If you’re in Rwanda or planning a visit there soon, then make sure to be at Kinigi, outside Volcano National Park, on June 22 when the Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB) Tourism and Conservation Department holds their annual Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony. A dozen newborn gorilla babies will be named this year, of which one was born two days ago! It was Muganga of the Isabukuru group who has given birth to a baby of yet to be determined sex.
People who name the Gorillas are selected by RDB to perform the actual naming during the high-profile ceremony and are normally given a choice of two names, at times three, proposed by the rangers and wardens looking after the gorilla groups, and reflect often the circumstances of the birth, make reference to the location, or reflect the mood of the group at the time.
Kwita Izina has, over the years, developed into a week-long celebration, during which conferences and workshops dedicated to conservation take place, community projects benefiting the people living around the Volcano National Park are handed over or launched, and where sporting and society events are used to mark Rwanda’s unwavering commitment to looking after the gentle giants of the Virunga mountains.
Travelers from around the world are now regularly planning visits to Rwanda to coincide with the annual Festival of the Gorillas which is unique in the range countries where mountain gorillas are found. Visit www.rwandatourism.com for more information about the country’s tourism attractions, how to get there, and how best to travel across the “Land of a Thousand Hills.”
Volcano National Park
One of the best places to track the rare and captivating mountain gorillas is the Parc National des Volcans. This is a dramatic chain of seven volcanoes that is considered one of the most beautiful area in Africa and forms a natural border with the DRC and Uganda.
There is no habitat more evocative of the gorillas than the densely forested slopes of the Virunga volcanoes. Coming upon the Susa family of 35 on the slopes of Karisimbi is one of life’s unforgettable moments – no bars, no windows, three silverbacks eye the proceedings as infants and juveniles frolic
on every side. The park is the most reliable option for tracking gorillas in the region, as there are five habituated gorilla families and 40 permits
Advance reservations should be made through the ORTPN (Office Rwandais du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux, BP 905, 1 Blvd de la Revolution; Hours: 7am-5pm Mon-Fri, 8am-2pm Sat & Sun) office in Kigali, but it is possible to turn up in Ruhengeri without a booking. If there are no permits available in Kigali, contact a travel agent through ORTPN or continue to Ruhengeri where a standby permit might be available at short notice.
Park visits must be arranged the day before at the ORTPN office in Ruhengeri. Visitors are restricted to one hour with the gorillas, and only one group of up to eight people is allowed to visit each group of gorillas per day. Permits cost US$375 per person, including compulsory guides and guards, plus US$2 for porters and extra for tips. Rangers can generally find the gorillas within one to four hours of starting, but conditions can be tough. Stinging nettles, biting ants and the cool, wet weather make long trousers, sturdy footwear and wet-weather gear essential.