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  • 6 best primate experiences in the world

6 best primate experiences in the world

Although there are so many different classifications, it is estimated that there are over 250 species of primates in the world today. Some researchers recognize well over 600 primate species and subspecies, habituating in several continents. The largest primate in Earth is the mountain gorilla, found in East Africa. The smallest primate on Earth is the pygmy mouse lemur, found in the island of Madagascar. Whether they weigh 200 kilograms or 50 grams, there are many incredible primate experiences to be enjoyed across the world. We have put together a collection of some of the best but don’t just take our word for it, book a trip with our travel  experts and experience it for yourself!

Chimpanze Nomad

Chimpanzees in Tanzania

Located in western Tanzania is a national park named Mahale Mountains. This untouched and still relatively undiscovered park is home to around 1,000 chimpanzees. These playful yet highly intelligent primates live amongst the dense mountainous forests of Mahale, swinging from branches and sometimes coming down to the beach on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Of these chimpanzees, only one family have been habituated which means they are used to human presence and can be observed safely from a respectable distance. Chimpanzees are very social animals so staying in family units and forming hierarchies is especially important. This habituated family have been habituated by researchers since 1965 and with the safari guides visiting them daily, they have become very comfortable with humans – sometimes even putting on playful shows! While the chimpanzees are the main attraction to Mahale, the park itself is one of the most remote in Tanzania and is certainly worth staying a few days to soak it all up. Greystoke Mahale is a great place to stay to see the chimpanzees.

Photo: Nomad Greystokes

Uganda gorilla

Mountain gorillas in Uganda

Mountain gorillas live naturally in three countries in Africa including Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Virunga Massif is a collection of national parks and volcanoes which cover all borders of these three countries, and this expansive forested area is home to around 1,000 mountain gorillas. These gorillas are the biggest of their kind – a silverback gorilla can weight up to 220 kilograms. In Uganda, there are two national parks you can visit habituated mountain gorillas in. The most popular is Bwindi National Park which is in the southwestern part of the country and has been protected since 1991. The park itself is home to approximately 400 gorillas, with 11 habituated gorilla families. Each gorilla group varies in age, size, location and behavior. There are also two habituated families to visit in the Mgahinga National Park which is located south of Bwindi on the border of Rwanda. These two families have group sizes of 10-15 each.    

Borneo Orangutan

Orangutans in Borneo

Borneo is an island shared by Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), Indonesia (Kalimantan) and Brunei, renowned for its idyllic beaches and dense tropical rainforest inhabited by abundant wildlife. Jam-packed with extraordinary biodiversity in relatively compact and easily accessible areas of jungle, there is no better destination in Asia for spotting and observing exotic species of wildlife, from orangutans and pygmy elephants to proboscis monkeys, wild cats and hornbills. Known for their bright red and orange fur and distinctive long faces, oranugtans are a highlight for travelers heading to Borneo. These apes are highly intelligent, sharing over 96% of human DNA and are not to be underestimated in size. An adult can weigh up to 200 pounds. Camp Leakey in Tanjung Puting National Park one of the best places to observe them. Reaching the Camp requires a memorable 2.5 hour riverboat trip on the Sekonyer River, where you’re likely to see a wide range of birdlife, long-tailed macaques, and proboscis monkeys along the way. 

Lemur Madagascar

Lemurs in Madagascar

Along with its mighty baobab trees, Madagascar is famous for its lemurs. For those who have seen the animated film Madagascar, it shows many of them living frivolously among the trees and forests of the country. Although they are in the primate family, it is often said that lemurs are more of a squirrel-type animal. The island has over 110 species of lemur but generally-speaking, they can all be distinguished by their long tails and huge eyes. Madagascar is the single highest priority for lemurs and primatologists understand the need for its protection as an island – for both tourism and research. The lemurs in Madagascar can be seen throughout the year but June to October generally offers the best conditions, with warm and dry weather.  

Snow monkey Japan

Snow monkeys in Japan

The snow monkeys in Japan offer the most impressive backdrops and, in our opinion, is the most unique photographic opportunity of all the primate experiences in the world. The Japanese macaques are relatively large and can be distinguished by their bright red faces and often very fluffy hair. Of all the photographs you may have seen of the Japanese macaque, 99% of them will be them soaking themselves in the hot springs. With freezing temperatures outside, these hot springs are the perfect place for the snow monkeys to warm up and relax during the days. The Jigokudani Yaen Koen is also referred to as the Snow Monkey Park, located in central Japan. The park has been protected since 1964 and is now a safe place for the monkeys to live in their troops in harmony.   

Mountain gorillas

Mountain gorillas in Rwanda

The Rwandan part of the Virunga Massif is called Volcanoes National Park. This park, located in the very northwest of Rwanda (on the border of both Uganda and the DRC), is home to approximately 750 mountain gorillas. This park – which is the oldest in Africa – has 12 habituated gorilla groups that you can visit. Of course, there are many rules and restrictions in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these incredible primates. The maximum number of people allowed to trek to visit one gorilla group is eight and when you find them in the dense forest, you are only permitted one hour in their presence. This is their natural environment and their home so maintaining a distance and being respectively of the rules is essential to gorilla trekking in Rwanda. The cost of the permits (currently $1,500 per person per trek) goes back into conservation to protect these endangered apes.