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Gelada Monkeys

Gelada monkeys are often called "bleeding-heart monkeys" because of their distinctive red chest markings. With thick golden manes, and surrounded by the dramatic mountain scenery of the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia, these beautiful monkeys make extremely photogenic wildlife subjects.

Where: The best place to see gelada monkeys is in Simien Mountains National Park, which is located northeast of Gondar in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. The Simien Mountains rise to over 14,000 feet in height. The closest airport is in Gondar; from Gondar it is a 2-3 hour 4x4 drive to Debark where the park headquarters are located. More 4x4 driving is required to reach the highlands (a driver and guide are highly recommended). Simien Lodge is located in the mountains, and makes a perfect base camp for photographing gelada monkeys and the surrounding landscape.

When: Simien Mountains National Park can be visited at any time and wildlife can be seen throughout the year. However, September through March is the dry season and is the best time to visit.

Photography: Geladas live almost entirely on the ground, making them the world's second most terrestrial primates (after humans). Geladas are the only primates that eat primarily grass. They are sometimes called baboons, and although they are closely related, they are not actually baboons. During the day, they graze in the grasslands of the high mountains, and at night, they climb down steep cliffs to sleep, safe from predators. They travel in large troops that can include up to several hundred monkeys.

You can photograph geladas many different ways, and with many different types of lenses ranging from telephoto to wide-angle. Geladas are often very relaxed around people, but you should avoid getting too close and making any sudden moves that might disturb the monkeys. Geladas, with their thick golden manes, are particularly photogenic when backlit, especially at sunrise and sunset.

The Simien Mountains are very dramatic, and they make a perfect backdrop for wider views featuring gelada monkeys surrounded by incredible scenery. This allows you to show the animals in the context of their environment.

Learn more: Visit the official website for Simien Mountains National Park.

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