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monalisa

Gorillas & Golden Monkeys - February 2019

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Towlersonsafari

What a lovely report and the pictures of the hand and the thinking gorilla are just wonderful, thanks for your report great fun @monalisa its certainly made me smile!

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dlo

Very nice pics and report @monalisa and pretty solid advice on the porters. We used them on all our treks and I was always surprised to see people not use them. Saw a few nasty falls and 1 guy in particular must have gone down at least 5 times on our golden monkey trek. Honestly for us we just felt obligated to provide a little employment for the locals.

 

Interesting about the river crossing, could you not insist to cross on your own? Talking to the ranger on our way down to the gorillas he was telling us about people who hired porters to carry them the whole way up and down to the gorillas.

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Julian
Posted (edited)

This report and photos are superb, and really helpful for us as we are hoping to go to see the mountain gorillas in  Bwindi forest in either Feb 2020 or Sept 2020. 

We were advised Late Feb and Late Sept probably best time to go, by a professional photographer/guide.

We have chosen Uganda for the same reasons as you - cost of gorilla passes , meaning we get two treks in Uganda for less than the price of one in Rwanda.

Likewise we are definitely not very  fit for our ages (64 and 51) . Whilst I’m pretty good at clambering around on rough ground and going up hills, Rachel ( my wife) is not. Apart from her having chemo treatment in recent years she also has problems with loose shoulder joints ( so being aided by pulled up a steep section of a trek could be difficult).

We might be able to get a bit fitter by the time we go but I doubt we would be significantly fitter.

 

Edited by Julian

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monalisa
14 hours ago, TonyQ said:

You really can tell there is intelligence in there!

 

@TonyQ Absolutely! I mean, we could totally be anthropomorphising here, but it's the fact they look and and act so human-like. The expressions they can make are so similar. When you look into their eyes there is a feeling of common understanding too, that you mean no harm, and are simply observing each other.

 

 

14 hours ago, wilddog said:

How did the couple that did not use porters fare? Apart from helping at a personal level using porters does provide income to the local community. 

 

@wilddog Porters were essential for me as well! I could not have done either trek without them. The couple on the Nkuringo trek that didn't hire them fared pretty well, but you could tell that they were super fit and were well equipped for trekking. They did "borrow" the porters to help them across the river though, and I'm sure were helped by them up the very steep parts. I don't know if they ended up tipping the porters anything but I hope they did, because the porters really went above and beyond to help us all. 

 

 

9 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

The gorilla families line up along the water's edge to witness the river crossing, a spectacle of nature.  It can take hours of waiting to see such a sight, but it's worth it.  :D

 

I suppose the porters feel it is better to transport people than risk someone falling in and getting all wet or ruining their camera.

 

@Atravelynn Truly a spectacle! A 6"4 man carried across by a much smaller man on his back, looking over in confusion while simultaneously a very thin and lightweight lady is being carried by 2 men :lol:

Then a portly gentleman has his turn. Two porters link arms and form a "chair" for him to sit on, while a third porter provides support from the rear. A miracle of this species' ingenuity to avoid getting their feet wet!

 

The river bed was full of large rocks that looked like an ankle injury waiting to happen. It would have been very easy to fall over. So I guess you are right, the porters just took it upon themselves to make sure they got everyone across safely. We felt terrible though!! 

 

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monalisa
9 hours ago, dlo said:

Interesting about the river crossing, could you not insist to cross on your own? Talking to the ranger on our way down to the gorillas he was telling us about people who hired porters to carry them the whole way up and down to the gorillas.

 

@dlo I'm sure you could but in the situation I think it would have come across as making a scene. The porters just start picking you up and insist on taking you over. If you fell over in the water or didn't enjoy the rest of your trek because of wet pants the porters might feel uncomfortable that their fees or tips were compromised. Perhaps if people were wearing gumboots/wellingtons then they might have asked if you wanted to cross on your own?

 

I have heard of these "African helicopters" whereby a team of porters can carry a person the whole way. It's actually a really great service for disabled people to be able to experience the gorillas too. I think it costs $250USD for this service, so excellent money for willing porters, and means that nobody has to feel limited by their inability to trek.

 

 

9 hours ago, Julian said:

Likewise we are definitely not very  fit for our ages (64 and 51) . Whilst I’m pretty good at clambering around on rough ground and going up hills, Rachel ( my wife) is not. Apart from her having chemo treatment in recent years she also has problems with loose shoulder joints ( so being aided by pulled up a steep section of a trek could be difficult).

 

@Julian I'm glad you are thinking about going!! Do it!! There are services you can utilise (as mentioned above in my comment to dlo) to get you there if you think you need it. A team of 12 can strap you to a chair and carry you emperor-style to the gorillas and back. At *worst*, if you fail the trek, you can call this team to come and get you out. There is no need to feel limited by any injury or fitness level. I am testament to that. While I'm fairly young, I'm embarrassingly unfit e.g. cannot sustain a jog for more than 10 minutes. I'm slow, but I was able to do both those treks one after the other, and the following day do another 4 hours to see golden monkeys. 

 

If Rachel has issues with being pulled upwards, you could theoretically hire 2 or 3 porters to lift her through these parts. The porters are amazing and are well worth the money. If you have them, you can manage any trek thrown at you :)

 

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monalisa
13 hours ago, Atdahl said:

There is one missing though that I would have LOVED to see.  You know, of a certain somebody "hitching a ride".:)

 

@Atdahl HAHAHAHA there is no way I could get away with posting those pictures/VIDEOS on a public forum

 

But since you mentioned wanting to see someone hitching a ride.......................................................

 

One of the females decided that she was in the mood for some lovin' and walked over to the silverback and began circling him.

As a relatively new member she was trying to secure her place in the group by getting knocked up. Having a baby to secure the relationship is never the answer, tsk tsk tsk. 

 

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Her seduction method of choice was reaching her hand in to grab his crotch. Straightforward! And effective! He complied and they went at it for a while.

The young American guy in our group was already making a ton of jokes about how we all penetrated the impenetrable forest. Well he was having a field day now!!

 

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Nice of them to use a privacy screen while 10 people stood by watching them.

 

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Every now and then the silverback would take a rest, but would then continue.

Like the degenerates we were, we stood there watching three sessions before we were told our hour was up and had to be dragged away.

 

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We have very good video of the whole seduction here!

 

 

 

It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get back (including back across the same river), including about 15 minutes for lunch.

This was our lunch spot:

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The temperature had been a very manageable 24C/75F with some humidity, but once we got out of the forest and past the tea plantation the sun decided to come out and beat down like crazy. With no shade, and a walk uphill, I was dropping speed like nothing else. The ascent was a very tame slope, but because of the sun I actually recall this as the toughest part of the trek. Then by the time we made it back, the rain started to bucket. We were very glad to not have been any slower that day! 

We were also told that the group assigned the "easy" walk were still out there and had not yet found their gorillas. Jeepers. We sure dodged a bullet there! It would have been absolutely miserable to have been in the forest during the rain. I hope they found their gorillas eventually! Poor people.

This does go to show that even if you ask for the easy group, it is still a roll of the dice because the gorillas can move at any time, and if they are constantly on the move, you could be following them for a long time. So no matter what, you have to be prepared for the hardest treks.

 

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Atravelynn

Hope you enjoyed the ride across the water.  Lucky you getting the not easy group that actually was.  You saw a variety of gorilla activity for sure.

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Atdahl

@monalisa, more awesome photos and Mr Monalisa's video is great too.  I am tired just from watching them now though...:)

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dlo

Instead of likes I would prefer to give you all the lolololols I can for that last post.I will offer no further comment on her seduction methods for fear of being banned.

 

Really great stuff @monalisa.

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Atravelynn

At those permit prices, you gotta watch!  (and video)  All part of the spectacle on the mountain!

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Alexander33

I know what you mean about fearing to anthropomorphize the gorillas’ behavior and emotions, but I don’t know. I really did feel a sense of connection with them when we saw them, much more so than any other animal we’ve ever encountered before. 

 

You never know about those “easy” treks. We were in Rwanda, but I think the same thing applies. We were assigned a “moderate” trek two times in a row, and both times came upon the gorillas about 30 minutes after entering the park. A pair of travelers we were friendly with were assigned an “easy” trek one day, and they ended up having to go 4 hours each way. On our third, final trek, we were assigned an “easy” group, and that, by far, was the most difficult of the three.  You just never know. 

 

The bottom line, though, is that each trek is a unique and amazing experience. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.  It brings back great memories. 

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monalisa
Posted (edited)

After completing the gorilla trek and collecting our certificates, we were headed to Rwanda. We would be staying overnight at the Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge before going on the golden monkey trek the next morning.

It was bucketing as we left Bwindi, and I thought to myself if it rains at Volcanoes National Park, we can just skip the golden monkeys. But the sky cleared quickly and in the end I'm very glad it did. I didn't think I was going to enjoy looking for golden monkeys at all.

 

It took about 2 1/2 hours to get from Bwindi to the border. Well the border crossing was a convoluted process. We got out of the car, went to some unmarked shack where we showed someone our passports, got a ticket, then went to some other shack to show our passports to someone else, all the while not really understanding what the purpose of everything was. Then we went to the white tent you see below, washed our hands, stood in line for an ebola check, then went to the table next door to it, opened up all of our luggage for searching, then wandered over to the Rwanda side to a building with two windows. We walked up to one of the windows and were shooed over to the other window, being told "First you need to leave Uganda. Then come here to enter Rwanda." It was not straightforward! But it was an experience!

 

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When you cross the border, you switch from driving on the the left side of the road (i.e. the correct way ;)) in Uganda, to the right side in Rwanda. And also go back an hour in time.

 

After about an hour we reached the Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge. I have to say that the service here was far beyond what I expected. It was especially attentive and we felt very at ease.

 

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Leopard rug I found amusing

 

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The next morning we got up ready for the day and headed out towards the reception area. It was pitch black outside and we couldn't see where we were walking. We wondered why the lodge hadn't turned any pathway lights on. We were halfway when it occurred to Tim.

"I just realised. We're in Rwanda", Tim said in the darkness.

We never turned our clocks back and were an hour too early. Gah!! So much for an extra hour's sleep! :lol: We had fully packed so we literally just sat and waited, squandering our time on the lodge wifi. Ha ha. Live and learn.

 

At breakfast we chatted with a lone traveler from Finland. He had just come from Uganda as well, having done a trek in the Ruhija sector which he said was 4 hours long and very hard. As it turned out, he was doing the golden monkey trek this morning also. I wondered if we would be in the same group?

 

Over breakfast we could hear one of the jeep engines severely struggling, and it was failing to start. In those moments you just get a feeling, don't you. You know it's yours.

Ah well. At least it was golden monkey day and not one of the gorilla days. 

The guy from Finland and his guide kindly allowed us to catch a lift to Volcanoes NP with them.

 

We passed this spot which is apparently where they do gorilla naming ceremonies:

lOEQrwxh.jpg

 

 

When we got to the park entrance we had the opportunity to look around at all the keen and bright-eyed gorilla trekkers. 

The demographics here were much more varied than in Uganda where the crowd was generally older. 

I also spotted this one gorilla trekking lady who was wearing 3/4 pants and sandals. Oh my, that poor woman has no idea what she's in for. I wish there was some way to have followed up to see how she managed!

 

Back to the golden monkeys.. We were placed in a group of 12 (the max being 24 I think?). I forget the name of the monkey group but we were told that there were close to 100 members in this family.

We were also given the news that the monkeys were not that far away today. Excellent! Still I hired a porter, but I think I was the only one in the group that did.

In retrospect it wasn't necessary given the difficulty level of this compared to the two gorilla treks but as I mentioned earlier, it is a source of income for the locals that is tied to conservation, so I was happy to use this service.

Edited by monalisa

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monalisa

I mentioned previously that the golden monkey trek was 4 hours long but looking at my notes it was actually only 2 1/2 hours (including the 1 hr with the monkeys). A walk in the park! Both literally and proverbially.

Very very slippery though on account of the mud caused by the rain the previous day. 

 

From the Volcanoes NP entrance we got back into our vehicles (our guide had fixed our jeep by this point) and drove us 10-15 minutes to the starting point. 

We walked for 35 minutes through a wheat field and some farmland before reaching the bamboo forest.

 

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Less than 10 minutes into the forest and we were told we could dump our bags here and prepare to see the monkeys:

 

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What does it look like in the bamboo forest? Pretty cool I must say!

 

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At the briefing we were told that the monkeys don't mind the use of flash photography (which I don't have anyhow), and just to avoid stepping on them because they would run around.

They have long tails like cats, and if you were to accidentally step on one, expect a nasty bite.

 

 

It's monkey time!

 

As soon as we walked into monkey territory we quickly noticed that they were all around. We couldn't count how many there were, but there was a monkey in every few trees. It was fairly dark in the forest but you could hear and see figures jumping from tree to tree, and occasionally would see one scamper across the forest floor. We didn't know where to look! 

It took me a good few minutes to chill out and just pick a monkey to look at :lol:

 

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The guide called a few of us over to come look at a big male. When we got closer we realised that this one has a mouth injury. Perhaps from a fight with another male?

He didn't look too happy.

 

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This is a different member. I love how it's sitting between the bamboo stalks!

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Baby one

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Hmmm they do look a bit like cats!

 

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Don't step on their tails!! I'm sure their bite is no joke.

 

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As you can see the light was very challenging for me, but I got better I think!

 

Here is a baby/juvenile one before getting scooped up by mummy

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Cute!

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Atdahl

Very interesting about the border crossing and then having to switch to the "Right" side of the road.  I thought all African countries drove on the left, I guess not.

 

That bamboo forest looks really cool.  We've only been in one on Maui and it was great but there were no monkeys jumping around of course.

 

I think you did great with the crappy lighting conditions. It's a challenge for everyone.  

 

All the pictures are really good but I really LOVE that last picture!  

 

 

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lmonmm

I am just loving this TR. I went gorilla trekking 10 years ago in Rwanda (when it was affordable) and Uganda. The treks can be quite strenuous, but the lead guide was good at keeping it at a reasonable pace so that us slow ones could keep up. Personally, I did find the gardening gloves useful for when I was pulling myself up inclines so was glad I brought them. And absolutely hire the porters. The guy in Bwindi I had- what a riot- we found we were taking turns helping pull each other up slopes- great fun. But, the gorillas.....man oh man.....there is absolutely nothing like seeing them for the first time. Or the second, or the third. There is something about these majestic beings that affect your soul. I am soooo thankful I did that trip and for those with it on your bucket list....oh gosh....do it.

@monalisa I am extremely jealous of your golden monkey trek. The one I went on was rather arduous and I only caught glimpses of them in the trees so nothing as extraordinary as yours. They are fluffy and gorgeous aren't they?

This is all bringing back some very fond memories  :)

 

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dlo
23 hours ago, monalisa said:

I also spotted this one gorilla trekking lady who was wearing 3/4 pants and sandals. Oh my, that poor woman has no idea what she's in for

 

We were told of a businesswoman who showed up for her trek in a business suit and high heels! She was sent back to her lodge to get proper attire. You got plenty of good pics @monalisa and it looks like a nice easy walk.

 

@lmonmm did you trek for golden monkeys in Uganda? We saw them there and it was a pretty hard trek as well but very worthwhile. 

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monalisa
On 4/8/2019 at 9:58 PM, Atdahl said:

I thought all African countries drove on the left, I guess not.

 

@Atdahl I just Googled this, but apparently most of Africa drives on the right side! It's only the southern and south-east countries that drive on the left. 

 

 

14 hours ago, lmonmm said:

I went gorilla trekking 10 years ago in Rwanda (when it was affordable) and Uganda.

 

@lmonmm I'm glad you are enjoying reliving your gorilla experience! I hope all others to follow will do the same and post their own TRs up. Do you have photos from your trip 10 years ago? I would love to see them!! 

Where did you do your golden monkey trek? I was very happy that the walk was consistently flat for mine!

 

 

1 hour ago, dlo said:

 

We were told of a businesswoman who showed up for her trek in a business suit and high heels! She was sent back to her lodge to get proper attire. You got plenty of good pics @monalisa and it looks like a nice easy walk.

 

@lmonmm did you trek for golden monkeys in Uganda? We saw them there and it was a pretty hard trek as well but very worthwhile. 

 

@dlo Hahaha oh no. I'm glad the guides didn't just let her go in her heels!! That would have to be the least prepared I have ever heard someone be for such a trip :lol:

 

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wilddog

@monalisa I think it depends on which country colonised the African country. E. G. UK the left France, the right

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monalisa

Finally! Our video is ready to post!

In it, a monkey plays with a bamboo stick, and then two of them play fight on the forest floor right at Tim's feet. 

 

 

 

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Atravelynn

You made the most of  Monkey Time!  That video was monkey wrestling.

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monalisa

Last pics good to go!

 

Here are some of a grooming pair.  We could go right up to them, they were very chilled. Someone was taking photos with an ipad, maybe 20cm/8in from them and they really did not care. 

 

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Enjoying a good old fashioned butt grooming

 

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Embarrassed by the audience to the aforementioned butt grooming perhaps?

 

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Hands closeup

 

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I love the agape mouth, they are hilarious

 

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Some of my better pics

 

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Atdahl

More great shots @monalisa.  I love the expressions you captured on their faces.  The Golden Monkey is one good looking primate.

 

PS - who doesn't like a good butt grooming once in a while. :)

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lmonmm

@dlo  and @monalisa   Yes- I did the golden monkey trek in Uganda. I saw them, just not very well. That's ok- although the trek was hard, it was through a beautiful area and at one point we came to a clearing and could see DRC which was pretty cool. 

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Zubbie15

Just catching up on this report @monalisa, what a great trip and some awesome pictures.  I guess your guide had a good idea in the end to switch groups.  And the golden monkeys really came out for you, during our hour with them they really stayed up in the trees. 

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cybor

First off, I'd like to thank you for relaying your travels in such an interesting and entertaining manner. Secondly, you may have encouraged me to try for a second trek on our upcoming trip to Uganda. That said, I'm not so sure i could handle back to back treks the way you did. I may need loads of hot water, a bathtub and a day or two in between. :)

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