Despite being primates, there are several differences between the main species of apes: gorillas, chimpanzees, orang-utans and gibbons; and monkeys, of which there are hundreds of varieties. The best way to find these differences for yourself is to see them in the wild, either on a luxury safari or a guided trek. This blog takes a look at several of the main species and gives some suggestions on where to go to experience them in the wild.
The best way to see the differences between gorillas and other types of apes is to go trekking on a Uganda safari, or visit Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo to see the endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. These fascinating apes live in families of up to 30 gorillas with a silverback (the head male), several females and a number of juvenile and infant gorillas. To be able to trek in the forests on a Uganda safari, you need to purchase a gorilla permit which entitles you to spend one hour watching a specific gorilla family. At US$500, this experience is not cheap, but it is something you will remain a lifetime memory.
There are about 15 species of this smaller tree-dwelling ape. Gibbons are well-known for their leaping, they are great acrobats reaching speeds of up to 35mph as they travel 20-40 feet between branches. But you will have to look up to see them in the wild. Their home in the trees can be up to 200 feet off the ground. To see them, head to the tropical and sub-tropical forests of Asia in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Bangladesh, India or Myanmar.
There are two species of chimpanzee – the common and the pygmy – the two species being the closest living relatives to humans. Living in large community groups, to see them in the wild and find out how they differ from other apes, it is best to travel to the tropical forests of western and central Africa on a Gambia or Uganda safari.
The rain forests of the Malaysian islands of Borneo or Sumatra are the place to go to see the great orang-utans. With their long arms and reddish-brown hair, there are only an estimated 30,000 orang-utans left in the wild. Tours typically arrange visits to see and or help in conservation efforts for these amazing but threatened animals.
Not to be confused with apes, there are hundreds of species of monkeys found around the world. Unlike apes, most monkeys have tails and are much easier to see running along the tops of branches rather than hiding in forests or swinging from the tops of trees. Due to the numerous species of monkey, it is likely you will see them in any of the countries that you visit to see one of the four ape species, whether that is on a luxury safari in Africa, a holiday in Asia, or venturing further a field to the forests in Central and Latin America. Watch out, in some places they are likely to steal your lunch!