On the second day of our Rwanda adventures, we went trekking to see the golden monkeys, an endangered species that live in the lower bamboo forests of the Virunga Mountain Range. Our trekking group met at the Kinigi headquarters and we set off down the trail leading into the forest.
The bamboo forest is different from the rainforest. Instead of the heaviness of trees and shrubbery, the tall, thin bamboo stalks that reached up and around us created a sense of both space and density, the dapples of light on the dank earth composing a certain mysticism.
After a short 20 min walk, our trackers told us the monkeys were close. We left our bags and looked up into the trees – within minutes we saw furry faces and inquisitive eyes peaking out from behind the thin bamboo stalks.
The monkeys were playful and entrancing, their soft, reddish-gold fur creating a blur of colour as they darted and danced through the bamboo. They daintily jumped from one stalk to the next and sucked the sweet juice out of bamboo shoots they dug up on the forest floor.
Like with the gorillas, you spend one hour with the monkeys, watching the family of 25 dance their way through the forest.
I found the monkeys delightful and eventually sat on the forest floor to watch them play around me. I took photos with Rex, my trusty travel companion, and felt that the monkeys were coming closer and closer. After a few minutes I was completely surrounded by the family and found myself giggling at the thought: the monkeys had chosen me.
Noticing this, one of the trackers came over and asked if I knew why the monkeys liked me so much.
“Well, it was obviously my good energy,” I had replied.
“No,” he said, a bit too matter-of-factly. “It’s that thing you’re taking pictures of – is it a T-Rex? They think it’s a chameleon. It’s a delicacy.”
And just like that, those sweet, playful eyes turned into predatory ones and I found myself holding Rex a little closer, just in case, watching them with my own eyes of caution.
The rest of the hour passed remarkably fast, but even so, the character of each monkey was revealed more and more; the mischievous adolescents making daring leaps between the vines, the bored-looking uncle who watched the younger ones playing, the timid curiosity of a two-month old baby leaving the warmth of his mother. It was easy to see this troop as a family, connected in a myriad ways, just as the vines and leaves of the bamboo wove together to create a beautiful tapestry of life in the forest.
For more adventures from Rwanda check out Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda.