Spotlight Thursday – Golden Monkeys of Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

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Golden Monkeys of Volcanoes National Park

Every Thursday, I will be posting a photo from my travels and a spotlight on the location. Today’s Spotlight Thursday is from my recent African safari to Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda. Volcanoes National Park is one of the most well know places in the world.  It is one of the last remaining havens for mountain gorillas. One of the highlights of my safari did include a trek to the famous mountain gorillas, but another highlight was my visit with their smaller and no less endangered cousins the Golden Monkeys of Volcanoes National Park.

Unlike the mountain gorillas, the golden monkeys live at the base of the Virunga Mountains.  The trek to the monkeys is not nearly as strenuous or difficult as the one to the gorillas.  My trek beings at 7 am at the Volcanoes National Park visitor center.  Every morning, a local dance group greets the visitors with tribal dances from the region.  After a short safety briefing and some paperwork, my trekking group heads to the hired cars and we drive to the trail head.  We park in a small village and make our way to the park on foot.

The first part of the trek is an easy walk through local farms to the stone wall that surrounds Volcanoes National Park.  The wall is designed to keep the buffalo and elephants in the park and out of the local crops.  Our guide uses his radio to talk to the tracking team that locates the monkeys so the tourist are lead directly to the monkeys.   Once at the wall, we meet up with our park ranger guard.  He carries a rifle to scare off any buffalo or elephants we might encounter.

Our guide tells us we are lucky, the troop of monkeys are about 5 mins walk from the wall and once they hear us coming they will come to us.  Once over the wall, we removed our packs and took out our camera.  The packs aren’t allowed near the monkeys to prevent them from stealing things and discovering human food.  No sooner than I switch lens on my camera and glance up do I see my first golden monkey heading towards me.

We spend an hour wandering among the group as they play, groom, and be monkeys.  I was even an obstacle when two of them were in a fight. The monkeys have no fear of human and don’t mind showing off for pictures.  I loved standing in the middle of the troop and just watching them play with each other.

After our hour was up, we said good bye to the monkeys and headed back to the village.

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Check out my other photos from Spotlight Thursday.