Meet the Primates of Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda

Nyungwe Forest is the home of Rwanda’s primates with 13 recorded species – Extending for 970 square kilometers across the majestic hills of southeast Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is the largest block of montane forest in East or Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. Nyungwe is the second most popular park often visited by tourists taking primates safaris in Rwanda.

Many travelers have combined their gorilla trekking expedition with a tour to this great ancient tropical forest!In Rwanda, great lover of primates should visit Nyungwe for at least one tracking experience, the most popular of which is chimpanzee trekking. Starting very early in the morning after briefing, chimpanzees are trekked in groups of eight as well as mountain gorillas – only one hour is given viewing them.

Sightings aren’t as reliable or as clear as gorillas however, since the chimpanzees often remain in dense forest, but their engaging playfulness and human -like characteristics make the long day worthwhile.

Chimpanzee Trekking

The majority of the chimpanzee population in Rwanda is confined to Nyungwe Forest National Park – Chimps are nick named our closet relatives is an amazing experience, although these groups of chimps are wide ranging and there is a 30-40% chance of sighting them – this is because, chimps are in their natural habitant and are free to move from place to place- some times to far places.

Black and White Colobus Trekking

Nyungwe keeps large troops of black and white colobus monkeys. These primates often travel in groups of over 300 individuals. It is possible to purchase a permit to trek these animals. Walking through a montane rainforest and being surrounded on all levels by these active and cheeky monkeys is not to be missed.

Grey-cheeked mangabey

Trekking in search of grey-cheeked mangabey and Rwenzori colobus monkeys is also on offer in Nyungwe Forest, the latter of which can be found here in troops of several hundred. And there’s no need to trek far to see l’Hoest’s monkeys – you will often see them ambling along the roadside as you drive past.

Olive baboon

In Rwanda, olive baboons are found in Nyungwe forest and in Akagera National Park. They are terrestrial primates and they leave in large group- they have olive dark coat and dog like snout and threatening teeth. The olive baboons are social and love staying with human beings – so at the encounter, keep your vehicle doors locked to avoid interruption.

The Golden Monkey has a bright golden body, cheeks and tail and black limbs, tail end and crown. It was previously found also in Nyungwe forest in southern Rwanda but the only viable population is now found in Volcanoes National Park.To view the Golden Monkey is an entirely different experience compared to visiting the gorillas where the visitor can come up close and view them at close range. The Golden Monkeys live mainly in the bamboo thickets and are smaller and harder to spot. It should be noted that Golden monkeys in Nyungwe are not habituated like those in Volcanoes National Park.

Colobus monkeys are docile, beautiful primates with long black and white coats and I had never seen one in the wild. I was looking forward to it, but kept my expectations in check after my visit to the Golden Monkeys, one of the rarest primates in all of Africa. Colobus monkeys can live in troops numbering in the hundreds but the troop of approximately 20 individuals.

Vervet monkeys are primarily found in close proximity to water, be it rivers, swamps or lakeshores. They are present in savannah, open woodland, forest-grassland mosaic, especially close to rivers, and riverine forest. Vervets predominantly inhabit acacia-dominated habitats.

Owl-faced monkey – found in Nyungwe forest, they resembles owl- they are rarely seen but luck visitors can be found in some parts of the forest.

L’Hoest’s monkey – this is the most commonly seen monkeys spotted along the road in the troops of 8 to 20. L’Hoest’s monkey possesses a brilliant white ruff that frames its delicate black face. Its second most distinctive feature is the deep-set, orange eyes, surrounded by bare skin that is pale violet in adult males. The body and long legs are black with grizzled grey, except for a chestnut coloured ‘saddle’. The long tail is thick at the base and tapers to a black brush. Fully grown males can be twice the weight of females and have a conspicuous bright blue scrotum

Den’t mona monkey – In Rwanda, Den’t mona monkeys are found in Nyungwe forest- they can be found with other primates. Unlike other primates, females in the Den’t mona monkeys rule he group. They have long black tails white rumps and brown back.Bush baby – they are nocturnal animals but mostly seen at night. They are mostly seen on a night game drives but rarely seen during day. Bush babies tend to stay in dry wood land and in savannah grass lands. They are very small with big eyes which give them good night view.

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