Primate travel

Our experts have picked three of the top primate experiences you can enjoy around the planet.

Primate travel feature, February 2014.

Our experts have picked three of the top primate experiences you can enjoy around the planet.

1 Japanese macaque, Japan

It’s not every day you get to meet monkey models. Found only in Japan, ‘snow monkeys’ live farther north than any primate except humans, surviving in snowy conditions for a third of each year.

They are well adapted for life in sub-zero temperatures, with a stocky build, short tail and ears (reducing the risk of frostbite), and a double layer of thick fur that traps warm air next to the skin.

But it is a relatively recent behavioural adaptation that has made these monkeys among the most photographed primates on the planet. In the early 1960s a young female waded into a hot spring in the mountains of Nagano, on the island of Honsh–u, to retrieve some soya beans – and found the warmth distinctly to her liking.

Since then, it has become a cultural norm among these animals to seek out the comfort of naturally heated pools – an extraordinary behaviour that has never been seen in any other population of non-human primates.

A bathing party is a fascinating spectacle, as the monkeys jockey for the best positions in the water. Poolside politics are rife, and not every individual gets a look-in – the lowest-ranked have to sit it out in the cold. Even for those monkeys that do get a pool pass, there’s still a downside – they eventually have to get out.


Now you do it

  • Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Monkey Park) is in the mountains of Nagano some 150km north-west of Tokyo.
  • The park website provides details of car, train and bus transport.


George McGavin, presenter, Monkey Planet


2 Proboscis monkey, Borneo

The daredevil aerial stunts of proboscis monkeys provided my most vivid memories of a visit to Borneo. Like treetop Evel Knievels, they seemed to be egging each other on to attempt leaps of greater and greater distances, often for no apparent reason.

Monkeys playing chicken, in other words – certainly a first for me. It made for some of the most low-effort, high-adrenalin wildlife watching I have ever experienced.

Monkeys were everywhere, and hard to miss – not least because of the noise that erupted as they crash-landed into a neighbouring tree.

The best monkey-watching spot is easy to reach, too. The Kinabatangan River, in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, is just a few hours from the gateway city of Sandakan, a journey that offers the possibility of spotting both orangutans and elephants en route.

There are many species of macaque and langur here as well, but they are tame and torpid compared with their jumbo-nosed cousins and their high-energy antics.


Now you do it


James Fair, travel editor, BBC Wildlife


3 Indri, Madagascar

WOOOOeeeeee!” The treetop yelling drowned out all other sounds in the rainforest, the indris’ heart-rending wails – territorial vocalisation said to carry over several kilometres – packing an emotional impact akin to whale song.

We were listening to one of two habituated groups in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. Right on cue, the other family started up, and for the next half-hour both engaged in a thrilling shouting match all around us.

The indri is the largest lemur, and the only one with no tail. Though restricted to ever-decreasing pockets of rainforest along Madagascar’s east coast, in Andasibe these piebald lemurs often perched just above our heads.


Now you do it

Andasibe-Mantadia NP is about 100km east of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo.

Try Naturetrek or Rainbow Tours


Ben Hoare, features editor, BBC Wildlife


Discover 7 more magical monkey encounters in the February 2014 issue of BBC Wildlife (on sale 22 January 2014). 

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