Kwita Izina 2021 – 24 Baby Gorillas to be named

Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda. Gorilla Tracking, Kwita Izina 2021
Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. Photo by Moses Nezehose

Kwita Izina 2021 will be held on 24th September marking the annual baby gorilla naming ceremony. The mountain gorilla naming ceremony was started by the Rwandan government to improve on mountain gorilla conservation. The Kwita Izina 2021 this time around sides with the World Gorilla Day Celebration and will be a very remarkable event.

24 baby mountain gorillas are expected to be named this year by various honored guests. Gorilla tourism in Rwanda is now fully open, but Kwita Izina 2021 will still be held virtually just like last year. All this is aimed at protecting the rare primates and a way of making it easy for those who cant visit Rwanda because of the travel restrictions. 

The honored guests who will name the gorillas are yet to be revealed but we can’t wait to know them. 9 of the baby gorillas to be named were born in families protected by the Dian Fossey fund. There has been a lot of efforts towards mountain gorilla conservation and the increase in births is a sign of improvement.

Over the years, the mountain gorilla population in Volcanoes National Park has kept on increasing steadily. With more efforts on conservation and habitat protection, there is hope that population will increase even more.

The Kwita Izina 2021 is a great timing for tourism as the sector is slowly recovering from the COVID19 slump.

Mountain gorillas are apes that live in the forested mountains of East and Central Africa. They live in families led by a dominant male mountain gorilla commonly known as Silverback.

Gorillas are vegetarian and their diet is usually comprised of plant leaves and bamboo shoots. They have over 95% DNA similar to humans are therefore among man’s closest primate species.

If you desire to meet these rare primates in their most preferred habitats then gorilla trekking would be the ideal activity to do. There are 12 mountain gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park open to tourist visitation. The gorilla trek starts with a briefing at the Park headquarters and then tourists are led to the forested mountains.

Gorilla Trekking takes a 2 to 6 hours hike or more and once you get to the gorillas you are allowed to spend 1 hour up-close keeping a 7 meters distance. Here you get to know more the mountain gorillas, take photos and enjoy the moments.

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda has the highest gorilla population in the Virunga Massif. This makes it one of the best mountain gorilla trekking destinations in the region. Visit Rwanda this September and be apart of the Kwita Izina 2021 and  part of the unforgettable gorilla trekking experiences.

Apart from the gorilla naming ceremony, you can also join other Rwanda Safaris including Birding, Chimpanzee Trekking, and golden monkey trekking among others.

A local Guide to Rwanda The Land of A thousand Hills

Rwanda popularly known as the land of a thousand hills is located in East Africa. Its one of the East African countries that were affected by civil war in the 1980’s. Many innocent local Rwandan people lost their lives in the famous Rwandan genocide and many were resettled.

A few decades after the deadly civil war, the country has greatly recovered and economically developed. This great transformation is attributed to hard work, forgiveness and reconciliation. Because of that Rwanda, has over the years become among East Africa’s best tourist destination.

Below is a local guide to this beautiful land of a thousand hills featuring what you Must not miss.

Kigali City-Land of A thousand Hills
Kigali City. Courtesy Photo

Kigali is Rwanda’s largest and capital city strategically located in the rolling thousand hills. Kigali is a center for economic and vibrant city life one place you Must explore while in Rwanda.

The City’s main attractions include the Kigali genocide memorial where you get to know about the Rwandan genocide. About 250,000 victims of the genocide were buried here and there is a wall of names of genocide victims. A tour to this memorial makes one appreciate the journey Rwanda has been through.

You can visit the Kandt House Museum the best place to learn about Rwandan history before and after colonial era. Kandt House was a home for Rwanda’s first colonial governor Richard Kandt who founded Kigali city in 1908.

While in Kigali you can also visit the local markets and get to interact with local Rwandan People. You can easily connect to places and can even have a Kigali walking tour as the city is very safe.

Volcanoes National Park Rwanda; Virunga Volcanoes
Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. Photo by Eric Manzi

Volcanoes National park is a true definition of the land of a thousand hills. The park is located in the northwestern part of the country just a 3 hours drive from Kigali. Volcanoes national park has 5 of the Virunga massif mountains that are Mount Karisimbi, Muhabura, Bisoke, Sabyinyo & Gahinga.

These Volcanic mountains are covered with montane vegetation a combination of which is a haven for the rare mountain gorillas. Volcanoes national park is home to half of the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga massif. It is their an ultimate gorilla trekking destination for interested in meeting these primates.

With Mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, birds and other wildlife, volcanoes national park is Rwanda’s prime wildlife destination. The park can be accessed by road and can be visited anytime of the year.

3. Gisenyi

Gisenyi Beach. Visit East Africa
Gisenyi Beach along Lake Kivu. Photo by Jule Lumma

This beautiful town is situated in western Rwanda along the shores of Lake Kivu. Gisenyi neighbors Goma, DRC’s eastern town and its a gateway for those interested in wildlife adventures in Eastern Congo.

Given that Gisenyi is along Lake Kivu, its has beautiful beaches where one can relax sunbathing and enjoying Rwanda’s weather. While here you can engage in water sport activities like snorkeling, boat cruise with singing fishermen and Kayaking.

There are various tea & plantations here and one can visit one to learn about tea and coffee growing. From the plantations you can also visit the hot springs as you interact with the Rwandan people.

Nyungwe National Park Rwanda. Land of A thousand Hills
Tropical Rain-forest in Nyungwe. Courtesy Photo

A visit to the land of a thousand hills is usually incomplete without Nyungwe forest. The vast forest is located in the southwestern part of Rwanda covering a land area of 970 square kilometres.

Nyungwe forest is among East Africa’s oldest forests with rain-forests, grassland, swamp, bog and bamboo vegetation. These are homes to wildlife species including 13 primate species, 85 mammals, 275 birds, 38 reptile and 32 amphibian species.

The forest was gazetted into a national park and has Rwanda’s highest chimpanzee population. Chimpanzee tracking is therefore the leading wildlife activity in the park plus other primate treks, nature walks and canopy walk.

Adjacent to Nyungwe forest are vast tea plantations that you can visit as you enjoy the breeze from the forest. Here you interact with the local people as you to know more about their ways of life.
Rwanda is among the regions tourist destinations and when you Visit East Africa don’t miss out on the above.

Kwita Izina Baby Gorilla Naming Ceremony to Be Held Virtually This Year

Kwita Izina. Discounted Mountain Gorilla Permits
Infant Gorilla in Volcanoes NP Rwanda. Photo by Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

Kwita Izina is a baby mountain gorilla naming ceremony that’s held every year in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. During this ceremony, infant gorillas born in the past year are named just like the Rwandan human naming traditional ceremony.

Kwita Izina is a conservation avenue that helps in keeping track and monitoring all the newly born mountain gorillas. It officially started in 2005 and this they will be marking 15 years of gorilla naming.

Before Kwita Izina was officially started, baby mountain gorillas would be named by the park ranger guides and researchers. Once it was officially opened, other conservation activities and sensitisation process were introduced. The ceremony therefore usually last a couple of days where conservation presentations are made as well as exhibitions.

During the Kwita Izina ceremony, baby mountain gorillas are given Kinyarwanda names that usually have meaning in the local Kinyarwanda language. The meaning of the name is often attributed to gorilla behavior or circumstances under which they were born.

In this years naming ceremony, 24 baby gorillas are expected to be named but virtually. This is to avoid spreading of COVID-19 disease that has affected economies worldwide bringing in the need for social distancing. For the past 14 years, the Kwita Izina ceremony would attract a number of participants numbering to a thousands. These included conservation and mountain gorilla enthusiasts and world’s famous celebrities.

Baby Gorillas to be Named

There are 24 baby gorillas that were born in the past year and will be named in this years ceremony. Some of them include the following;

Isaro infant gorilla who was born on 8th August 2019 in the Musilikale’s gorilla group. The baby’s mother Isaro joined the Musilikale group in 2017 and the whole gorilla family has 22 gorilla individuals. 10 of these are juvenile and infant gorillas and therefore this is a good group for those who are interested in baby gorillas.

Faida infant gorilla was born in the Kuryama gorilla family around August 2019. The baby’s mother is called Faida and she joined this gorilla family in 2018.

Ubufatanye infant who was born in May 2020 also in the Musilikale gorilla family. The mother is just 16 years and has two other young gorillas at the ages of 5 and 3 years.

Kanama infant gorilla was born around October 2019 also to the Kuryama gorilla family and his mother also moved to this gorilla family.

Pasika infant who was born in July 2019 in the Mafunzo family. He is a male infant gorillas and his mother Pasika joined this gorilla family in 2018.

Mahirwe infant gorilla was born to Mahirwe a female gorilla around September 2019.

Other baby gorillas to be named include Akaramata infant gorilla born around April 2019 in the Pablo gorilla group.

Mudakama infant gorilla born around September 2019 to Mudakama female gorilla who is 33 years old.

There have been many other births and the names will be revealed in the Kwita Izina Ceremony on 24th September 2020.

Rwanda Discounted Mountain Gorilla Permits

Mountain Gorilla. Rwanda Safari Journeys
Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. Photo By Eric Manzi

Information from Kigali indicate that Rwanda Development Board announced discounted mountain gorilla permits for the post lock-down period. This is aimed at boosting local and regional tourism after several months of lock-downs where international flights were halted.

Before the COVID19 outbreak, tourism in Rwanda was normal and gorilla permits costed $1500 per person for all tourists. Now East African community citizens including the local Rwandans can be able to track mountain gorillas at only $200.  Foreign Residents in Rwanda can track gorillas at $500 if they present a valid work permit or resident ID.

Discounted Mountain gorilla permits is a great move that has given an opportunity to local Rwandans to track gorillas. There is an increase in the local tourists visiting Volcanoes National Park Rwanda specifically for Mountain Gorilla trekking.

Note that the discounted mountain gorilla permits offer is only valid until 31st December 2020.

New International Arrival Regulations

Kigali international airport is now open for international tourists who are required to present COVID19 negative results. These must tested not later than 72 hours before their flight to Rwanda from a credible health facility.

On arrival, tourists are further subjected to another COVID19 test with results presented within 24 hours. Here as they wait from a designated hotel before engaging in any tourist activities in the country. All these are safety measures aimed at ensuring the safety of the tourists and local Rwandan community

For international travellers, mountain gorilla permits still cost $1500 per person.  To avoid any disturbances, fill personal locator form because if you don’t, you will not be allowed on flight.

About Mountain Gorilla Tracking

Note that mountain gorilla trekking adventures can only be taken by individuals that are 15 years and above. Due to high demand of gorilla tours, ensure to book gorilla permits in advance as they easily get fully booked.

On the day of gorilla tracking, report at Volcanoes national park headquarters for a briefing. This is done by ranger guides who communicate rules and regulations to follow while in the forested mountains. After briefing, you are led to the forest to start your mountain gorilla trek.

Mountain gorilla tracking takes 1 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the gorilla family you are after. Once you get to the gorillas, you will be allowed to be in their presence for one hour.  You will get to know more about gorillas, taking photos and getting more information about the primates ecosystem.

Post Lock down Safari Adventures in East Africa

Wildebeest Migration. Tanzanian Safari Experiences
Wildebeest River Crossing. Photo by George the Explorer

The end of year 2019 hit the world with the Corona virus disease forcing many to cancel their safari adventures. The disease spread very fast around the globe forcing a number of countries to lock-down their economies.

The tourism and travel sector were among the most affected as airports were closed shattering hopes of adventure travelers. After over 5 months of lock-down, there is hope to the tourism industry as economies are opening up once again. 

Some East African countries that are worlds’ leading wildlife destinations have responded positively to restarting tourism.  So far Kenya, Rwanda & Tanzania have open to international travelers and those interested in safari adventures can visit.

Below are your favorite East African wild places where you can have the best post lock-down break.

Located in the great rift valley region is the famous Masai Mara game reserve an ecosystem with diverse wildlife species. The Reserve is inhabited by over 95 mammal species, 400 bird species a number of reptiles and amphibian species. A combination of all these make safari adventures in the game reserve worthwhile.

Safari Adventures in Masai Mara

Masai Mara game reserve is one of the best places to see predators like lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs.

The predators take an advantage of the wildebeest migration a mass movement of over 1.5 million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles.  These move annually from the Serengeti plains of northern Tanzania across the border into Kenya searching for pastures. 

These natural wonders attracts various tourists and would be one of the best post lock-down safari adventures to opt for. Wildlife in Masai Mara can be enjoyed on game drives  where you see animals and birds the reserve has.

Safari adventures you engage in here include game drives, balloon safaris, guided nature walks, cultural encounters, camping, birding among others.

Best time to Visit

The best time to have a wildlife tour in Masai Mara is in the dry season from June to November.  In the wet season from December to May, you can still visit the park and have a great time.

Getting There

Kenya opened the airport to international travelers on 1st August 2020 and you can therefore a safari to Masai Mara.  Those who are in Kenya already can directly drive to the reserve for safaris after 5 months of lock-down.

Masai Mara can be accessed by road and air transport from Nairobi Kenya’s capital city. Main airstrips in the reserve include Mara Serena airstrip and Kichwa Tembo airstrip which reduces on the travel time.  A road trip is also rewarding as you start your wildlife experiences as soon as you enter the game reserve.  

Rwanda Safari Adventures

Just like Kenya, Rwanda also opened the airport to international travelers on 1st August 2020. Rwanda gorilla tours are among the most rewarding wildlife safari adventures while in East Africa.

In Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park  you can have ultimate post lock-down tours to meet the mountain gorillas. The mountain gorilla population is now 1063 and Volcanoes national park Rwanda is among the best places to see them. The park has over 10 habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation. 

Note that only 8 tourists are allowed to track one gorilla family per day. Tourists are allowed in the presence of the gorillas for one hour after a 2 to 6 hours hike. 

While on the hike, you get to see other wildlife species like birds and if lucky can spot forest elephants. Volcanoes national park has other primates like golden monkeys and you can have tailor made itineraries featuring them. Wildlife activities you can enjoy in the park include mountain gorilla tracking, birding, guided nature walks in the park.

Other Rwanda Safari Adventures

You can also opt for mountain hiking with a hike to mount Karisimbi and have an overnight in the mountain. For cultural experiences, visit the gorilla guardian village where you will get to know more about the local peoples’ culture.

You can visit Nyungwe national park further south to meet the chimpanzees, have a canopy walk and other primates.  For a combined primate and wildlife safari experience in Rwanda you can add Akagera national park to the itinerary.

Now that the airport is open, visit Rwanda for exclusive post lock-down safari adventures.

Tanzania was against all odds of lock-down and totally refused to close its border to international travelers.  While other countries lock-down economies, Tanzania was open and welcoming those interested in exploring the wildlife destinations in the country.

Now that other countries are opening up airports, travel has increased and you can visit Tanzania’s Seregenti National park. Tanzania has many safari destinations but Serengeti takes the number one spot of the Must visit places while in Tanzania.

Serengeti Safari Adventures

Serengeti is the genesis of the wildebeest migration exodus of animals up-north across the border to Masai Mara game reserve. This is not your usual exodus but a mass movement of millions of animals. Animals on the migration include gazelles, zebras, and wildebeest as they look for fresh grazing grounds.

While in Serengeti you can have endless game drives following the wildebeest migration and spotting the predators. Major predators in Serengeti include lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, crocodiles. Savanna wildlife giants like Elephants, hippos can also be seen here in large herds plus a number of bird species.

Serengeti can be visited any time of the year but if best experiences can be enjoyed from June to September. This is the best time to witness the wildebeest migration and predator action. 

For now these three East African countries are very open for both local and international tourism. They are very highly recommended destinations as the world of tourism regains momentum.

Kigali International Airport Rwanda Opens Up for Commercial Flights

RwandAir Cabin Crew. Kigali International Airport
RwandAir cabin crew wearing Personal Protective Equipment

Rwanda has finally opened Kigali international Airport for commercial flights after over 4 months of lock-down. Rwanda closed all its borders on 20th March 2019 due to on going Corona virus disease pandemic. The Virus was spreading worldwide prompting all governments to shut down all the economies.

Individuals allowed to fly into the country have been Rwandan citizens and residents repatriated from countries they had been stranded. Cargo has also been allowed into the country as this involves transportation of essential goods and supplies needed in the country.

As Corona Virus cases kept on increasing, government became more strict to prevent spread of the deadly disease.  The Ministry of Health in Rwanda came up with safety guidelines to ensure protection of everyone in Rwanda. After these guidelines were proved to guarantee safety, Rwanda started opening up tourism slowly starting with a few tourist activities.

Safety Guidelines to be followed

Tourism activities were opened in June and at that time international travelers were allowed if they came by charter flights. Since few people travel by charter, the Ministry of Health developed more guidelines to allow commercial international flights to resume.  It was then decided that Kigali International Airport would take in commercial flights from 1st August 2020.

Guidelines to follow by travelers include showing negative COVID-19 test results taken within 72 hours of arrival in Rwanda.  Ensure to fill a  passenger Location form prior arrival to Kigali International Airport. On arrival one is required to take another test and stay 24 hours in designated hotels waiting for the results.

Accommodation at designated hotels is at own cost and you will be allowed on tour if you test Negative. 

Note that there are measures to be followed including curfew between 21:00 to 05:00 hours Rwanda Local time. These measures change depending on the situation at hand therefore travelers to Rwanda should bear that in mind.  These measures could be adjusted at a short notice especially for those travelers coming from countries highly affected by COVID19.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

You will still observe the Standard Operation Procedures of social distancing, use of masks, hand sanitizers, and avoiding crowds. This is to ensure the safety of tourists and local Rwandan people in the country who have been enduring lockdown.

Always remember to wash your hands with soap and clean water or use a hand sanitizer to keep clean. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing and dispose of the tissue right away. Report or call emergency services in case you experience symptoms like difficulty in breathing, high fevers, coughs, or any respiratory diseases.

Rwanda is home to wildlife species including mountain gorillas and one of the best places to meet these primates. You can do a Rwanda gorilla tour starting from a 1 Day Gorilla Tour and More. There are Savanna wildlife species in Akagera national park where you can enjoy game drives and scenic views. Stay safe if you want to enjoy your visit to this beautiful country during these coronavirus disease times. Other countries including Uganda issued New COVID-19 Guidelines. Slowly Tourism will pick up again. 

Why A Post Covid 19 Lock-down Wildlife Safari in East Africa is Essential 

When the COVID19 pandemic outbreak was announced in December 2019, travel and tourism plus wildlife safari adventures were greatly affected.  These came to a standstill once governments instituted lock-downs prohibiting travel and social gatherings within the same country or town. For nature lovers, this was a setback as lock-downs were extended over a long time of up to 5 months.

As lock-downs are being eased and tourism slowly taking pace, a post COVID19 lock-down wildlife safari is very ideal.  The East African region is known worldwide for its wildlife wonders offering unique wildlife safari experiences.

Since lock-down was instated, there has been limited tourism activities in East African national parks enabling rejuvenation of wildlife. A wildlife safari to any of East Africa’s national parks now will be enjoyable offering fresh and exclusive encounters. We have listed some of the leading safari destinations you can opt for to revive your tourism love.  

Volcanoes national park situated in the northwestern part of Rwanda about a 3 hours drive from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. The national park is a home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, over 180 bird species.

Mountain gorillas and golden monkey tracking are leading wildlife safari activities done in this park offering outstanding primate encounters. The mountain gorilla tracking experience starts with a briefing about the regulations to follow while in the forest. Tourists are then led to the forest as they enjoy the sound of nature from the birds and small insects. The hike takes 2 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the mountain gorilla. Tourists are given an hour in the presence of the gorillas taking photos keeping a 7 meters distance from them.

Gorillas have 95% DNA similar to humans therefore meeting gorillas in the wild is a unique man and wildlife encounter. This an excellent way of getting over the anxiety that pilled over during the COVID19 lock-down.  

Golden monkey tracking also starts with a briefing and then tourists are guided to the forest to meet them. Golden monkeys are covered in golden fur and live in the bamboo forest. They are pure vegetarians that mostly feed on bamboo shoots. For birders, you can’t miss out on seeing the major bird species while on a guided walk.

Mountain Gorilla- Wildlife Safari Rwanda
Gorilla in Volcanoes NP. Photo by Eric Manzi

Other Wildlife Safari Adventures in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes national park has a number of mountains where one can do hiking for those interested in mountain climbing. Mount Bisoke has a crater lake and can be hiked in one day (a return trip). There is also Mount Karisimbi that is hiked in two days, spending a night in the mountain. While on the mountain hikes you are rewarded with scenic views of the Virunga volcanoes and the surrounding environment.

The views are priceless and refreshing therefore ensure to include volcanoes national park on your post COVID19 wildlife safari destinations. Remember to wear a mask and test for COVID19 because mountain gorillas can contact human diseases and need protection.

This beautiful safari destination is located in western Uganda just 4 hours drive from Kampala Uganda’s capital city. Lake Mburo National park has diverse wildlife species savanna wildlife like antelopes, over 315 bird species.

The park is an ideal escape for a post COVID19 lock-down with game drives where most wildlife is seen. Boat cruises are done on lake Mburo where you see animals especially hippos that spend time in the shallow waters. You can have guided nature walks here bringing you up-closer to animals like zebras and antelopes.  

There is horseback riding in this beautiful park with horses owned by Mihingo lodge.  Ensure to book for this activity in advance as priority is given to Mihingo Lodge guests. You can also do a cycling wildlife safari in the park but should also be booked in advance.  Lake Mburo national park is situated near the Ankole community where one can have a cultural experience.  You will get an opportunity to milk a cow and get to know more about the local people’s culture.

The park is easily accessed by road and the nearest savanna park to get to from Kampala. For those looking for relaxing nature encounters after lock-down, there could be no other option than this.

Lake Mburo National Park. Wildlife Safari Uganda
Views of Lake Mburo NP from Mihingo Lodge Swimming Pool

If in Kigali you can also visit Akagera National park that is located in the eastern part of Rwanda. This is only Savanna national park in Rwanda with Africa’s finest wildlife species. Often seen animals include lions, Rhinos, Elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, leopards, antelopes including Topis, water-bucks among others.

The park offers an opportunity for a boat cruise along lake Ihema where you see crocodiles and hippos.  There are also as primates like baboons and various bird species in Akagera national park.  Major activities in this park include game drives, boat cruises along Lake Ihema and birding excursions.

Those who want to stay overnight in the park can stay in the major lodges in the park.  The lodges in Akagera national park include Akagera game lodge, Ruzizi Tented Camp and the new Magashi Camp.

The time people have spent without working because of the lock-down has left many bankrupt which has greatly affected tourism. The above suggested post COVID19 wildlife safari destinations can be explored in a day a thus less spending yet enjoying. If your budget allows, you can spend a night in the park as people have been locked down for long. A night or day excursion in the park is very important at this point in time for nature lovers.