Best locations to see primates

Best locations to see primates


Although typically neglected as a purpose for a safari in their very own proper, primates have the facility to captivate a human viewers greater than every other mammal order. Philip Briggs exhibits you the best way to embody them in your subsequent safari

Among the varied African mammalian orders, primates are represented by shut on 100 species, starting from the heavyweight gorillas that lumber by way of the rainforests to the agile, squirrel-sized galagos (bushbabies) whose spectral wails hang-out the bush by night time.

Primates are fascinating creatures to look at, typically residing in massive closely-knit troops whose intricate behaviour – taking part in and quarrelling, grooming and bullying, mating and foraging – is paying homage to a boisterous gang of youngsters in a forest playground.

The world’s most high-profile – and high-cost – wild primate encounter is monitoring mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda. It will be bodily demanding, however monitoring gorillas by way of their misty mountain house is an exhilarating expertise, whether or not it’s that first glimpse of a sedentary silverback, or a bunch of clumsy adolescent fluff balls. Meeting gorillas can also be, for a lot of, an epiphany; the legendary Dian Fossey wrote of 1 early encounter: “On perceiving the softness, tranquillity and trust conveyed by her eyes, I was overwhelmed by the extraordinary depth of our rapport.”

Tracking chimpanzees is a extra hit-and-miss exercise as a result of they vary way more extensively than gorillas, so on a nasty day the expertise quantities, within the phrases of 1 fellow tracker, to “chasing a few black furry bundles through the forest”. Yet when you catch the chimps feeding on a fruit tree, grooming or on an arboreal monkey hunt, it may be enthralling to observe these massive apes go about their each day enterprise. And even whenever you don’t get shut, the chimp’s extraordinary ‘pant-hoot’ name – a hysterically explosive, group-bonding ritual – is just considered one of Africa’s most spine-chilling sounds.

Oddly, safari operators are likely to pay scant consideration to different primate-watching alternatives that supply nice worth to guests. In half, it’s because primate range is lowest within the habitats the place most safaris happen. But even within the likes of the Serengeti or Kruger, one will be certain of encountering troops of the dog-faced baboon and vervet monkey, each ultra-sociable creatures that show a variety of charming human-like behaviours.

There are additionally an excellent many accessible, reasonably priced and underpublicised African forest reserves that supply excellent, really diverse monkey viewing.

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Probably Africa’s most well-known primate viewing vacation spot, Volcanoes National Park protects the Rwanda portion of the Virunga Mountains, a string of energetic and dormant volcanoes that runs alongside the borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The most necessary stronghold for the Critically Endangered mountain gorilla, it’s the place primatologist Dian Fossey undertook the gorilla habituation and analysis programme documented in Gorillas within the Mist, and can also be the place the film was shot. The gorilla monitoring right here is totally excellent, and the park can also be notable for the chance to trace the near-endemic golden monkey, and for the spectacular silhouette it affords of those excellent volcanic cones solid in opposition to the African sky.

Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda

This Rwandan park, residence to East Africa’s largest extant tract of montane rainforest, is famend for its habituated troops of as much as 400 Angola colobus monkeys, that are simply seen from trails across the park headquarters. The good-looking L’Hoest’s monkey is a certainty, and half a dozen different primate species are moderately widespread, together with silver monkey and grey-cheeked mangabey. Chimp monitoring is obtainable however not on a par with the very best places in Uganda and Tanzania.

Grey mangabey, Kibale, Uganda. Image copyright Mike Unwin

Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda

Habituated chimps are ostensibly the principle attraction at this lushly forested Ugandan nationwide park close to Fort Portal, and the standard of free-ranging chimp sightings might be the very best exterior Tanzania. But ten monkey species are additionally current, with purple colobus, black-and-white colobus, the grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey and L’Hoest’s monkey commonly encountered on walks by way of the forest and the bordering Bigodi Wetland. The latter is the location of an excellent community-run guided path that additionally affords nice forest birding. The innumerable crater lakes within the park’s speedy neighborhood are additionally value exploring.

Blue monkeys, Bwindi. Image copyright Mike Unwin

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Uganda’s premier website for monitoring mountain gorillas can also be one of the biodiverse nationwide parks in East Africa, supporting a inhabitants of (unhabituated) chimps and profuse numbers of Angola colobus and blue monkeys. It complete, there are a staggering 120 species of mammal and a minimum of 300 species of fowl.

Chimpanzees. Image copyright Mike Unwin

Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania

This small Tanzanian park on the northeast shore of Lake Tanganyika is the place Jane Goodall began what’s now the world’s longest-running behavioural examine in 1960. The small chimp group habituated by her can nonetheless be visited at the moment, and, assuming they’re moderately static, the standard of sightings is normally glorious. Other sights are the beachcombing yellow baboon that thrive on the lakeshore, and the purple colobus and different monkeys which can be often hunted by the park’s chimps.

Red colobus. Image copyright Mike Unwin

Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania

Also set on Tanzania’s japanese shore of Lake Tanganyika, however 30 occasions bigger than Gombe and residential to an estimated 1000 chimpanzees, Mahale additionally has a powerful setting beneath craggy forested peaks that rise nearly 2000m above the clear lake water. Though considerably inaccessible, besides by constitution flight, that is most likely the very best place to trace chimps anyplace in Africa, with the habituated Mimikere Community comprising some 80 people. Also prone to be seen are the yellow baboon, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey and purple colobus. An endemic race of the dashing Angola colobus inhabits greater altitude forests.

Black and white colobus. Image copyright Mike Unwin

Udzungwa Mountains National Park, Tanzania

Protecting the most important vary of Tanzania’s biodiverse Eastern Arc Mountains, hiker-friendly Udzungwa is famend for its excessive ranges of endemism, together with 4 endangered primate species – Uhehe purple colobus, Sanje crested mangabey, Mutanda galago, and kipunji monkey – of which three are new to science since 1979. Also current are the black-and-white colobus, blue monkey and red-tailed monkey.


Jozani Forest Reserve, Tanzania

Although Zanzibar is finest identified for its seashores, marine life and outdated Stone Town, it’s also residence to considered one of Africa’s most localised and endangered monkeys, the wild-fringed Kirk’s purple colobus, a sociable leaf-eater that has develop into exceptionally habituated within the small Jozani Forest Reserve.

Patas monkey. Image copyright Mike Unwin

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

This Ugandan park might be essentially the most accessible place in East Africa to look out for the patas monkey, a spindly ground-dweller related to semi-arid climates. Vervet monkeys, olive baboons and the black-and-white colobus are additionally prone to be encountered, and the contiguous Budongo Forest Reserve, which one passes by way of en route, affords organised chimpanzee monitoring.


Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

This spectacular mountain vary in Ethiopia is the principle stronghold of the gelada, a novel grass-eating proto-baboon famous for the male’s flowing golden mane and brilliant purple chest patch. A exceptional function of visits to Simien is the convenience with which these terrestrial monkeys will be approached and noticed going about their each day routine oblivious to human intruders.

Mandrill. Image copyright Shutterstock

Lopé National Park, Gabon

Although it doesn’t slot neatly onto any established safari circuit, Lopé in Gabon is likely one of the world’s most alluring and thrilling locations for devoted primate aficionados. It is the one place the place you stand a practical likelihood of seeing the mandrill – Africa’s heaviest and most vibrant monkey – within the wild, and it additionally helps one of many largest extant populations of the western lowland gorilla, together with chimpanzee and a great vary of different west-central African monkeys.

Mona monkey, Gambia. Image copyright Shutterstock

Boabeng-Fiema Community Reserve, Ghana

This tiny group reserve in central Ghana is residence to a number of troops of the sacred mona monkey, which run amok within the eponymous villages, whereas equally sanctified, however extra aloof, black-and-white colobus look on from the timber.

River Gambia National Park, Gambia

Protecting a quintet of uninhabited forested islands on the Gambia River, this small nationwide park combines a steamy setting that’s evocative of the Congo Basin with some attention-grabbing primate viewing, together with the purple colobus, vervet monkey and Guinea baboon. The most important stars, nonetheless, are the orphaned chimpanzees which have been launched onto three islands by the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project (CRP), which was based by the late Stella Brewer Marsden in 1979. Inland excursions together with a ship journey previous the islands make for a superb break from the busy seashore resorts that in any other case characterise this nation’s bundle holiday-oriented tourism trade.

Lolo ya Bonobo, Democratic Republic of Congo

This orphanage on the outskirts of the Congolese capital is the one place the place man’s closest relative, the chimpanzee-like bonobo – star of Sara Gruen’s glorious novel Ape House – will be noticed in one thing approximating its pure habitat.


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