In traditional Rwanda culture, the birth of a child is a momentous event that is celebrated with a tremendous amount of fanfare. The birth is marked by the presentation of the new infant to the general public, who then proceed to suggest round after round of the possible names. After a careful consideration, the proud parents select one of their new born, and celebrate the naming with copious amounts of dining, drinking and dancing.
Gorillas in Rwanda are often awarded the level of respect and admiration as humans, which why its only fitting they should be named in a similar manner. Since June 2005, the annual kwita Izina (gorilla naming ceremony) has been a country wide event that is increasingly drawing a large share of the spotlight. From local community events in musanze (Ruhengeri) to gala balls in Kigali and Gisenyi, Kwita izina is well on its way to becoming a global brand.
The event has even attracted a number of celebrities and conservationists, including Natalie Portman and Jack Hanna, testament to the growing appeal of the event and the future potential for Rwandan tourism.
WATCHING WILDLIFE IN NYUNGWE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
Nyungwe forest national park is an outstanding island of biodiversity, and a veritable monkey forest. At least 20% of the total primate species in Africa are found with in the confines of Nyungwe, an impressive statistics that is only equaled by Kibale forest national park in Uganda.
While they are more difficult to track than the slow moving gorillas, communities of the chimpanzees on the move will certainly make their presence known to you. Habituated troupes of monkeys – Angolan colobus (troops of which number up to 400), Dent’s monkey (a local race of blue monkey) and grey-checked mongabeys (the last two often seen together) – are virtually guaranteed on guided walks.
Other monkey possibilities include l’Hoest and diademed monkeys, which some times associate with colobus and blue monkeys. Olive baboons and vervet monkeys loiter near the park’s eastern edge, while owl-faced monkeys and possibly golden monkeys live in the extensive bamboo stands in the south eastern part of the reserve. Nocturnal prosimian attractions include needle-clawed and greater galagos as well as the potto.
In addition to primates, you also have a fairly good chance of spotting mammals, particularly in and a round Kamiranzovu marsh. Marsh mongoose and Congo clawless otters stick on the water’s edge, while giant forest hogs, bush pigs and duikers are sometimes startled a long the trails. Rain forest squirrels are also commonly spotted, and include giant forest, montane sun and Boehm’s bush squirrels.
Hyraxes are easily hard after dark, though you are going to look inside the hollows of trees if you want to spot one. Nocturnal mammals are a bit tricky to spot but you do have a chance of running a cross jackals, civets and genets.
Nyungwe have something of a legendary status among birdwatchers in East Africa, and is by far the country’s top spot for bird watching. Even if you are not a hard core birder, its pretty easy to get excited by Nyungwe 275- plus species, which include no less than 25 Albertine Rift valley endemics.
The dirt road leading to Rangiro, and the Imbaraga, umugote and Kamiranjovu trails, are all highly recommended for bird watching. The paved road through the park permits viewing at all levels of the forest: expect mountain buzzards and cinnamon- chested bee-eaters perched a long here, plus numerous sun birds, wagtails and flocks of waxbills, other commonly sighted birds include francolins, turacos, African crowned eagles, hornbills and even Congo bay owls.
WATCHING WILDLIFE IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Carnivals in Akagera include lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, genets, servals, and jackals. There are even a few specialties, including the rare roan antelope. The national park also lies on the great Nile valley bird migration route. This means that you could potentially spot up to 525 species of birds including several endemics and more than 40 different kinds of raptors. Again it’s worth pointing out that while Akagera supports a full complement of East African wildlife, don’t come here expecting your quint essential East Africa safari experience.
So how much wildlife is actually left in the park? That’s the real question. Though nobody truly knows the answer with any degree of certainty. There may only be one or two dozens lions left in the park, though hyenas, jackals and leopards are still active at night, and small cats such as the genet and serval are well represented. Since Akagera is contiguous with western Tanzania, there sis hopes that predatory cats will increase their ranges and move into Rwanda.
Akagera was once defined by its massive aggregates of hard animals and there is reason to believe that these densities will arise once more. There are no less than 11 different species of antelopes in the park, which include the common safari staple that is the impala, as well as the majestic but rare roan antelope. Buffaloes and zebras are also well represented animals, while Masai giraffes and elephants are making a slow but steady come back.
The national park is also something of hippo paradise, especially given that much of the environment is swampland. There are at least a thousand of the lumbering giants in and around the shores of the lake, as well as a large enough population of crocodiles to keep from the temptation of taking a cooling dip.
In the 1950’s, Akagera was the first national park in Africa to receive translocated black rhinos, which were flown in from neighboring Tanzania. These animals thrived in the dense brush of the park, but poachers quickly decimated their numbers during the 1980’s.
NATIONAL PARKS AND RESERVES OF RWANDA
Due to its small size and high demand for cultivatable land, Rwanda only has a small network of national parks. The most popular protected area (and the focus of most visits to Rwanda) is parc National des volcans a string of brooding volcanoes that provides a home for the rare mountain gorilla. Nyungwe forest national park, Rwanda’s newest national park, is a tropical montane forest that is the one of the richest primate destinations in the region. Akagera national park is the third of the Rwanda’s parks, but is third of Rwanda’s park, but is sadly a shadow of its former self due to habitat destruction during civil war as well as post war ‘villagisation’. That said, Akagera has staged an impressive come back in recent years and wildlife populations are stabilizing and flourishing again.