Primates and where to see them

Have you ever wanted to see primates in their natural habitat? Read further to find the top destinations, facts and travelling advice to see primates

Orangutan, gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo and human. These are the five great primates, which are so defined because they do not have tails and are a little bit ahead of their cousins monkeys on the evolution scale.

Interested? Read further or jump to any headline below…

Fun Facts about primates

Recommended locations

All about Baboons

Bonobos

Where to see Chimpanzees

All about Mountain Gorillas

Where to see Orangutans

Primates Summary

Primates

There are an estimated 704 species and subspecies of primates. 69% are threatened by extinction. 

Primates are mammals that typically have large highly developed brains, forward-facing color vision, flexible hands and feet with opposable thumbs, and fingernails. Primates have slower developmental rates than other similarly sized mammals and reach maturity later, but have longer lifespans. With the exception of humans, who live throughout the globe, most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions.

Amazingly, human beings belong to the same animal family as the Great Apes. Humans/ Homo Sapiens Sapiens are the only extension of the ape family that can walk upright on two legs, evolving from the earlier human, Homo Erectus ( upright walking man).

The biological order of Primates is divided into these classifications:

  • Great Apes: bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, humans, and orangutans
  • Lesser Apes: gibbons ​
  • Monkeys: baboons, capuchin monkeys, colobus monkeys, drills, geladas, guenons, howler monkeys, langurs, macaques, mandrills, mangabeys, marmosets, night monkeys, patas monkeys, proboscis monkeys, sakis, snub-nosed monkeys, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, tamarins, titis, uakaris, and woolly monkeys
  • ​​Prosimians: the oldest, most “primitive” order of primates, including galagos or bushbabies, lemurs, lorises, pottos, and tarsiers​ ​​

Top 5 Recommended Locations

#1 Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

#2 Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda.

#3 Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

#4 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

#5 Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania.

Baboons in Africa

Five species of baboon exist around the world. These Baboon species are known as the Chacma, Olive, Yellow, Guinea and Hamadryas baboons.

Four of which ( excluding the Hamadryas) can be found in southern, central and northern Africa. They are known as Savanna baboons. These baboons are categorized too, by their complex, hierarchical order of troops which may consist of up to hundreds of members. A fascination to study and track. Troops are known to be dominated by males who influence movements and relationships that exist within the group structure. The Hamadryas baboon, may be located along the red sea, from Northern Africa to, and around Arabia.


Olive
Yellow
Guinea
Hamadryas
Chacma
Green-GreyLight-Brownish yellow  ReddishWhite/Silver (male) and Brown (female) Dark Brown
Equatorial AfricaCentral Africa  West AfricaNorth eastern Africa along the Red SeaSouthern Africa
Savannah, woodlands, GrasslandsSavannah, forests & shrubsSavannah, woodlands & coastal grasslandsSavannah semi-desert and rocky areasSavannah and semi-arid desert
25 years15-20 Years20- 30 years20 years30-40 years
15- 200 members 20- 200 members Up to 200 membersFour- Level social system Smaller social groupings

#1 Olive Baboon

The common name is derived from its coat colour, which is a shade of green-grey at a distance.

Visit 

#2 Yellow Baboons

yellow baboon primates

Their scientific name translates to ‘dog-head’ in Greek, due to the dog-like shape of the muzzle and head. Yellow baboons are smaller in stature/ slimmer bodies with long arms and legs, and, of course, their yellowish-brown hair.

Visit: 

#3 Guinea Baboons

  • The Guinea baboon inhabits a small area in western Africa. Its range includes Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, southern Mauritania and western Mali.

Visit

#4 Hamadryas Baboons

Hamadryas baboon primates

Hamadryas Baboons have been wandering the north-eastern African desert for thousands of years. Even worshiped in Ancient Egyptian Mythology.

The baboon’s geographical  range extends from the Red Sea in Eritrea to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. 

Visit

 #5 Chacma Baboons

Cape Chacma baboon primates

South Africa boasts some of the most visited tourist spots in the world, featuring endemic biodiversity and wildlife that varies extensively, offering a vibrant experience for visitors.

The word “chacma” is derived from the Hottentot (Khoikhoi) name for baboon. Remarkably the Chacma baboons in the cape and along the coastal stretches of mountain side, have sustained a diet of fruit, roots, insects and foraging mussels along the shore-front; a lifestyle and diet reminiscent of human ancestors in the cape 100 000 years ago.

Visit

Also Visit

Five species of Baboons in Africa exist. They are sensitive and highly intelligent social creatures. Witnessing their social dynamics and care for one another is a special sight to see. We hope you’ll be able to visit them in their natural habitats, where they roam their world, which borders on our own. They are not animals to fear, but rather animals to love and we should honor their existence by promoting their beautiful natures.  

Want to learn more about the types of baboons you can see in wild Africa? look at our Baboon Blog.

Bonobos ( Pygmy Chimpanzee)

Bonobos in natural habitat

Bonobos and chimpanzees look very similar and both share 98.7% of their DNA with humans. Bonobos share 98.7% of their genetic code with humans, making them, along with chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. As the last great ape to be scientifically discovered, much still remains unknown about the bonobo.

Conservation status: Endangered (Population decreasing) 
Lifespan: 40 years (In captivity)
Scientific name: Pan paniscus
Height: 1,2 m (Adult)
Trophic level: Omnivorous 
Mass: Male: 34 – 60 kg (Adult), Female: 30 kg (Adult)

Wild bonobos can only be found in forests south of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Operators

Civil unrest and increasing poverty in the area around the bonobos’ forests have contributed to bonobo poaching and deforestation.

Though the size of the bonobo population is largely unknown, it has likely been declining for the last 30 years. Scientists believe that the decline will continue for the next 45 to 55 years due to the bonobo’s low reproductive rate and growing threats.

Adopt a Bonobo or Donate via Bonobo|Species|WWF .

Where to See Chimpanzees?

chimpanzee primates

Chimpanzees are great apes found all across Central and West Africa. And along with bonobos, they are the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 98.7 percent of our genetic blueprint. Humans and chimps are also thought to share a common ancestor who lived some seven to thirteen million years ago.

Scientific name: Pan troglodytes
Trophic level: Omnivorous 
FamilyHominidae
Conservation status: Endangered (Population decreasing) 
Order: Primates
Lifespan: Female: 39 years (In captivity), Male: 32 years (In captivity)
Mass: Male: 40 – 60 kg (Adult), Female: 32 – 47 kg (Adult)

Habitat/ Diet

Chimpanzees have the widest range of any great ape in terms of diet and habitat. Although many populations live in tropical rainforests, they can also be found in woodlands and grasslands spanning from Central to Western Africa.

They usually sleep in trees—typically the sturdy Ugandan ironwood tree, which offers the most firm and stable place to sleep—and build themselves nests of leaves for warmth and comfort

Social Groupings

Chimpanzees, like humans are highly social beings. They live in communities of several dozen animals, led by an alpha male and his coalition of male allies.

Research has shown that male and female chimps have individual personalities, with females being more trusting, timid and thoughtful. Grooming is an important part of their social life, as it helps chimpanzees bond as they remove ticks and dirt from one another’s bodies.

Intelligence ( and tool use) 

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent and are able to solve many kinds of problems posed to them by human trainers and scientists. A number of researchers have taught chimpanzees to use sign language or languages based on the display of tokens or pictorial symbols.

Conservation Status

Chimps

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared the chimpanzee as an endangered species—and the booming human population is primarily to blame. Logging, mining, oil extraction, and new road and highway projects threaten to further degrade and fragment the chimp’s habitat.

Conservation efforts

Chimpanzees are protected by national and international laws, including the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Some of their habitat is protected as sanctuaries or reserves, too. Conservation organizations are always trying to expand these protected areas, while also pushing for an end to the illegal killing and taking of the animals.

Key to securing the future of the chimpanzee, though, is improving its relationship with humans. Many organizations work with communities to build awareness about the threats chimpanzees face, develop action plans to preserve their habitats, and help community members develop alternative livelihoods that do not jeopardize the animal’s habitat.

Where to see them

Sanctuaries we believe in supporting!

Uganda  Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary 

Sierra leone Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary

SA Chimp Eden 

Still curious about the Chimpanzee? Have a look at our Chimpanzee guide!

The Gorilla

gorilla family primates

Gorillas are ground-dwelling, predominantly herbivorous apes that inhabit the forest of central Sub-Saharan Africa. The genus Gorilla is divided into two species: the eastern gorillas and the western gorillas (both critically endangered) and are the largest of the primates.

Lifespan: 35 – 40 years
HeightWestern gorilla: 1,6 – 1,7 m
FamilyHominidae
Scientific name: Gorilla
Gestation periodWestern gorilla: 257 days 
 MassWestern gorilla: 160 kg, Eastern gorilla: 150 kg 

Critically endangered status:

However, positively, the Gorilla populations have been on the increase.The rise in numbers follows the introduction of park guards, veterinary care, community support projects and regulated tourism. Which also leads to increasing numbers in gorilla safaris, gorilla tours and gorilla tracking.

Nevertheless, that still puts them on the critically endangered list (two classifications away from completely Extinct).

Location

gorilla

There are only two separate primates gorilla populations of mountain gorillas left in the world, with a total population of over 1,000 gorillas in the wild:

  • Virunga Mountains, Central Africa (440km² area)
  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda (330km² area)

The first population, in the Virunga volcanic mountains of Central Africa, is scattered between the Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park), Uganda (Mgahinga National Park) and Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park), with a total population size of 604 in 2018. Famous for it’s gorilla safaris and gorilla tours.

The second population lives in Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park), where gorilla safaris and tours are also popular. The total size is estimated to be around 400 as of 2018.

When to visit?

Mountain Gorilla trekking or safari is a year-round activity in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. Peak season is July and August, with “long rains” from March to May and “short rains” in November.

Factors to take into consideration for decision making: There are different criteria you want to consider when choosing the best country for your trip. For example:

  • Price
  • Nature/ Country Demographics
  • Safety

Booking permits

gorilla baby primates

Visitors are capped to limit disturbance or possibility of spread of disease. Once a permit is purchased, you are eligible for one hour with the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat in a group of 8 people. The price can be seen as very high but goes directly into the protection and conservation of these incredible animals.

Booking Permits for Rwanda

Only 96 people are allowed to see the mountain gorillas each day in Rwanda. If lucky enough to be a part of this unique tour, it is important to remember that you leave a footprint in the forest every time you visit.Gorilla trekking permits can be purchased through a tour guide or the official website of the Rwanda Development Board.

Operators

  1. Go Gorilla Trekking
  2. Birds Nest Safaris
  3. 1000 Hills Safari
  4. Gorilla Safari Rwanda
  5. Rwanda Safari Africa
  6. Lets Go Tours Rwanda
  7. Insight Safari Rwanda
  8. Gorilla Trek Africa

Uganda

Trekking permits need to be bought prior to tracking by booking directly with the reservations office at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Headquarters or through a reputable tour agent. Permits can be paid for up to two years in advance.

Operators

  1. Intare Safaris
  2. Gorilla Safaris Uganda
  3. Safaris with Jon
  4. Prime Uganda Safaris
  5. East African Jungle Safaris
  6. Insight Safari Holidays
  7. Wild Whispers Africa
  8. Kori Safaris

DRC

You can either book direct with Virunga tourism office in Goma or contact a tour advisor. Booking is advised at least 4 months to the trekking date to ensure timely planning and smooth flow of operations.

  • Virunga National Park

The gorilla trekking permits of the Virunga national park are the most affordable at 400 USD however, lately, the park sells the package along with the accommodations and transport.

Preparations

Due to the humid weather and high terrain visitor thoughtfulness is advised. Recommended clothing is long trousers and shirts when in the forest to avoid nettle stings. As a result, steady walking shoes or hiking boots are essential. Rainwear is useful. Research and abide by park rules!

Conservation Status

Gorillas are among the most endangered animal species of all. The reasons are the destruction of their habitats in Africa through deforestation and mining as well as the Ebola virus. In addition, poachers achieve high prices for gorilla meat.

In conclusion, Mountain Gorilla Trekking, Gorilla Safaris or Gorilla Tours are awesome experiences! It can be done in a very luxurious safari adventure or on a budget when organizing your trip yourself. Seeing the diminishing numbers of mountain gorillas this animal is something you really want to witness during your (and their) remaining life time.

Do you love Gorillas as much as we do and recognize the importance to support conservation relief efforts? Read further here.

Orangutans

orangutan

The name orangutan means “man of the forest” in the Malay language. These great apes share 96.4% of our genes and are highly intelligent creatures. Orangutans are “gardeners” of the forest, playing a vital role in seed dispersal in their habitats. They live in tropical forests and prefer forest in river valleys and floodplains of their respective islands.

There are generally three different types of orangutans: Borneo Orangutans, Sumatran Orangutans and Tapanuli Orangutans.  All three species live on Borneo and Sumatra, two huge islands.

Tapanuli orangutans were not discovered as a separate species until 2017 and live on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Their small distribution area can be seen on the map. The species lives in a narrowly limited distribution area, which is a forest area south of Lake Toba. Before the species was biologically defined, the small population of Tapanuli orangutans was counted as Sumatran orangutans.

They are critically endangered!

National Parks

In Tabin National Park, your chance of success with orangutans is probably higher. The Tabin Wildlife Reserve is located in the centre of the island and belongs to the Malaysian state of Sabah in the north-east of the island. It is closer to the airport of Lahad Datu. Starting from KK it takes about 45 minutes by plane to cover the 270 kilometres. 

Other orangutans live in Gunung Mulu National Park and Bako National Park.

Borneo is home to the largest population of the species of orangutans. It is the third largest island in the world, the largest island in Asia and offers paradisiacal views. 

Sumatra

orangutan primates

It is the sixth largest island on earth, a tropical treasure of life on the equator. Here we can expect encounters with nature and great cultural diversity.

Together with Borneo it is the only habitat for orangutans living in freedom. Pongo abelii (the Sumatran orangutan) shares the island with the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhino, Sumatran elephant, Malay bear and about 200 other mammal species. By the way, the Sumatran tiger is a reason for the fact that the orangutan is almost exclusively high up in the trees.

The Gunung Leuser National Park is home to about 700 different animal species, including orang utangs, tigers, rhinoceroses, elephants, Thomas langurs, gibbons, macaques, cobras, crocodiles and leopards. It is also home to about 4000 different plant species, including the largest flower in the world, the giant reflower.

Further reading? We’ve got you covered with our Orangutan Blog!

Conservation Status

primates

in Java it has already become extinct, and on Borneo and Sumatra it is facing the same fate: according to estimates by the World Conservation Union IUCN, there are still around 104,700 orangutans on Borneo and around 13.846 on Sumatra. The WWF estimates that the number of orangutans in Borneo is now much lower, at around 54,000.

Solutions to save primates’ habitats

  • – Reforestation of destroyed rainforest on Borneo
  • – Primate reintroduction projects
  • – Environmental education in Indonesia and Germany
  • – Support for the orangutan Primate sanctuary in Pasir Panjang on Borneo
  • – Support of the orangutan primate reintroduction centre in Jantho on Sumatra

Donate

Wildlife Conservation network

Jane Goodall Institute

Baboon Matters

Bonobo Conservation Matters

International Gorilla conservation program

Wild Chimpanzee Foundation

Orangutan Outreach

Summary

Sharing common ancestors, evolutionary intelligence and social complexities, primates are incredible animals to witness in their natural habitat.

Which species of primates would you love to learn more about and see in wildlife? let us know in the comments below!

Open chat
Hi! Text us for more tour details.
Hello! 👋
How can we help you?