Kwita Izina: A guide


| June 25, 2014

If you have ever wondered what Kwita Izina is, or have dreamed of meeting mountain gorillas, read our guide for an introduction to gorilla discovery in Rwanda.

The Virunga mountains are home to the rare mountain gorilla

Close-up encounters with gorillas are among the most mesmerising, moving and memorable experiences to have in the wild. In Rwanda, you can not only meet these creatures, which so often remind us of humans, but also attend Kwita Izina - the country's annual gorilla naming ceremony.

Typically taking place in July, Kwita Izina is a celebration and symbol of Rwanda's mountain gorilla conservation efforts. Owing to the rarity of mountain gorillas and their endangered status, Rwanda is one of the few countries where you can see these remarkable animals, which are primarily concentrated in the Virunga mountain ranges.

Thanks to conservation efforts, it is believed that mountain gorilla populations are growing – but the fight to save these beautiful creatures is by no means over.

What is Kwita Izina?

As we have already mentioned, Kwita Izina is the country's annual gorilla naming ceremony – a tradition that is now in its tenth year. This year's ceremony will take place on July 1st at the Volcanoes National Park, and will give names to just under 20 baby mountain gorillas. It is usually attended by a combination of political figures, park rangers and tourists.

Kwita Izina is about far more than the simple naming of newborns. Firstly, it is a means of monitoring both individual gorillas and the groups they are part of for conservation purposes. What's more, it helps raise awareness of the need for conservation, both on a national and international platform.

Each year, Kwita Izina has a new theme – though, of course, the naming of the gorillas remains a constant. In 2014 this is 'Conserving - Empowering - Growing', and will celebrate all the conservation efforts to date.

What should I know about the mountain gorilla?

A critically endangered species, the remaining mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains (which are home to just over half) in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. A combination of hunting, war and habitat destruction have depleted their populations - though it is hoped recent conservation efforts will help the species to recover.

Unlike other gorillas, mountain gorillas have thicker fur, as well as shorter arms, and are typically larger too. Usually, they form groups of up to 30 gorillas, led by a dominant adult male. Their diet predominantly consists of roots, fruits, shoots and tree bark and, while being known for their intimidating displays of strength, are normally quiet, calm creatures until they are provoked.

Mountain gorillas  beyond Kwita Izina

While Kwita Izina offers a fantastic experience, there is plenty of scope to have amazing encounters with mountain gorillas at other times of year. Indeed, many tours of Rwanda focus on discovering its primate population, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys. Along the way, you can stay on luxury forest lodges, unwind on the shores of Lake Kivu and, most excitingly, track mountain gorillas.

Virunga National Park, which is the oldest national park in Africa, is the place to go to track mountain gorillas. A Unesco World Heritage Site, it is a very beautiful place, with terrain including savannas, volcanoes and forests.

Approximately one-quarter of the planet's mountain gorilla population live here, and they predominantly inhabit the southern section – the slopes of the Mikeno volcano (now dormant) in particular.

The park is also home to chimpanzees and eastern lowland Grauer's gorillas, bringing its total of resident Great Ape species up to three, in addition to elephants, hippos, lions and a host of other fascinating species.

And if you are eager to explore a wider array of Rwanda's wildlife, consider visiting Nyungwe Forest National Park too. Here, you can tackle fantastic forest treks that will give you the opportunity to spot chimpanzees and Ruwenzori colobus monkeys – and you will also have the option to do things like visit a tea plantation.

It is worth noting that it is also possible to undertake a canopy walk in this park, which is a wonderful way to gain a fresh perspective on the local landscape. And of course, who knows what wonderful scenes and creatures may greet you from here...

View Cox & Kings' holidays to Rwanda, or call one of our Africa specialists on 020 7873 5000 to create your own tour to Rwanda.

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