East Africa Bush Tails

Trekking to see the Golden Monkeys

We left Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge at 7am and drove to the National Park HQ. At the office we paid our fees (US$ 100.00 for non-residents) and were introduced to the Guide who would be escorting us to the Monkeys.

The Golden Monkey, Cercopithecus mitis kandti is a local subspecies of the better known Blue Monkey and is only found in the high altitude forests in this area. There are two habituated groups of Golden Monkeys both consisting of between 80 and 100 individuals. The group of Golden Monkeys we were due to visit live in the forests at the foot of Mt Sabyinyo, very close to the Lodge. After a briefing from our Guide, we drove back to where our trek would start, which is very close to the Lodge. The trek starts in the potato fields and after a 30 minute up-hill walk we eventually arrived at the National Park boundary. The boundary consists of a stone wall which was built to keep Buffalo and Elephants inside the Park and stop them raiding the potato fields. Just before entering the forest we were lucky with a sighting of a Regal Sunbird, Cinnyris regia. This Sunbird is endemic (only occurs) to the highland forests in the Virunga’s. Crossing the wall we entered the bamboo zone of the forest. Shortly after entering the bamboo we had good sightings of an Archer’s Robin-Chat, Cossypha archeri and a brief sighting of an Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, Zoothera piaggiae. Both of these birds, although common, are difficult to see in the forest undergrowth.

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After a 35 minute climb in the bamboo zone we came across a group of Golden Monkeys. Although Golden Monkeys eat a variety of plant species (20–30) they prefer bamboo and this is what they were enjoying. At first, the only Golden Monkeys we could see were high up in the bamboo eating the fresh new leaves but the tracker soon found some which were feeding lower down and we were able to get good views and photographs of them.
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Unlike the Mountain Gorillas, the Golden Monkeys are continually jumping from one area to another, which does make photography a little difficult. Luckily, visitors are allowed to use the flash on their cameras (not allowed with Gorillas). Fill-in flash usually works better than full auto flash. As with Gorillas, visitors are only allowed 1 hour with the Monkeys. All too soon our time was up but everyone was excited with the close personal experience with such a rare Monkey. Our trek down the mountain through the forest only took 20 minutes and, after crossing the boundary wall, we all chatted about what we had just experienced. The trek back to our safari vehicle did not take long and we were soon at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge for a well earned welcome drink.

– by: Dave Richards

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. 
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AAC Guide Sightings June 2014