This region of Ethiopia is rarely explored by tourists and gelada monkeys are rarely seen outside of custom tours.
Ethiopia is an incredible destination for a multitude of reasons. It is a world-first distinction that begs to be discovered. Ethiopia is today a proud nation and one of the few in Africa not to be colonized by European powers (although the Italians controlled it from 1937 to 1940). Today Ethiopia has so much to offer, including the Afar Depression or Danakil Depression in the north of the country and the Gelada monkeys in the highlands.
One concern all travelers should be aware of if they visit Ethiopia is that at the time of writing, in July 2021, the country is in a state of civil war. The war is confined to the north in the Tigray region (and this is part of the limited range of the Gelada monkeys). Anyone visiting Ethiopia should check the situation as it is; these are some of the safest African countries.
About the Gelada monkeys
Gelada monkeys are also called bleeding heart monkeys and the gelada “baboon”. In reality, they are not baboons at all (although they look like them) but rather close relatives to them. These Old World monkeys are the only living member of the genus Theorpithecus (Greek for “beast-ape”) and fortunately their state of conservation is classified as Least Concern. That being said, their population has grown from 440,000 in the 1970s to around 200,000 around 2008. So they may not have that designation for much longer.
- Point: If you travel to Ethiopia, it is near the equator and the Danakil Depression is where the average temperature is the hottest on Earth. So watch out for heatstroke
- Counter tip: Much of Ethiopia is very high and it gets cold so be sure to bring a sweater and even a coat
The Geladas only live in the high grasslands of the deep gorges of the Ethiopian highlands. The habitat in which they live is dominated by cliffs (where they sleep) and mountain meadows (where they feed). They sleep at night and are active during the day. This region has dense thickets and widely spaced trees. One advantage of living this high is that it mitigates the effects of the dry season and limited food availability in the lowlands.
- Elevation: Geladas live at altitudes of 5,900 to 14,000 feet or 1,800 to 4,400 meters
- Weather situation: Tourists can expect frost at this altitude during the dry season and hail during the wet season
Geladas are unusual in primates. One trait that sets them apart is that they are grazers and graminivores. Their diet is mainly composed of blades of grass. Some of their predators are leopards and domestic dogs. Males are sometimes about twice the size of their female counterparts and sport large vampiric canines. Geladas are known for their hourglass-shaped bald patches of skin on the chest. Their index and thumbs are the most opposable of all primates.
- Average weight: Females – 15 KG or 33 lbs; Men – 20 KG or 44 lbs
- Lifetime: 14-20 years in the wild (up to 30 years in captivity)
- Predators: Hyenas, domestic dogs, jackals, leopards, foxes, bearded vultures, servals – and humans unfortunately
- Herd size: Up to 1,000 strong individuals
- Species: There are three species of geladas
Travelers can go to see these magnificent monkeys in Ethiopia. It should be noted that generally when visiting national parts in Ethiopia, tourists are required to have an armed escort. The government is working hard to ensure the safety of tourists and to make sure other tourists are confident in visiting Ethiopia, but it can be a bit limiting on the freedom of tourists.
It is simple and easy to visit them in Ethiopia. There are many tour operators in the country for the arrival of tourists. Some tours can be arranged in advance, one of the major tour operators operating tours in much of Ethiopia is Inside Ethiopia Tours. They don’t advertise the prices for the Gelada monkey tours on their website, but the tours are probably all customizable and it’s best to contact them directly. Ethiopia is a very diverse and ancient country. Not only does it have amazing landscapes, but it also has amazing cultures and history with historical monuments. It is a gem of Africa that few people venture to explore. When planning your trip to see the wonderful and friendly Gelada monkeys, be sure to allow plenty of time to explore the rest of Ethiopia.
- Visa requirement: Evisa or visa on arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport
In short, Gelada monkeys are unique among primates. But check the security situation before going to Ethiopia, the situation is fluid and evolving. In addition, Ethiopia is a country to be prepared for scorching temperatures and heatstroke, as well as frost and hail. It all depends on whether one intends to visit the depressions below sea level or the highlands.
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