain. It is more than likely a Golden Monkey taking a “golden” whizz, yes, pun intended!
Would I recommend this trek? Perhaps if you have extra time to spare in Rwanda and want a change of pace and want to see some different flora and fauna. What would I have done differently? I wish I had opted to attempt a second Gorilla trek and seen another family, because I think I would have perhaps enjoyed the experience even more that I did the first time, knowing what I was in for. And the second time around, I would have left my camera behind and been in my Diane Fossey element and would have spent time just purely observing these Gorillas in the mist without needing to capture those moments on anything other than my mind’s eye. But there you have it, the benefit of hindsight. The good thing is: Rwanda is a hop, skip and jump away and this is something that can be done again in a heartbeat. For now, my dear Wanderlusters, we are at the end of my tales of my Footsteps in Rwanda, and I hope you have enjoyed hanging out with the Primates with me. With that, I leave you with these pictures of my time with the Golden Monkeys. Until next time, Happy Wanderlusting folks, and as always, thank you for spending a part of your day with me!