Kung Hei Fat Choi! The Chinese New Year begins on 8th February 2016 and it’s time to gently round up the sheep and usher in the Year of the Monkey. In tourism terms, the monkey is arguably the trump card of the Chinese zodiac, with species from the playful to the majestic charming tourists around the world. To celebrate the arrival of the New Year, below are six of the best primate trips to encounter monkeys and their cousins from the ape family.
- Long-tailed monkeys in Bali
Visitors are advised against carrying food or anything that might resemble food into the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud, Bali, since the 600-or-so Balinese long-tailed monkeys resident within are very accustomed to humans and prone to snatching anything they might suspect is a tasty snack. The monkey forest is an important spot for research into the social interactions and behaviours of monkeys and tourists will witness them playing, grooming, fighting and nurturing their young. It is also a spiritual centre, based on the principle of Tri Hata Karana – “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being”. The grounds contain three Hindu temples dating from the fourteenth century. Western & Oriental is currently offering 10% off a stay at The Samaya, Ubud, near to the Monkey Forest. Seven nights start from £1,269 per person based on two sharing a One Bedroom Hillside Villa on a bed and breakfast basis. This offer also includes one free night plus a free two course lunch or three course dinner per person per stay. Bookings must be made before 29th February 2016 and travel completed between 5th January and 27th December 2016, excluding 1st – 31st August 2016.
- Gorillas in Rwanda
Untamed and unpredictable, the rainforests of Rwanda are every bit as wild as their most famous inhabitants – the mountain gorillas. Just 480 live in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans and although treks to view them can be quite long, no other wildlife encounter will compare to an hour spent in the company of a troop of the world’s largest living primates. This region is where naturalist Dian Fossey carried out her research and the chance of seeing gorillas here is over 90%. Rainbow Tours offers various trips to view gorillas both in Rwanda and neighbouring Uganda. One example is the 10-night Rwanda – Culture, Primates and Nature trip which also visits Nyungwe Forest National Park, Lake Kivu, Kigali and more. Prices start from £3,905 per person including return flights, accommodation, guiding, some meals and activities and one gorilla viewing permit valued at approximately US$750.
- Orang-utans in Borneo
The world-famous Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve is home to the last wild orang-utans of Northern Borneo, with an estimated 60-80 red apes residing within its boundaries. The reserve also houses the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre, a centre which cares for orphaned animals, preparing them for reintroduction to the wild. This sanctuary is a popular attraction for visitors wanting to see Asia’s only species of great ape and can be visited on various itineraries with Regent Holidays, including the Highlights of Borneosmall group tour. This 14-day tour runs from 8th – 21st September 2016 and also visits the Kinabatangan River and Bako National Park, where there’s the chance to see proboscis monkeys, silver leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques and other wildlife. Prices start from £2,975 per person including flights, transfers, most meals, an English-speaking guide and activities and excursions as outlined in the itinerary. For every Borneo trip booking, Regent Holidays sponsors an orang-utan named Gelison at Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre for a year via the Orangutan Appeal UK.
- Green monkeys in Barbados
Green monkeys arrived in Barbados from parts of West Africa around 350 years ago when they were brought over as pets by slave traders. It is thought around 75 generations have occurred since then and over time, they have evolved a distinct look to their African cousins, including a coat that looks to be tinged with green. Green monkeys are found island-wide and are considered something of a pest by farmers for eating their crops. In 2006, a green monkey was apparently responsible for tripping a power line which caused an eight-hour blackout across the whole of Barbados. See these cheeky monkeys on a trip to Barbados with ITC Luxury Travel. The company is currently offering 50% off accommodation rates at The Fairmont Royal Pavilion on the west coast. Prices start from £1,435 per person based on two adults sharing an Oceanfront Deluxe Room for seven nights on a bed and breakfast basis and including flights and private transfers. This special offer represents a saving of up to £825 per person and is available for bookings made before 28th February 2016 and travel completed before 31st December 2016.
- New World Monkeys in Costa Rica
Varieties of New World Monkeys can be seen in all of Costa Rica’s national parks, but it is only in the Corcovado National Park that all four of the native species – the Central American squirrel monkey, the white-headed capuchin, the mantled howler and Geoffroy’s spider monkey – will be found. Corcovado is one of the stops on Rainbow Tours’ Costa Rica Sustainable Wildlife Tour, which travels between properties awarded the Certificate of Sustainable Tourism (CST). The itinerary also visits the Central Valley, Arenal, Monteverde and Manuel Antonio National Park, so nature, wildlife and monkeys will be a key feature of the journey. Prices for this 13 day tour start from £2,995 per person including flights, accommodation and transfers.
- Barbary apes in Gibraltar
Gibraltar’s Barbary apes are a type of macaque and the only wild population of monkeys in Europe. For much of the twentieth century, they were under the care of the British Army, with an officer assigned to supervise their welfare, an allowance for their food included in the military budget, births recorded and care for sickly animals provided at the Royal Naval Hospital. Nowadays, the monkeys are the responsibility of the Government of Gibraltar, although a popular belief dictates that as long as the apes remain, Gibraltar will remain under British rule. The Barbary Apes mainly live around the Upper Rock and are probably Gibraltar’s top tourist attraction. Visit Gibraltar from Villa Select’s Casa Larita on the Costa del Sol. The eight-bedroom villa sleeps up to 16 guests and is less than 30 minutes’ drive from Gibraltar. Prices start from £3,546 per week – under £225 per person based on maximum occupancy – excluding flights.
And one more to watch…
The Hemis Festival in Ladakh, India, is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) – the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. He was born in the year of the Monkey, so the annual festival becomes a major extravaganza every twelve years in his memory. The two-day event takes place mainly around the Hemis Gompa monastery with vibrant costumes, music and dance central to the event. In this special Year of the Monkey, a two storey high depiction of Padmasambhava opulently embellished with pearls and semi-precious stones – a thanka – will be the special focal point of the celebration. Western & Oriental can tailor-make a trip to India to incorporate the Hemis Festival, which takes place on 14th and 15th July 2016. Contact the India specialists on 020 3588 6130 or see www.westernoriental.com.