Primates are fascinating beings and whatever amount of time spent with the lively chimpanzee or the magnificent Silverback Gorillas can be truly a remarkable experience. That is why it is not a surprise that people from all over the world visit Africa to see these creatures.  Primates are said to be the human being’s closest living relatives since almost everything of us is like their apart from the amazing way they climb trees. This is clearly evident when you observe their personalities, body language, social interactions, facial expressions, and the feeding (mother to young one).

Africa and the Indian Ocean host large numbers of primate species including; monkeys and baboons which are common in most of the Continent’s safari destinations, but other Primates which are actually the “highlight or key species” are found in a few destinations but top on most traveller’s bucket lists. These include; Chimpanzees, Gorillas and Lemurs (found in Madagascar).

Gorilla Trekking in Africa

Africa is widely known for the best safaris which includes rewarding game drives and great opportunities to even see the BIG 5. But currently a safari to Africa is not complete without trekking Mountain Gorillas. Although Gorillas are not found in most safari destinations but they can be trekked in a few and also one can proceed with the safari and enjoy other activities.

Mountain Gorillas are found in two National Parks of Uganda; Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks, in Virunga National Park of DR Congo and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Also there are Low-land Gorillas found in Kahuzi-Beiga National Park in DR Congo

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Established in 1991 as a National Park and covers an area of 321km2. Bwindi is situated in the Southwest of Uganda at the Rift valley edge with hills covered with diverse rain forest which has existed for over 25,000 years and made up of over 400 plant species.  It is commonly known as the “Impenetrable Forest” protecting over 400 Mountain Gorillas which are currently trekked by people from all over the world. To be able to trek the Gorillas, one needs to purchase a tracking permit from Uganda Wildlife Authority at 700 USD per person and 1500USD (for those that want to go for Gorilla Habituation Experience).

This Park also hosts a number of Chimpanzees and monkeys which can be spotted during the trek. Still just like other destinations, unlike the primates, there are other attractions in the park and various activities one can enjoy such as Bird watching, Guided nature walks, Volcano climbing, Community visits (the Batwa Pygmies), as well as Game viewing.

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

In the Northwestern region of Rwanda lies Volcanoes National Park, a stop centre for all Gorilla Safaris in Rwanda. The park is part of the Great Virunga Conservation Area and was gazetted in 1925, it covers an area of 160km2. The park hosts Mountain Gorillas and Golden Monkeys. And one to be able to trek Gorillas here will need a tracking permit which costs 1500USD per person.

Apart from the trekking permit being more costly than that in Uganda and DR Congo, most trekkers opt for Volcanoes because it is easily accessed. It is a 2hours drive from Kigali Airport, hence one can trek and also drive back to Kigali on the same day. Besides Gorillas, the Park also hosts over 178 bird species, insects, Golden monkeys, buffaloes, duikers, hyenas, bushbucks, elephants and reptiles among others.

Also in case one wants to spend more time in the Park there are other activities available such as Hiking the Karisimbi Volcano, Birding, Nature walks, Visit to the Twin lakes (Bulera and Ruhongo), Hike on Mount Bisoke and a Visit to Dian Fossey’s Grave.

Virunga National Park, DR Congo

This park is also famous for remarkable Gorilla safaris, it is one of Africa’s oldest parks situated in the Northeast of DR Congo within the Albertine Region. The most common activity in the Park is Gorilla tracking where trekkers have chance to search through the rainforest to look for the magnificent habituated Mountain Gorillas.

The Gorilla permit costs 400USD, trekking begins in the morning with a briefing and after enter into the forest searching for the Gorillas guided with skilled ranger guides. Just like other Parks, travellers are given only one hour with the Gorillas. Other activities that can be done include; Landscape viewing, Chimpanzee Tracking, Nyiragongo Hike, Birding and Nature walks.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda

Although this Park is famously known for as a spot for Golden Monkey tracking, there are also Mountain Gorillas which can tracked in the sector known as Nyakagezi. Mgahinga lies in the Southwest of Uganda and is conserved by Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Gorilla Permit also costs the same amount as those of Bwindi.

Besides Gorillas and Golden Monkeys, other animals such as Forest elephants, buffaloes, reptiles, amphibians as well as birds have made this Park their home.

Kahuzi-Beiga National Park, DR Congo

This Park derives its name from the two Volcanoes; Mount Kahuzi and Beiga and is home to the Eastern low-land Gorillas. They are habituated and available for travellers and can be trekked all year round however it is advisable to trek in the drier months between May and August, and From November to January.

Trekking these mighty lowland gorillas requires a permit which costs 400 USD per person and trekkers are allowed to spend 1 hour with these amazing creatures. Travellers can also engage in other activities such as Bird watching (over 349 bird species are recorded), nature walks, hiking mount Mitumba, community tours and Camping safaris.

Chimpanzee Tracking in Africa

Chimpanzees live in groups between 15 to 140 members, however most individuals during the day travel and also form smaller groups. The male Chimpanzee dominates the group. The male chimpanzees weigh between 40 to 70 kg whereas the females ones between 27 to 50kg. They are covered with black hair with bare face, toes, palms, soles and fingers.

Chimps are lively primates which are amazing to watch. Spending an hour with a group of Chimpanzees is unforgettable, that is why Africa is the best continent you would choose if you want to have an experience with the Chimpanzees in their natural habitat, and by either simply tracking them or enjoying Habituation (involves spending more hours with the chimpanzees and studying more about them). There are some amazing destinations to see these animals in East Africa.

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda

It is situated in the Western Part of Uganda with an ever green tropical rainforest covering an area of 795Sqkm. Kibale currently is regarded as the world’s Capital for Primates and this because it hosts the world’s highest number of Primates in a protected area. It has over 351 trees species and many of these have existed for more than 200 years. The Park harbors over 70 mammal species but commonly known for the 13 Primate species which include the Lively Chimpanzees (over 1,500 individuals).

The park offers both morning and afternoon sessions for tracking Chimpanzees, but in case one wants to spend more time with these creatures they could opt for Chimpanzee Habituation experience. In order to see these Chimpanzees, one needs to acquire a tracking permit which goes for 200 USD for normal tracking and that for Habituation goes 400 USD per person.

Kyambura Gorge Wildlife Reserve, Uganda

Kyambura is conserved under Queen Elizabeth National Park with an extraordinary landscape swarmed by various wildlife species including primates and bird species hence regarded as the “Valley of Apes”. Kyambura Gorge is 100m deep and is drained by Kyambura River, this gorge is a world of its own amazing vegetation from the savannah to the tree canopies of the forest.

Chimpanzees in this reserve are an endangered species which live in this deep lush rainforest and people that have tracked these chimpanzees say it is a very stunning area that everyone should visit while in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is amazing to watch these chimpanzees climb up and down the trees and they are so close for you to take enough photos.  Besides Chimpanzees, Kyambura is also a great spot for bird lovers.

Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda

Budongo forest is one of Uganda’s remaining natural forests under Murchison conservation area. It is a 3hours drive from Kampala to get to this reserve. It covers 825km2 and was established in 1932 as a reserve. It has a rich ecosystem which includes about 9 primate species, 465 plant species, 24 mammal species, about 280 butterfly species and over 360 bird species.

Amongst the Primates, Chimpanzees are tracked in this reserve, and after tracking one can also Visit Murchison Falls for remarkable game viewing.

Mahale Mountains NP, Tanzania

Mahale is a National park found in the West of Tanzania near Lake Tanganyika and tracking the chimpanzees found in these Mountains is a magical experience. Chimps live in groups and can be tracked throughout the year however, the best season is the dry season between Maya and October.

Other activities that can be done include Hiking to Nkungwe (the park’s highest peak), sport fishing, snorkeling and camping safaris. The Park can be accessed by road, water and air, it is based on which means you would want to use.

Semien Mountains, Ethiopia

In the Northern part of Ethiopia lie the Semien Mountains which is made up of beautiful rising pinnacles, valleys and mountain slopes. This is not the only amazing thing about this area, but the fascinating Primate species which include the Gelada Baboons which are an attraction to tourists from different countries. These Gelada baboons are a very unique specie to the monkey world and are found only in Ethiopia and a few in the Highlands of Eritrea.

Most tourists and researchers throng these mountains to simply find out more about the Geladas and spend time with the other monkey species found there.

Ngamba Island Sanctuary, Uganda

Ngamba is situated in Lake Victoria, 23km southeast of Entebbe and is a beautiful sanctuary for Orphaned Chimpanzees, of which many were rescued from poachers. This sanctuary was established in 1998 and it sits on 100 acres of land and can be accessed by using a speed boat or a motorized canoe since it is an island. It has over 40 Chimpanzees which are taken care of by skilled workers.

So when you visit Uganda in case you didn’t track chimpanzees in Kibale, Ngamba is another place for you to visit, and since it is even near the Airport. You can engage in the morning feeding or afternoon feeding of these chimps. Also tourists can opt to spend a day in care giving, this costs 200 USD per day and involves feeding the chimps, assisting the staff in doing medical checkups, administrative work, preparing holding places for the chimpanzees, monitoring and research and many other activities.

Other activities that can be done are swimming in the Lake at the Equator, nature walks, volunteering experiences, bird watching, sport fishing, and sunset cruises.

Golden Monkey Trekking in Africa

Golden Monkeys are amazing primates which are related to both the Chimpanzees and Gorillas. They different from other species of monkeys because of golden-orange color on their fur, this makes them cute and beautiful. They are found in Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda; in Volcanoes, Virunga, Kahuzi-beiga and Mgahinga National Parks.

However, trekking these monkeys is mainly done in Rwanda and Uganda, which is not the case currently in DR Congo because of security reasons. Golden monkeys are small primates and fast in their movements in that tracking them is slightly different from trekking chips or gorillas, trekking these species is done in mountainous areas and requires trekkers to move as they follow up on the monkeys. These monkeys live in groups with at least 30 members, they choose rummage in the bamboo forests because they love feeding on young bamboo sprouts.

Trekking golden monkeys also starts in the early morning hours at around 0700 hours with briefing done at the headquarters of the park before the trekkers can enter the forest to view these charming animal species.  The trekking can take about two hours or more basing on their location.