Monkeys are fun to track

By Titus Kakembo

Monkey tracking has come fast on the heels of the more sought-after mountain gorilla tracking. With a new adventure dubbed ‘Golden Monkey Experiential Tourism’, tourists can take a four-hour trek to see golden monkeys frolic, feed, court, hop acrobatically in the trees and care for their young ones. 
The swift monkeys keep themselves busy by pulling faces, grooming each other and flying between tree branches. Currently, they are only found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Virunga National Park in DR. Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Gishwati forest and Nyungwe forests. Unlike human beings, monkeys and gorillas freely move between the three countries without visas.
This golden monkey trek gives one a chance to see the apes in action, petting and having a siesta. According to researcher Sandra E. Gray, their groups are single male multi-family, meaning there is only one resident male and several adult females, plus young ones of varying ages.
However, for reinforcement, between three and 11 outside males are accepted to join the group temporarily during the breeding season.
For monkeys, communication is done fluently by vocal sounds, sign language and facial expressions. Grey says these have not yet been comprehensively studied and only the most obvious gestures are understood to any degree.
Monkeys eat 33 record plant species, including fruits and flowers. Their menu also comprises small invertebrates and bamboo leaves, which make up the bulk of the diet.
The habitat of golden monkeys is in the evergreen semi-deciduous and bamboo forests. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) directorate of conservation has now completed the process of habituating a family of golden monkeys for experiential tourism.
This is as a strategy meant to diversify tourism activities. Tacking takes place strictly in the mornings and afternoons within a 23– 50 hectare area to maximise the experience. 
“The fee is $100, inclusive of the park entry fees. The maximum number per visiting group per day will be six,” Ingrid Nyonza Nyakabwa, the UWA marketing manager, says. “You will not have any regrets. It is money and time very well spent.” 

Getting there
Bookings for the golden monkey adventure are done at both the UWA headquarters on Plot 7 Kira Road in Kamwokya between the Uganda Museum and the British High Commission. Alternatively, they are available at the park office in Kisoro town or park headquarters at Ntebeko.  
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in south-western Uganda. It can be accessed by road and air. Kisoro town, at the foot of Mt. Muhabura, is about 540km from Kampala, which takes about eight hours drive via Kabale on an excellent paved road surface. Public transport by bus is available on a daily basis.
Mgahinga National Park head office is located 13km from Kisoro town and can be accessed by public transport. It is also accessible from Rwanda’s Chanika border post or Eastern DRC’s Bunagana border post. 
Accommodation is available in Kisoro town, a gateway to the park which is adequately served by upmarket and budget hotels. There is a private lodge at the edge of the park and a privately run campsite right outside the park.
For more information on other activities, visit the UWA website and the tariff rate card. 
“This product is now ready for the market,” Raymond Engena, the director Tourism Development and Business Services, says. “The activity is a new product mixed with the phenomenal Batwa Trail Cultural Experience, in addition to volcano hiking.”
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