Uganda is the world's number one primate viewing destination - Fact. And while the mountain gorillas may hog all the attention over in these parts, and yes visiting the mountain gorillas is pretty freakin amazing, the monkey watching is also top-notch too.
Now everyone knows about birdwatching (and yes Uganda has some of the world's best in the birdwatching department too) - but monkey watching? Really? Is that even a thing??? Yes, monkey watching is an actual legitimate pursuit, and the only reason it's not as common as birdwatching is that, in most parts of the world, monkeys aren't quite as prevalent as birds. Not so in Uganda though, these hairy little buggers are everywhere, and spotting them & snapping a few pics is oddly satisfying.
Now personally I'd take monkey watching over birdwatching any day of the week, cos lets face it, monkeys are pretty fucking cool. Now just to be clear, when I say that, I'm referring to the tree-climbing, swinging-by-their-tails, cheeky, noisy, hairy kind of monkeys, not the popular-in-the-60's-despite-being-crap, Beatles-wannabes, didn't-even-write-their-own-lyrics monkeys, or Monkees to be precise, cos those guys were never cool.
Opportunities for monkey watching are abundant in Uganda - any time you get outside of the cities you will have the opportunity to spot some of the hairy little critters. One of the easiest options is to swing by the beautiful botanical gardens in Entebbe, which are crawling with monkeys. You'll be flying into Entebbe anyway, so stop by either before heading onwards to Kampala, or if you have an evening departure this makes for an enjoyable way to spend your last day in Uganda.
To all but ensure you spot multiple species of monkeys I can heartily recommend the guided walk around the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary near Kibale National Park. This offers top-flight monkey watching, you'll have the chance to spot several different species, you'll have a knowledgeable guide who will give you loads of interesting info about the animals, and you'll be supporting the local community at a grassroots level - winning. Cost is around $15, and this is money well spent, particularly since the guides have eyes like hawks & can spot monkeys miles away that you would otherwise miss.
Now I always think a bit of prior knowledge on a subject really enhances the overall travel experience, so it's worth cluing yourself up on some of the finer details of monkey business before heading off monkey watching. What's that? You don't know a Primate from a Prius? Not to worry bro, the WTF's got you covered. Here's a small sampling of the Simian delights that await you in Uganda.
Starting off on a low point here. Just to be clear, I hate baboons. Not only are they fugly dog-faced bastards, but I've heard one too many stories about baboon vs. human encounters that featured the words "face" and "ripped off" to ever be able to feel at ease when there is a baboon in the immediate area. Seriously, be careful of these things when you're in Uganda, they are widespread in rural areas & can be regularly spotted along the roadside. They hang out in big groups (or "troops" if you want to get all terminologically correct on it) and enjoy nothing more than a bit of teeth-baring dominance-displaying shenanigans. Proceed with caution should you encounter them. The only thing baboons really have going for them is that, apparently when the females are in the mood for some sweet lovin' they try to entice the males into mating by rubbing their swollen backsides in the male's face, which is pretty sweet since us humans usually have to go to a strip club & pay good money for that to happen.
Red Colobus Monkey
I freakin' love this photo. Look at that face. It looks like about half an hour ago this Red Colobus Monkey ate a whole sheet of acid & it's just starting to kick in. It looks like this monkey has just made some startling realisation, like he's uncovered the meaning of life or something, and this knowledge is blowing his fucking mind right now.
Anyway, yes this is a Red Colobus Monkey, and no it is not really very red - apart from the top of it's head. These things are listed as endangered, with the largest population (around 17,000 individuals) residing in Kibale National Park in Uganda. So you should feel pretty privileged if you do happen to spot one.
Sadly, part of the reason the Ugandan Red Colobus is endangered is due to aggressive hunting by chimpanzees. Something about chimpanzees hunting & eating colobus monkeys kinda grosses me out a bit, but hey, that's nature & it's a dog-eat-dog / monkey-eat-monkey world out there.
Black & White Colobus Monkey
Look at that face, that icy unforgiving face. Observing you from above. Plotting. Waiting.
Look at those eyes. Those eyes speak volumes. Not only do those eyes reveal a deep-seated hatred that burns with the intensity & fury of a thousand suns, but also an unquenchable thirst for vengeance.
Black & White Colobus Monkey knows no mercy. Black & White Colobus Monkey knows no remorse. If you can see a Black & White Colobus Monkey, then run. If you can't see a Black & White Colobus Monkey, you may be mere seconds away from death.
Red Tailed Monkey
Now this is more like it. After the sinister & downright evil Black & White Colobus Monkey, this Red Tailed Monkey looks like he wouldn't hurt a fly. Even his nose looks like a love heart, isn't he cute???
This is the sort of monkey you just want to try to smuggle home with you in your pants, he looks like a well behaved little guy too, I bet he wouldn't even rip your scrotum off or anything like that. All your friends would be totes jelly of your awesome new pet.
The story of how the Red Tailed Monkey got it's name is shrouded in mystery. Some say it is because these monkeys have red tails, but others say this is mere speculation. One thing is for certain though - if I ever got the chance, I would cuddle the fuck out of this thing.
Probably the easiest monkey watching option in Uganda is to head to the Botanical Gardens in Entebbe, these little dudes are all over the place. They're cool to observe from afar, but they're aggressive little fuckers if you get too close. At one point I must have overstepped the mark a bit & one of these angry little bastards came right at me like he wanted to take a chunk out of the WTF. I'm not ashamed to admit I turned & high-tailed it out of there stat. This occurred on the day I was due to fly out of Uganda, and you bet I didn't want to be "that guy" who starts frothing at the mouth & coming down with rabies at 20,000 ft.
While their high-pitched shrieking & douchey alpha-male bullshit doesn't make them the most appealing monkey out there, I did observe quite a lovely scene of a mother vervet monkey hanging out with her little baby which I managed to snap a few pics of. So, let me leave you with a wee sequence of photos showing that while some creatures on this beautiful earth may be covered in hair & walk on 4 legs, while others may walk on 2, and while some creatures may be infested with fleas & enjoy flinging faeces around, while others try to maintain a degree of cleanliness & hygiene, a mother's love for her child is universal. Awwww bless.