Greg Bakunzi on the honor of naming a baby gorilla in Rwanda
Greg Bakunzi’s climactic moment as a key player in Rwanda’s tourism landscape came on the morning of September 1, 2017. The founder and CEO of Amahoro Tours and Red Rocks Rwanda was among the 19 people that participated in the naming.
The venue was Kinigi village at the foothills of the Volcanoes National Park, home to Rwanda’s prized mountain gorillas, and the occasion was the annual gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina), Rwanda’s flagship tourism and conservation event since 2005.
Some 19 baby gorillas born in the last year were named. A total of 239 baby gorillas have been named since 2005 when the naming ceremony debuted, according to figures from the Rwanda Development Board, the country’s tourism sector regulator.
Kwita Izina is Kinyarwanda for “to name,” “to bestow a name upon,” and derives from the ancient Rwandan tradition of naming human babies after they are born. It is from this that the naming of baby gorillas is derived.
Typically, this privilege is a preserve for individuals with proven track records in conservation, be it locally or globally.
In Bakunzi’s case, it was the role of Red Rocks and Amahoro Tours as community focused tourism businesses that earned him the privilege. It was therefore not by coincidence that the name he chose for his gorilla is Tembera U Rwanda, which means “visit and explore Rwanda.” She was born on October 2, 2016, to a mother named Inkubito from the family Muhoza.
Tembera U Rwanda is also the tagline of the flagship campaign by the Rwanda Development Board to encourage domestic tourism among Rwandans.
Bakunzi describes Tembera U Rwanda as “the name that brings conversation, community and tourism together for sustainable development around the country.”
Asked what it felt like being among the gorilla Namers he said: “This is a historical moment for Red Rocks and Amahoro Tours, a strong legacy of the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development that
we celebrate this year. It is also a strong sign that local NGOs are committed to make tourism a force for a better future for all.”
He further described it as “a sign of the commitment to conservation, community and tourism around the Virunga National Park.”
Bakunzi first made contact with the famed mountain gorillas in 1997, in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in South Western Uganda. He was immediately awed by the animals and, the following year, he started working as a freelance local tour guide, taking tourists to see the gorillas.
This went on until 2001, when he started his own tour company, Amahoro Tours, “not only for gorilla tracking,” he explains, “but a combination of community, tourism and conservation around the Volcanoes National Park.”
“Driving from Musanze, (formerly Ruhengeri) to Kigali could take up to 2 hours due to the roads that were not good by that time, but today it can take just 30 minutes,” Bakunzi reminisces.
“We all have to admit that tourism is a tool for community development and peace building. Let’s all join hands together and keep our industry growing.
“Amahoro Tours and Red rocks would like to use this chance to invite all well-wishers to join us and see how we can push this to even greater heights around the Virunga National Park and the country in general. In partnership with other stakeholders we can make a big change.”