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

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.  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 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. 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.  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 lets just say that the Golden Monkeys were not the easiest subjects to photograph.  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 Golden Monkeys (unlike my gorilla story) getting  drunk unless observing Golden Monkey sex counts.  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 THISCLOSE to one of Africa’s rarest primates – even in the pouring rain:

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A very wet Golden Monkey in Volcanos National Park, Rwanda

A very wet Golden Monkey.

Golden monkey eating a bamboo shoot in Volcanos National Park, Rwanda

Golden monkey eating a bamboo shoot and getting drunk.

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

Multi-tasking Golden monkey eating on the run

golden monkey side profile
golen monkey good1
golen monkey good3

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golen monkey good3
golden monkeys troop2

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.  I purchased mine via Amahoro Tours, who organized my trip.
  • 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.
Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.


  1. Wil @ Where's Wil July 19, 2013 at 6:34 am - Reply

    What an awesome experience! They’re quite and interesting looking species.

  2. Jennifer July 20, 2013 at 8:18 am - Reply

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a golden monkey before. They look quite cute!

    • Laurel August 12, 2013 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      @Jennifer – I hadn’t either, but I enjoyed my time with them.

  3. Leigh July 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    Very cute looking monkey – and interesting that they too can get drunk. This sounds like one fabulous trip!!

    • Laurel August 12, 2013 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      @Leigh – I think so too, although they didn’t seem that drunk to me (unfortunately 🙂

  4. Charles July 22, 2013 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Awesome photos and blog! I have heard about how the golden monkey’s in the wild get drunk on fermented berries! Great share.

    • Laurel August 12, 2013 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      @Charles – Thanks, I find the idea of drunk monkeys to be quite amusing.

  5. Annie @ Oranje Explorers July 27, 2013 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    I have seen some cool monkeys in our travels but none this rare! What an awesome experience!

    • Laurel August 12, 2013 at 10:09 pm - Reply

      @Annie – Me too, I had to Google them before my visit to actually see what they looked like. Cool monkeys and I hope the money from the eco-tourism is enough to sustain their fragile population.

  6. [email protected] Bonzo Tours Uganda January 19, 2017 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you Laurel for the information and photos.I hope to do research on the golden monkeys this year in Mgahinga gorilla park on the Ugandan side of the Virunga volcanoes. Eye catching monkeys to track early morning. The golden monkey tracking permit in Uganda is at $50.

    • Laurel January 24, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      @Peter – That sounds like a fabulous opportunity. Please let me know if you do, they’re so interesting and we need to know so much more about them to save them. Good to know about the permit price in Uganda, thank you for sharing.

  7. Marco February 9, 2017 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    oh, Africa have the most diferencial of types of monkeys, i love this place, i will as soon as i can
    Nice Blog , i lov it

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