We departed from Kigali following a buffet lunch of chicken, rice and fruit, loaded into our two SUVs and headed for Volcanoes National Park and Ruhengeri for a gorilla-themed weekend.

After checking into our hotel, we drove off into the Rwandan night to Igitaramo — the community’s celebration of the baby gorilla naming.

The drive to the area where the celebration was being held was fascinating. There were no street lights, so we could only see what was going on from the headlights of the SUV.

In front of us, masses of people walked along the side of the road, carrying baskets on their heads. Strings of hibiscus hung upside down on ropes tied around trees and fences.

Even in the dark, you could sense an air of festivity.

And when we arrived?

Darkness. And then, a glow of lights. Sounds of voices, music, laughter.

We walked through the grass field and took our seats under a white tent, a front row to the celebration. Right next to the Prime Minister.

Feet from us, a troup of African dancers twisted and turned in the most fluid of movements, clad in traditional garb, smiles glowing against their dark skin and the dark night. Each performance told stories of the Rwandan people through song, dance, acting and even fight sequences.

The next morning, we went back to the area for Kwita Izina, the naming of the baby gorillas. Thousands upon thousands of people from Rwanda crowded in between fences lining the property for this special occasion.

First, there were more dancing performances, then song, then the naming ceremony.

For some reason, I expected the baby gorillas to be present for the naming.

But, as we sat in our tent (next to President Kigami, no less), I realized there was no way anyone would go into the jungle, separate the babies from the mommas and bring them down the mountains so they could be help captive for our pleasure.

Instead, people dressed in gorilla suits (pretty real looking ones), came out with the individuals who were given the honor to name the little babies. Not quite the same, but still …

There was a special guest of honor at the ceremony — Don Cheadle. He named the last gorilla and was then named as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN. Feet from me.

Pretty cool. After the event, we shopped for a little and then headed back to our hotel. We had an early morning the next day and needed to save our energy to venture into the jungle to trek gorillas. Yes. Gorillas.

2 comments

  1. That must have been a great time to be in Ruhengeri. Did you know the ceremony was going to take place, or was it pure luck that you were there? When I was in there in 2003, I was lucky to chance upon Discovery Chanel filming a documentary, and I got the change to meet Dr George Schaller. How was your time with the Gorilla’s?

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