Last week a group of journalists and I visited Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which lies at the south-western tip of Uganda and forms part of the massive Virunga ecosystem. The biggest allure of the park is the tracking of the golden monkeys on the slopes of Mt. Mgahinga. So popular a tourist attraction it has become that many people are now predicting it is the next best thing to gorilla tracking in Uganda.
We had a great time; four hours of pure bliss as we trekked up the mountain in search of Uganda’s mostly unknown touristy jewel. With an efficient team of guides who knew all the corners in the mountain, we skirted around thick foliage and ducked low-hanging bamboos as we sought out these shy and highly intellectual primates.
We climbed Mt. Mgahinga upto 2,700m above sea level where the habituated group of golden monkeys is found. We began the excited search as we all prepared to film and photograph the monkeys. Mostly, we were curious to see what was so golden about them – was it their skin, behaviour or the environment in which they lived? After the mandatory hour with them, we decided it must be from their golden-like skin that they get their name.
We chased and imitated their catcalls to ensure they came into view so that we could get good shots of them. The heavy two-hour downpour that we had endured as we trekked up the mountain was by now long forgotten. The monkeys silently went about their business, jumping from bamboo tree to bamboo tree, as they enjoyed the beautiful breezy morning. Once in a while they surveyed their surroundings as they sat atop the thick bamboo branches. The journalists had a thrill filming the monkeys’ brilliant manoeuvres as they jumped from one treetop to the next. It takes a lot of patience and enthusiasm to get a really good shot of the golden monkeys.
During the trek, the guides told us hilarious tales about some of the plants and flowers that we encountered. The names too were descriptive enough such as Peace Poacher, Morning Glory and Old Man’s Beard, among others. Two giant worms that we encountered along the trail made my skin crawl, but many adventurous tourists would definitely treasure a glimpse of the creatures.
At the end of a well-spent hour with the golden monkeys, we descended Mt. Mgahinga full of stories to tell. But before returning to base, we made a sojourn to the Ngarama Cave, which is the other mostly undiscovered tourist attraction in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.