I was thrilled when I was presented with the opportunity to attend the annual Kwita Izina - a weeklong conference and discussion on conservation which culminates in Rwanda’s Gorilla naming ceremony. On September 1st - 18 honored attendees ranging from researchers to the CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund were given the opportunity to give a name to 14 infant gorillas and 4 adult gorillas who have joined groups in Rwanda from other locations. The names given are to be an inspirational message or a special meaning and are often suggested by the trackers and Rwandan Park authorities. The ceremony however is so much more than just the naming. It is national holiday in Rwanda where tens of thousands of Rwandan’s come together to celebrate Rwanda’s rich biodiversity and conservation efforts that focus on the well-being of its people while preserving and hopefully increasing the home of the Mountain Gorillas in Volcanos National Park.
The speeches from various Rwandan leaders including the honorable President Mr. Paul Kagame were inspirational. The speakers focused on the need to increase the land area as the endangered Mountain Gorilla population grows. It is a very exciting time to be able to see the increase when for many years the decrease in population was occurring at a rapid rate.
In addition to the big highlight of attending the ceremony and meeting the President I was able to participate in a Gorilla trek and spend an hour observing the Titus group. The group was spread out with some eating, some napping and a bit of grooming occurring. The youngest of the group was one of the ones to be named the next day – Macibiri (see photo.) Observing gorillas is one of my favorite wildlife interactions – it is truly magical!
Another highlight was spending an evening at the brand new Bisate Lodge. Warm and welcoming are two words of many that come to mind in describing this incredible new lodge. The layout of the rooms are spacious with large windows to look out to see the beautiful views of Bisoke Volcano. The fireplace in the middle of the room between the bedroom and the bathroom kept me cozy warm all evening. The staff was absolutely lovely and a highlight of my stay.
I have seen quite a bit of change in Rwanda over my last few visits. Kigali has grown in leaps and bounds and is becoming a cosmopolitan city with great restaurants and shops. The road conditions have improved greatly and driving all around the country on smooth tarmac makes travel easy and enjoyable. However, the gorilla trekking has remained the same great quality over the years led by knowledgeable park rangers, 10 amazing groups to observe and a good trail network. I always look forward to visiting Rwanda.
Photos & text by Suzanne Spencer