Golden Monkey Hike
It’s a fairly early start again, leaving the hotel at 7:30am and heading back to Park HQ to repeat the same check-in process again, join our Golden Monkey group and drive, by coincidence, to the same trailhead as yesterday’s gorilla trek. The Golden Monkeys are found in the same bamboo forest as the Muhoza gorilla family. After meeting our porters we follow the gently rising track though the fields of potatoes and pyrethrum for about 45 minutes but this time, instead of crossing the wall into the park, we follow the wall to the right along the edge of an empty furrowed field. We stop and our guide points to some small shapes moving on the humps of earth. It takes a second to realize that the strange little creatures hopping around on the ground are monkeys; Golden Monkeys in fact out in the open outside the bamboo forest foraging for scraps in the empty field.
It is an odd sight to see them in such an unexpected setting and as we slowly approach they are a little wary, fixing us with a sparkling eye for a second or two before continuing their busy search. In constant motion it looks like there are around 100 monkeys in the field while maybe less in the trees whose feathery-leaved limbs reach across the stone wall boundary. Periodically one or two of them scurry across the field, then hop-skip up the tumbled stones of the wall and onto the lower bouncing branches of the trees. As I stand watching the furry little fellows in the trees with my back to the field every so often I hear the quick thumping patter of feet approaching from behind and a monkey dashes right by my legs and with a fleeting leap disappears into the foliage.
After a while we also climb the wall into the forest at a spot where some of the mossy stones have tumbled down leaving a low spot. Inside the gently-lit forest it is peaceful and cool. In constant motion, the scampering monkeys surround us both in the trees and on the ground. I sit on a mossy hummock a little away from the group and slowly the monkeys close by seem to forget about me and they play and forage right up to my feet.
I admit I’m surprised at how enchanting I find these cheeky-faced creatures; fluffy furry fat cheeks; alert warm amber eyes and a surprised little mouth. The hair on their backs ranges from a golden brown to a bright orange. They really are endearingly fascinating to watch and I am disappointed when, after an hour, it is time to leave.
As we leave the Golden Monkey troop and rejoin the waiting porters fat plops of rain cause us to pause and don our waterproof jackets. We take a different track back through the bamboo as the rain builds to a steady downpour. We pass a group of porters and a pile of backpacks; the gorilla trekking group must be nearby.
We leave the forest and retrace steps back through the fields. The track becomes a little slick and muddy in the rain but nothing too difficult. Then back to the vehicles, tip and thank the porters and guides and we are done and on our way to Sabinyo Silverback Lodge.
Sabinyo Silverback Lodge
The lodge is perched high on a hill directly in front of the mighty Mt. Sabinyo. After parking at the base, around 200 winding stone steps take you to a height of 8250ft/2515m and the main lodge. There is an option of a motorized buggy on a gravel trail for those wanting to save their legs for the gorillas.
Entering the lodge feels like entering an Englishman's lovely country home; big plush couches and wingback chairs, antique-looking dressers and crackling fires. I am greeted by the spritely welcoming relief manager Dave who,later over dinner, proves to be a charming and captivating tellerof tales with a twinkling smile and ann amazing history in East Africa,
More steps lead to my cottage set privately amongst quite dense vegetation with a sloping lawn in front and Mt. Sabinyo hiding behind in the low cloud. A writing desk, set in front of an abundance of windows have me picturing an idyllic afternoon spent writing up my trip and relaxing. The cottage is perfect, continuing the English country feel - it feels like coming home. as I settle in with a cup of tea at the desk the clouds draw in and a storm passes through. A chill settles in and just as I'm starting to feel it Clement (my butler) arrives with dry wood and magics up a cheery fire in no time! What a perfect place!
With 8 guest cottages, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge offers a wonderful intimate, classic-style accommodation option in a convenient location for all park activities.
The lodge was built and is operated by Governors’ Camp Collection, but the ownership rests with a Community Trust, SACOLA (Sabyinyo Community Livelihood Association) which uses rentals and community fees from the lodge to drive socio-economic and conservation initiatives in the communities adjacent to the National Park.