Five Fascinating Monkey Species—And Where To See Them

From the fynbos of coastal South Africa to the lush jungles of Borneo, there’s no shortage of fascinating monkey species thriving across the globe—and these furry primates have been serving as a major draw for ecotourism for years on end. Though monkeys like the Panamanian white-faced capuchin are renowned for their playful antics and endearing appearances, not all simians are created equal. As you plan your next safari, Amazon river cruise, or Mediterranean vacation, be sure to save some space in your itinerary to search for these fascinating, eccentric, and downright bizarre primate species.

Proboscis Monkey

While the proboscis monkey is one of the largest simians found in Asia, the most noteworthy characteristic of this species is certainly its bulbous nose. It’s unknown exactly why these animals have developed such large appendages, but some scientists theorize that the size creates louder mating calls, serving as a major advantage for impressing females. In the wild, these monkeys are found solely on the island of Borneo—a sprawling landmass that contains portions of Indonesia and Malaysia and the entirety of Brunei—with preserves like Bako National Park, Kutai National Park, and Kulamba Wildlife Reserve containing separate populations.


Equipped with long fur, crimson chests, and massive canine teeth, the gelada is one of the most recognizable primates found on the African continent. This iconic primate is a close relative of the baboon, and can be found only in the Ethiopian Highlands, a spectacularly beautiful natural region located in the western portion of Ethiopia. There are wild gelada troops scattered all throughout the mountains, but when it comes to ease of access for tourists, Simien Mountains National Park reigns supreme. Due to its remote location, it’s best to book a guided tour of the area, with most excursions beginning in the city of Gondar and ranging from one to three days.

Western Pygmy Marmoset

Weighing in at a formidable 100 grams, the pygmy marmoset is the smallest monkey found on earth. These pint-sized primates typically live in small groups of up to nine individuals, and spend their time gnawing on tree bark to feed on the gum inside—though fruit and small insects also serve as an occasional snack as well. For those wishing to catch a glimpse of a marmoset in the wild, a trip to the western Amazon basin is in store, with populations found scurrying throughout the riverside canopies of Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Bald Uakari

It may seem like this monkey is suffering the aftereffects of a long day at the beach, but the crimson visage of the bald uakari may actually play a major role in its love life. These South American primates are susceptible to malaria and other illnesses, and after infection, their face dulls considerably, leading some researchers to hypothesize that individuals prefer to pair with the reddest mate possible. Over the past fifty years, deforestation has caused a major decline in uakari numbers, and it’s possible that the creature has gone completely extinct in the southern reaches of Colombia. The species can still be found in Brazil and Peru, leading some visitors to travel to the Amazon ecotourism hub of Iquitos to search for living individuals.

Barbary Macaque

Though not quite as striking in appearance as some of the other primates found across the globe, the Barbary macaque has the distinction of being Europe’s only wild monkey species. Though originally native to North Africa, a population was introduced to the tiny promontory of Gibraltar centuries ago, and the creatures have been thriving there ever since. While wild populations can be spotted across the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria, deforestation and poaching have caused a major decline in recent years. For best results, head to the upper portion of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve, where more than 300 monkeys exist with little fear of visiting humans.

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