Tracking Primates in Rwanda: The Big Three

Tracking Primates in Rwanda: The Big Three

Rwanda's nickname is the “Land of a Thousand Hills”.  Since the late 1990's, it's transformed into one of the leading eco tourism destinations in the world, largely due to the number of unique wildlife attractions that the country has to offer.

Rwanda has vast areas of tropical rainforest which are home to a number of unique primate species and other rare and interesting wildlife.  Of the primates in the forested areas of the country, the most endangered are the mountain gorilla, golden monkey, and chimpanzee... all of which can be seen on a safari.

Rwanda's mountain gorillas reside in the forests of Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans), which is located in the northwestern section of the country.  Volcanoes National Park is one of the most popular places in the would to join a gorilla tour and spend time with these rare animals in their natural habitat.


Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are listed as one of the most endangered species on the planet.  They exist only in the forested mountains of east and central Africa, mainly congregating in the Virunga Conservation Region that stretches between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda, as well as in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda.

The Virunga region is comprised of three national parks including: Virunga National Park in the Congo, Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.  Volcanoes National Park is home to more than 480 gorilla species; more than any of the other parks in the area.  The park is also home to ten habituated mountain gorilla families, as well as an additional seven families that are non-habituated and studied by researchers.

Mountain gorillas usually pass their days moving from one place to another looking for fresh plant leaves, wild fruits and bamboo shoots, as well as looking for new places to build shelters to rest at night.

Each mountain gorilla group is always led by a dominant male gorilla called a silverback.  A fully-grown silverback can weigh up to 200 pounds and is strong enough to take down a fully-grown human if provoked.  Habituated mountain gorillas are generally very peacefull and will not charge unless provoked or threatened by someone observing them.  

Visitors to Rwanda who are in search of a gorilla trekking adventure will head to Volcanoes National Park where they will be divided into groups of eight and allocated a guide.  The search for mountain gorillas can take up to eight hours of hiking through dense forests and once you reach a gorilla group you're allowed up to an hour to observe, learn, and take photos.

Although mountain gorillas are highly endangered, gorilla trekking tourism is very beneficial to conservation efforts, as the money collected from tourists is used to fund a number of conservation programs geared towards research, paying and upskilling rangers and guides, and the development of the communities around the national park.


Golden Monkeys

Golden monkeys are also rare primates that can only be seen in the Virunga Volcanoes region of Central Africa.  Being a part of the Virunga Conservation Area, Volcanoes National Park as a number of golden monkeys.  There are 30+ golden monkeys in the park and they also feed on plant leaves, wild fruits and bamboo shoots.

Just as their name suggests, golden monkeys are covered with golden fur.  Tracking these primates is also a great trekking option in Rwanda, as visitors are also able to encounter a number of other wildlife species during the trip, especially when it comes to birds.



Chimpanzees are best viewed in Rwanda by visiting Nyungwe Forest National Park, which is located in the southwestern region on the country.  Similar to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, chimpanzees also live in groups comprised of close relatives.

Chimpanzees are very versatile animals and are often on the move from one tree to another.  This makes chimpanzee tracking very adventurous because to get close to them you have to try to keep to their pace as you move through the thick African jungle.


Some people are under the impression that a primate tracking experience is near impossible, but they're wrong!

Wildlife safaris in Africa are easy to book and result in an experience that you'll never forget.