Top Destinations to See Primates in Africa

Of late, primate safaris have become very commonly across the African continent. Interestingly, most of the holidaymakers who have taken a primate watching tour before rank the experience as very unforgettable and compared to no other, thus wishing to do it over and over again.  In Africa, mountain gorillas, bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees), chimpanzee and the gelada baboon are the most visited primates in addition to several others like the golden monkeys. what is surprising is that most of these species are closely related to the human species with a number of then sharing up to 98% of their DNA with man a thing that is well exhibited in the numerous behavior characters they exhibit that are pretty similar to man. Being primarily herbivores, they stay within the verdant rainforests of Africa where they can easily access a variety of vegetation including fruits, shoots, flowers and tender bamboos.

What are primates?

In simple terms, a primate is a mammal belonging to the group that includes humans, apes, lemurs, monkeys, lorises and tarsiers. The order ‘primate’ is the third (3rd) most diverse mammal order after rodents plus bats and is alleged to have more than 300 species. They are generally very good at adapting to various environmental conditions, are lively and clever. When it comes to their physical structure, they are fairly unspecialized when compared to some animals like cats, horses as well as birds. Furthermore, they are not good hunters, they do not have very sharp hearing abilities, they are not ranked among the fast runners and more to that, they cannot fly. Today, very many species of primates are in danger of becoming completely extinct with some of the major threats to their survival being destruction of their natural habitat through deforestation caused by an increase in the human population, hunting or poaching the primates for food and sometimes they are sold off as pets. When you go to some areas such as the western part of Africa, it is a common practice for some native hunt down the apes and monkeys for bush meat which is a local delicacy.

Many primate species are now in danger of becoming extinct.  The primary cause is deforestation, driven ultimately by human population growth.  Additional pressure is placed on primate populations by humans hunting them to sell for food and pets.  Monkeys and apes are popular sources of “bush meat” in West Africa.

What is the difference between mammals and primates?

One would wonder what distinguishes primates from other mammals. Well Primates posses a bigger brain to body ratio, which explains our high level of intelligence and intricate social structures. In addition, they have eyes that face forward implying that they have stereoscopic vision character believed to have evolved from the adaption of living in trees with an advanced need for depth observation. They have a smaller liter size, posses opposable thumbs that enable them handle and grip food, manipulate tools and hold onto each other especially the young ones. Despite the fact that some species can have twins or even triplets, majority of the primates produce a single baby at a time. The similarities primates have with other mammals are: giving birth to live babies, having far on their bodies and feeding their off-spring with breast milk

What are the different types of primates?

Ideally, the order Primates is divided into two: Prosimii also known as the primitive primates and these include: lemurs, tarsiers as well as lorises, and Anthropoidea as known as the larger brained monkeys and apes including man).

Where do primates live?

Nearly 90% of primate species dwell in tropical forests where they play a very important role in the ecology of their natural habitat by being seed dispersers, pollinators as well as seed predators. The largest number of primates lives within the tropical, developing countries, where human beings compete for resources with them.

The most intelligent primate species in the world are the Orangutans based on a study that ranked them over gorillas and the chimpanzees, and in fact they are considered to be the most closely related to humans. This study further revealed that of the twenty five primate species, the orangutans had evolved the most advanced ability to solve problems and learn

What types of Primates are found in Africa?

The primates living in Africa are very amazing and diverse disappearing deeper into the wild forests because of human activity and encroaching on their habitat. Fortunately, a number of organizations have come up to sensitize and empower the local people especially living around the primate habitats to save and conserve these impressive species that have so much in common with humans. Primates are categorized into two major groups of mammals, one that includes man’s relatives who are the great apes including: humans, orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas and monkeys, and then the prosimians that include lorises and lemurs. Below are the primates found in Africa:

Chimpanzees, these are believed to share 98% and more of their DNA with human. They are very intelligent animals best known for their complicated manipulation of tools to get food. Although chimps have so much in common with humans, man-made problems threaten their existence.

 

Gorillas these are divided into the lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas both present on the Africa. They live in families led by a dominant silverback male. They spend the biggest part of their days searching for food and resting, playing as well as socializing within their family groups. Despite the fact that these forest giant primates are capable of existing peacefully with their human neighbors, due to illegal hunting and destruction of their natural habitat, they are endangered considered an endangered species. The mountain gorilla species can only be found in three countries in the entire world and that is Uganda, Rwanda and D.R Congo. It’s estimated that there are less than 1000 of them remaining in the world, however, governments in these countries started a habituation process that familiarized some of the wild mountain gorillas to human presence and today, they can be visited by people.

Bonobos: these are also referred to as the pygmy chimpanzees, and they similarly sharing close genetic connections to humans. They are a very resourceful and peaceful species. they mainy dwell in the forest of central Africa especially within the Democratic Republic of Congo. However because of a number of different factors such as civil plus political wars within the areas that surround their habitats, poaching and destruction of their natural habitat, the overall population of bonobos has greatly declined.

Dozens of African Monkey species: The monkeys on the African continent generally live in large troops which can comprise of as many as hundreds of individuals. The bigger species such as the mandrills spend most of their time searching the forest floor for food, while the others such as the colobus monkeys spend most of their time up in the trees. Species like the vervet monkeys have familiarized to living in close presence with humans and in fact a number of them have been habituated for tourism purposes. Just as it is with their great ape counterparts, a number of monkey species in Africa are illegally hunted for bush meat as well as sold off on the illegal wildlife markets. Consequently in a number of African countries, rescue sanctuaries have been established where primates that have been rescued from poachers are looked after. They operate on a rehabilitate and release program where primates that have fully been rehabilitated are released back into their natural habitat. Some of the commonn monkey species include: Black-and-White Colobus Monkey (Colobus guereza occindentalis), baboons, Redtail Monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius schmidti), vervet monkeys, Red Colobus Monkey (Colobus badius tephrosceles), mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx), guenons (Cercopithecus) and Grey-Cheeked Mangabey (Cercocebus albigena johnstoni) among many others

 

In this article, we bring you the top destinations in Africa where you can enjoy a primate watching expedition in their natural habitat during your safari in Africa.

  1. Bwindi Impenetrable Gorillas Park, Uganda

In the South western part of Uganda, is the renowned Bwindi Impenetrable National Park found on the rift valley edge. The hilly slopes blanketed with a layer of mist are covered with one of the oldest and greatly bio-diversified rainforests in Uganda with nearly 400 plant species some of which date back to 25000 years ago. Approximately half of the total mountain gorilla population in the inclusive of many habituated gorilla groups that are open for tourism live within these impenetrable forests. Bwindi is home to around six hundred mountain gorillas known also as Gorilla beringei beringei which constitutes of nearly half of the world’s mountain gorillas. The neighboring Virunga Mountains holds the remaining population of mountain gorillas in the world. Fortunately, the population of mountain gorillas in the park slowly increased according to a census conducted in 2006 with an assessment of 300 gorillas in the year 1997 increasing to 320 gorillas by 2002, in 2006 it had increased to 340 and by 2018, the population had risen to more than 400 individuals. The greatest dangers or threats to the mountain gorillas is loss of their natural habitats, diseases as well as poaching.

Over seventeen of the habituated gorilla families found in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park live in four major areas within the park which are Nkuringo, Rushaga, Buhoma as well as Ruhija located in the East, North and southern sectors of the park. Some off the habituated gorilla families include: Busingye family, Bitukura family, Habinyanja family, Oruzogo family, Mishaya familyNshongi family, Kahungye family, Rushegura family, Bweza family, Mubare family and Nkuringo family. Groups of 8 people are allowed to visit each family For one hour each day.

Gorilla trekking: is the activity that is commonly carried as hundreds of visitors crowd Bwindi daily to meet this vulnerable species. The national park has over 15 habituated gorilla families and it holds the biggest mountain gorilla crowd. in order to see and spend one hour with these Great Apes of  Bwindi in their natural habitat, all trekkers are obliged to purchase a trekking permit which costs USD $600. The gorilla permits in Uganda can be acquired from a number of reliable tour operators offering gorilla tour safaris to Bwindi Forest National park or from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Travelers have an opportunity of meeting and connecting with the vulnerable species in their natural setting since UWA distributes more than ninety six gorilla permits on a daily basis.

Gorilla habituation: Bwindi Impenetrable forest is also popular for its mountain gorilla habituation experience. Bwindi is the sole place where the travelers are involved in training of the wild mountain gorillas before they are cleared fit to be visited by tourists. However, the cost of the habituation experience is quite high costing USD $1500 and it includes spending four hours with gorillas. Today, two families of gorilla that is to say Bikyingi as well as Bushaho are currently undergoing the process of habituation and not before long will be available for trekking. UWA gives out eight permits for gorilla habituation because four people are allowed to visit each family daily. The habituation is geared towards preparing the wild gorillas to the presence of trekkers by familiarizing them with humans for several years prior.

  1. Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

The Simien Mountains National Park is popular in Africa for the stunning and striking volcanic cliffs as well as peaks towering over river valleys plus steep gorges. It is also home to the Ras Dashen which is the highest peak in Ethiopia. It’s beautiful landscape and indigenous plants and animals have won the Simien National Park the status of a UNESCO World heritage site. Simien National Park is situated in the far north of Ethiopia on the western side of the Simien Mountain range.

The gelada baboon also known as “The Bleeding-Heart Baboon” is native to Ethiopia. Over 3000 of these baboons live inside and around the park with most of them living in the highland plateaus of the Simien mountain ranges. Because there aren’t any threats to this species of baboons, their population is steadily rising. The baboons live in troops of 100 to 200 individuals and they are mostly sighted in highland areas at an elevation of 3000 meters above sea level. The gelada baboons are habituated and can easily be approached by tourists. The gelada baboons mainly feed on grass and roots for survival. As a result many peasants living around their habitat have become concerned with worry that these baboons may destroy their crops cultivated in the gardens. Geladas have a number of quirks about them and are a must see.

The gelada baboons can only be found in Ethiopia and are a popular tourist attraction in Simien National park as well as other native but endangered animals like Walia Ibex plus the Ethiopian wolf. They are very unique among the monkey species with a mostly grass diet although they have canine teeth particularly the males which they use to assert dominance and to fight. These fangs are not used for eating. They spend most of their time and mostly live on the ground compared to other monkeys that live in trees. When feeding, they do not lift their feet but rather move along seated in what is referred to as a shuffle gait. In order to hide from predators like hyenas and leopards they sleep on cliff-side outcrops at night. Geladas have a very visible hour glass shaped bare patch on their chest which turn from pink to bright red when the females are in the heat season or males are dominant. Once females are ready to mate, a characteristic ring of blister pearls filled with fluid form around those patches. The males have capes of flowing brown blonde hair that makes for a beautiful sight when they are running. Dominant males lead the baboon groups that are made of a dozen or more females, their young ones and a few subordinate males.

Outside these baboon groups (harems) are wandering groups of agitated bachelors who regularly challenge the leading males with the aim of taking over the harem. Only the alpha male in the harem has mating rights although different studies have shown that gelada females mate with less dominant males and the two will hide their unfaithfulness but making less noise while mating.

Research studies about geladas recently have covered a number of studies for example one study shows that geladas combine lip-smacking with vocalizations similar to human speech for communication. Another study showed that female geladas suddenly mis-carry fetuses once a new alpha male takes over the harem.  This response is still unexplained but could benefit females by making them free to mate with the new alpha male.

  1. Kibale – the world’s Primate Capital, Uganda

Kibale National Park is best known as the world’s primate capital. It is mainly popular for its thirteen (13) primate species including chimpanzees that dwell within its verdant forests. The drive from Toro-Semiliki national Reserve, Rwenzori Mountains NP, Queen Elizabeth National Park, as well as Semiliki National park takes about half the day to get you to Kibale national Park located near the Ndali Kasenda crater region.

With Chimpanzees being the major tourist attraction in the park with a general population of close to 1440 individuals, twelve other primate species have been documented here making this park the destination with the largest diversity and number of primates across this part of Africa. Of the thirteen primate species three (3) are nocturnal and very active at night. The Southern part, Kibale Park is joined to Queen Elizabeth National Park enabling the wildlife to move without restriction. Kibale NP protects a number of habituated chimpanzee groups that have been closely studied by researchers in addition to numerous Central African monkey species for example the black and white colobus (Colobus guereza), Red Colobus Monkeys, the Ugandan red colobus (Procolobus tephrosceles), Red tailed monkey, The L’Hoest’s monkey, De Brazza’s Monkeys, Bush babies (Thomas galagoes), Uganda mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae), Baboons, the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis).

The duiker, buffaloes, forest elephants, bush pig as well as the leopards are other animals that dwell in park although they are hardly seen. The multi-colored varieties of butterflies, amphibians plus reptiles are some of the other wildlife species you will encounter in the forest. Furthermore, Kibale National Park supports a remarkable number of bird species. It is documented to have approximately three hundred and twenty five bird species including the purple breasted sunbird, blue headed sunbird, black-capped Apalis, collared Apalis and so much more.

Tourists visiting the park are all advised to obey the regulations and guidelines that the guides provide. To avoid giving the primates any contagious diseases, sick visitors are prohibited from entering the forest. The visitors are advised to wear shirts with long sleeves and trousers to avoid getting pierced by thorny bushes or stung by insects because the park is majorly covered with dense forest vegetation. Tracking of the chimpanzees is carried out in groups of four to six people and these are led into the forest by the ranger guides. The trackers are given one hour as the maximum time to spend with these primates.

The Kibale forest can best be visited during the dry season and from the beginning of November until February is a more recommended time despite the fact that it can be visited all year round. The park can be accessed by road driving through the beautiful fort portal town or by catching a schedule flight.

  1. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is part of the Virunga Mountains which are comprised of eight very old volcanoes that are shared between Rwanda, the D.R Congo and Uganda and it’s located close to the country’s capital. The forested park is most popular for its resident population of Mountain gorillas, with ten (10) habituated gorilla families open for tourism which makes this park second to Uganda’s Bwindi as one of the best destinations to trek the highly endangered mountain gorillas. trekking expeditions are conducted in groups of eight (8) people allowed to visit each gorilla family for one hour and the cost of a gorilla trekking permit here costs USD $1,500 which is rather higher compared to its counterpart gorilla destinations of Uganda and the D.R Congo. It’s quite a very remarkable opportunity to come face to face with the few giant Great Apes living here as less than 1000 mountain gorillas have been recorded remaining in the whole world.

Rwanda’s Virunga volcanoes national park also prides in a population of the rare golden monkeys which are endemic to the virunga volcano area. these have a beautiful golden color of fur on their coats that makes them very impressive to watch in their natural habitat. they feed on fresh fruits, roots and shoots and with a habituated troop of golden monkeys in this poark, trekkers can get an opportunity to see them during the guided golden monkey treks.

  1. Kyambura Gorge, Uganda

The Kyambura wildlife reserve is habitat to very many primate species although the chimpanzees are the most popular ones. It is quite fascinating how these chimpanzees still exist within Queen Elizabeth national park in the Kyambura forest park because they are among the endangered species in the world. The most impressive part of Queen Elizabeth National park as reported by a big number of tourists is the Kyambura wildlife reserve. The gorge has a very interesting population of chimps living within the verdant forest strip found in Uganda’s most visited savanna national park.

In Uganda, the best tourist destination for trekking habituated chimpanzees as well as doing experimental tourism is the Kyambura forest reserve. When the chimpanzees see the visitors, they have a tendency of going down the trees. You may have a chance of taking up close photos because of this behavior. The chimpanzees carry on with their daily activities in the presence of people since they are used to them.

The chimpanzees rest in the nests which they build on the tree tops during the day or at night. At dawn, a typical day for the chimpanzee begins with random picking of fruits although they become quite picky in the afternoon while picking their fruits opting for the ripe ones and leaving out those that are unripe. Tree stems are used by chimpanzees when fighting against their rivals. Alternatively, they use the stems or hooks by dipping them in the termite holes so that the termites cling on them and finally the chimps get their meal. To complement on their diets, the chimpanzees have been spotted killing monkeys that are smaller in size although this is very rare. One needs to be physically fit to go for chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura forest reserve because the activity entails walking distances that are quite long.

There are a number of other primates you can encounter within the Kyambura during the nature walks along the forest trails. The blue Columbus monkeys, Vervet monkeys, red tailed monkeys, and the baboons are some of the many primates found in this wildlife reserve. You will be exposed to a world of new sights below the lush forest canopies while taking nature walks.

A number of tourists who visit Queen Elizabeth National park usually miss out on seeing Kyambura forest reserve, a beautiful new world in its natural setting since it is hidden. This wildlife reserve was established to provide water for the animals in the park especially during the dry season. it is believed that several years ago the steep slopes of Kyambura gorge  were created as a result of the great pressure with which the waters of river Kyambura were flowing.

  1. Dzanga Sangha Reserve, Central African Republic

The Dzanga Sangha Reserve is part of the greater western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) habitat that extends across most of the Central African countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon. The gorillas live within the thick rainforests which they traverse as they search for food a thing that makes viewing them somewhat challenging due to the dense undercover. Similar to other wildlife in the forest such as chimpanzees, the gorillas play a very important role in the reproductive eco-system of the forest through dispersing the seeds of the fruits which they eat across the forest floor; there germinate and grow to form more fruit trees. There is a gorilla research station found near the Bai Hokou clearing. In 1997, gorilla habituation started within the park and the process of familiarizing the forest giants to human presence took four (4) years to be successfully completed. By 2001, gorilla tourism started here and guests could visit them through gorilla trekking. The lowland gorillas are more in number compared to the counterpart mountain gorillas, however, they are more challenging to see considering the fact that they live deep within the very inaccessible rainforest of Africa. Nonetheless, chances of seeing the gorillas on each expedition are over 90% which almost guarantees sightings. The Dzanga Sangha Reserve found in Central African Republic offers holiday makers a unique opportunity to trek through its verdant forests to search for the habituated group.  Other primates found in this reserve include chimpanzees and the Mangabey monkeys.

Within Dzanga Sangha reserve is the Bai Hokou which is home to a very large number of the lively mangabeys (Cercocerbus agilis). In 2004 during the month of November, the Primate Habituation Program of WWF started the habituation process on a troop of mangabeys, and as we speak the troop is open for tourism activity and receives several tourists. What is unique about this group is that unlike most troop of  the mangabeys which live in groups of about twenty five (25) individual, this comprises of approximately three hundred individuals.

The salt lick area found within the swampy clearing attracts other wildlife such forest hogs and elephants. You will also get a chance to visit the local people of the Ba’Aka tribe during cultural tours in this area.

The reserve being mainly covered by a rainforest experiences annual rains of an average of 1,500mm with temperatures being very low in the night and early morning.  The best recommended time to visit, the Dzanga Sangha reserve is starting in the month of December all through to March despite the fact that it can be visited all year round.

  1. Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda

Nyungwe National Park found in Rwanda within eastern Africa is home to thirteen (13) different primate species representing 20 to 25% of Africa’s total population of primates.  This amazing number can only be compared to the Kibale forest found in Uganda across the East African region. Furthermore, the forest supports two species listed on the IUCN red list of endangered species.

Some of the most distinguished primate species in this forest are the Ruwenzori Colobus which are related to the prevalent Angola Colobus monkeys that can only be seen within the Albertine Rift. The Ruwenzori colobus can easily be distinguished from other primate species due to its beautiful black far coats that have snow white body hairs on the cheeks, around the neck, shoulders as well as on the tip of the tail. In addition, they are very acrobatic in nature and great leaf eaters. Despite the fact that the colobus monkeys are generally social I nature, those living in the Nyungwe forest are quite unique as they live in very large troops.  A troop of approximately 400 of these monkeys has been semi-habituated making it the largest arboreal troop not only in Africa but the world at large. It normally lingers around the camps in this area making it easily seen by tourists. In addition the Chinese golden-monkeys live within this forest in similarly large numbers.

The red tailed monkeys, Silver monkeys, Grey cheeked mangabeys, crowned monkeys, L’Hoest Monkeys, the Dent’s Mona Monkeys, Owl faced monkeys, vervet monkeys, golden monkeys as well as the Olive baboons (which are normally seen playing on the road leading to Nyungwe) are some of the other species found within this park.

Furthermore, there are some chimpanzees found within these forests ad chimpanzee trekking is one of the popular tourist activities conducted within the park. Trekkers set out in to the forest very early in the morning in groups of eight (8) people just as it is with mountain gorilla trekking. Once the chimpanzees have been sighted, visitor will be allowed to spend an hour with them. although sightings are not as reliable and as clear as it is with gorilla trekking because they live on the higher slopes of the forested mountains, they are quite a playful species and their characters which are very similar to the humans (they share 96% of their DNA with man) is worth the visit. Trekking tours to see the golden monkeys, the grey-cheeked mangabey as well as the Ruwenzori colobus monkeys are also organized within this forest.

  1. Mahaale National Park, Kenya

Mahaale Mountains National park located in western Kenya is often considered to be an Eden of its own. It is a conservation center for chimpanzees and has a very high population of chimpanzees. The remoteness and huge size of the park provides a conducive environment for chimpanzees to thrive and reproduce. Mahaale National park derived its name from the breathtaking Mahaale Mountains overlooking the stunning, clear waters and white sand beaches of the nearby Lake Tanganyika. It inhabits a number of the most beautiful wildlife populations on the African continent.

The western slopes of Mahaale are covered in forests and dwell in the world’s largest known number of chimpanzees. Over one thousand individuals split between 14 groups live in the park together with various other species of primates for example red tailed monkeys, red colobus, yellow baboons plus blue duikers. Approximately sixty (60) of the chimpanzees belong to the M group which is led by Alofu the dominant male; these have been habituated and are comfortable with being observed up close by tourists. Trails to find the chimpanzees can last between a twenty minutes walk to a tiring three hours hike but the outcome is satisfying. The most memorable moment of the trek is sitting among the chimpanzees as they live their normal lives, fighting, conversing, playing, caring for each other as well as grooming their young. You are advised to spend at least two days on your safari in the park to allow you adequate time for great sightings of the chimps. Amazingly Chimpanzees also usually roam through Mahaale luxury camps, catching glimpses of their reflections in the mirrors as they head towards the lake.

Best time to see the Mahale Primates: The most convenient time to see the chimpanzees in Mahaale Mountains National Park is towards the end of the dry season when they move closer to the shores of the lake. At that time the ground is less slippery which makes trekking less difficult. Mahaale Mountains National park also offer an opportunity to spend time with the chimpanzees as well as relaxing on the perfect sand on the beach or snorkeling the waters where you will come in contact with various species of the brightly colored cichlids. If you have some time to spare you can also be able to hike up Nkungwe, the highest peak in the mountain range standing at a height of 2,462 meters.

  1. Democratic Republic of Congo

Get a chance to see the endangered mountain gorillas which are currently less than 1000 in number found in only three destinations in the entire world: the D.R Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. The Virunga National park offers guided gorilla trekking expeditions to tourists during which they will get a chance to meet man’s closest living relative the Gorilla beringei beringei. In addition, visiting the Lomako forest you will get a chance to encounter the bonobos also known as the ‘pygmy’ chimpanzees. These also can be found in the Lola Ya bonobo sanctuary situated within Kinshasha within the center of the country making it quite very accessible. Similar to gorillas, the bonobo families are led by a dominant male – the matriarch, and interesting about this species is that they settle family disagreements by having sex a thing that distinguishes them from other primates. These are also worth paying a visit on your expedition in Africa.

  1. Madagascar

Visit the lemurs of Madagascar. These are said to have evolved from some of the early primates and they can only be seen on the island of beautiful Madagascar as well as on the small neighboring islands. It’s assumed that perhaps they could have floated to this island so many years ago on rafts and eventually evolved. There are approximately one hundred different types of lemurs in the world today, varying from the small mouse-like variety to the biggest ruffed species.

the activity of lemurs mainly depends on their size as smaller lemurs are mainly nocturnal meaning they are active in the night while larger lemurs are diurnal implying that there are active in the day. majority of the lemurs love spending their awake time up in the trees or sunbathing or grooming each other.

When it comes to their diet, a number of them are herbivores feeding on fruits, flowers, sap, leaves and tree barks. however, there is another portion of lemurs that is omnivorous feeding on not just  flowers, fruits, leaves and nectar but also compliment their diet with small vertebrates, insects and spiders.

What is the best Country to See Primates in Africa?

Also known as the primate capital of the world, Uganda is ranked as the best destination on the African continent to see primates. Located in the eastern part of the continent the country has the largest number and diversity of primates living within its verdant protected rainforests found in different parts of the country. With more than half of the world’s total population of the endangered mountain gorillas living here, these can best be seen in Bwindi Impenetrable national park as well as the Mgahinga national park. the country offers travelers an opportunity to personally encounter these hairy forest giants in their natural habitats through guided gorilla trekking safaris which will reward you with one hour with the gorillas, or the gorilla habituation  process that will offer you 4 hours in the presence of the silverback and its family. Chimpanzees are very prevalent in the country as well with Kibale National Park alone having more than 1200 chimpanzees despite the fact that these can also be seen within the Kyambura gorge of Queen Elizabeth National Park or the forest of Murchison falls national park. There are also guided chimpanzee tracking adventure organized in the country to visit some of the habituated chimp families and see how these – man’s closest living relatives go about their day to day activities and mimic human behavior in so many ways.

Other primate species found in Uganda include:

Red-tailed monkey and blue monkey; locally referred to as enkunga, they are the smallest monkeys and have white far on their cheeks. They can be seen in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Kibale and Queen Elizabeth National Parks.

Olive baboon: locally referred to as enkobe, these are probably the most destructive animals to man’s crops in Africa’s. They prefer to move on the ground

Ugandan red colobus monkey; these commonly live in the forests of Kibale national park as well as the Bigodi Wetland sanctuary. They are known to fiercely fight and defend their territory from intruders like eagles and chimps.

Golden monkey; this species is endemic to the virunga area, they sleep in the higher areas of bamboo forests and can be seen within Mgahinga National Park

Grey-cheeked mangabey; these can be seen in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Kibale Forest, Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary and Semliki Wildlife Reserve. They stay up high in the trees.

Patas monkey; these live in troupes of 30 to 50 individuals. In Murchison Falls National Park, There are high chances of seeing these monkeys in hundreds.

L’hoest monkey; classified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN list, they are shy though can be seen caring for their young and bonding with each other along the trails in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The Black and white colobus monkeys locally referred to as engeye. It lacks thumbs and is very vulnerable to falling especially when making long jumps. It little ones are born white but change color as they grow.

When is the Best time for Primate watching in Africa?

Africa is a very large continent which implies that all year round holidaymakers can have some where to go and enjoy a safari. When it comes to analyzing the continent’s safari destinations, we can best group them into two that is southern Africa and eastern Africa. The continent experience two climate seasons – the dry season and the wet season.

Best time to primate watching in East Africa: this includes Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Although they can be visited all year round, its best recommend during the dry season that begins in mid June to the month of October. The weather is sunny, parks are dry and wildlife views are excellent. The rainy seasons should be avoided especially when going primate watching as the forest trails are very slippery and muddy while the amount of rainfall received in the primate destinations is high. The short rains come in November (although it is still ideal for taking safaris), then in March, April and May the long rains start.

Best time to primate watching in Southern Africa: southern Africa on the other hand experiences a single rainy season which starts in November to April with consistent rains – those months should be avoided. The dry season kick in which is best recommended for safari with most water sources drying up offering the best wildlife views. September and October are the peak months for safaris down south.

Other African destinations: Ethiopia can be visited all year round but June to September there are some rains. Namibia being a desert like country, the rains are mainly experienced in March with the rest of the year being dry. In Zimbabwe, the month of May is transitional with wet and dry season weather elements. June is the most pleasant month for safari although it can be visited all year round. Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Moremi as well as Chobe are among most popular parks. The best time to visit them is during the dry season starting May to September. Ghana can be visited all year round, however, receives some light rainfall starting September through October.