Rwanda’s tourism industry is what it is today mainly because of the primate species that call the National parks of the country home. There are more than 14 species of primates in this country, hence making the country a primate lover’s paradise. Therefore, the must-see primate species of Rwanda include;
The Mountain Gorillas – Gorilla beringei beringei
Mountain gorillas are undoubtedly the main reason why thousands of tourists flock Rwanda. These exceptional primates are found in the Volcanoes National Park and currently there are 300 mountain gorillas in the park. There are 10 habituated gorilla families that are visited by tourists on Rwanda gorilla trekking expeditions through the misty Virunga volcanoes. Gorilla tracking Permits in Rwanda cost only $1500 per person, and other Parks like Virunga National Park of Democratic Republic of Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National of Uganda offer home to these Giant Apes.
Golden monkeys – Cercopithecus kandti
These playful Golden monkeys are found within the Bamboo zones of Volcanoes National Park and are the second most sought-after attractions in the Park after the Mountain gorillas. They are also found in Gishwati-Mukura Forest National Park in North-western Rwanda. What sets these monkeys apart is their golden-brownish color and live in groups ranging from 30 to 100 individuals. There are currently two habituated golden monkey groups that can be tracked from Volcanoes National park-Musongga group made up of 100 members and has its home range on the foothills of Mount Karisimbi (highest Volcano in the Virunga Massif) and the Kabatwa group comprised of 70 members found within the Bamboo Forest within Mount Sabinyo.
Chimpanzees – Pan Troglodytes
Chimpanzees are our closest relatives because they share over 98.7% of their DNA with mankind. Never leave this country without tracking these Apes and their number is currently estimated at 500 individuals. Just like other primates, Chimpanzees live in groups/families of 30 to 60 members. While most of them live in Nyungwe Forest National Park, about 20 chimpanzees have their residence in Gishwati-Mukura Forest National Park found in North-western side of Rwanda.
The Rwenzori Colobus Monkeys
The Rwenzori Colobus Monkeys are identified by their black color with white ornaments that can be easily spotted when you encounter them in Nyungwe Forest National park. Interestingly, these monkeys live in groups of 300 to 400 members. Unlike Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National park and Chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park, tracking the Rwenzori Colobus monkeys is not strenuous and these creatures tend to be in large numbers on mainly tree-tops and what captures tourists’ attention is their sloppy eating habit which contributes to seed pollination when seeds of the fruits they eat are scattered within the forest
The L’Hoest’s Monkeys
The L’Hoest’s monkeys are sometimes known as the Mountain monkeys and are endemic to the Albertine Rift Mountains. Besides being in Nyungwe Forest National Park and Gishwati-Mukura National Park in Rwanda, they can also be spotted in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park. These monkeys are identified by their fuzzy-white beards and move on both pairs of limbs when on the ground searching for food of when foraging. Male Monkeys are heavier than the females are the former weigh up to 5 kilograms. The most interesting fact about these primates is that they live in smaller groups dominated by females.
Bush babies or sometimes known as the Galago
The Bush babies are small, extra-active and large eyed insectivores that can be sighted during nocturnal/night primate walks. Currently, four nocturnal primates have been recorded in Nyungwe Forest National Park. Bush babies derived their “bush baby” name from babyish cry and physical appearance. They have woolen fur with colors ranging from silver grey to dark brown and mainly stay in the savannah areas and dry woodland. In Rwanda, you will find them in Gishwati-Mukura Forest National park, Volcanoes national Park and Nyungwe Forest National Park.
Just like the Bush babies, the Pottos are difficult to sight during day since they are also nocturnal primates that can only be sighted during night primate walks. The Pottos are close relatives of the Lemurs of Madagascar. They have a grey-brown color with wooly fur and their hands and toes are uniquely shaped in a way that allows them to firmly hold tree branches without slipping and falling.
The Owl – Faced Monkeys
These primates are outstanding for their beak-like noses and the owl-shaped faces hence the name “Owl-faced” monkeys. They are found in Nyungwe Forest National park although are rare to see. They are closely related to the L’Hoest’s monkeys and also live in smaller groups
Dent’s Mona Monkeys
Dent’s Mona monkeys enjoy the company of other monkeys such as the grey cheeked mangabeys and the Blue monkeys, and also found within the Nyungwe Forest National Park. These primates are identified by their long black tails, brown backs and the white rump. The interesting thing about them is that they are abit aggressive and when they get food, they lift it with their huge cheek pouches. They enjoy eating fruits although sometimes they consume insects as well as plant leaves.
The black and white Colobus monkeys
These astonishing primates are always the first you will see when you venture into Nyungwe Forest National Park. These playful long-haired monkeys are literally the majority in the national Park and a must-see by every tourist who visits Nyungwe Forest.
Besides the mentioned primate species, the Grey-cheeked mangabeys, the red-tailed monkeys, the Blue monkeys, the Olive baboons found in almost all the National Parks of Rwanda and on the roads near Forests, the Vervet monkeys and the Silver monkeys can also be encountered while on a safari in Uganda.