Two Americans, Joe McDonald and his wife Mary Ann McDonald have paid 100 visits to Virunga Gorillas and bringing more than 600 tourists with them. They pledged so, and they have made it.
This family from the state of Pennsylvania visited Rwanda’s Virunga Gorillas for the first time in 2003 where they were excited on special care for the rare species.
The dual, professional photographers, captured the captivating moments of their visits on camera, shared the same with the world and too Rwanda’s tourism a notch higher through photography. They have recently written a book dubbed ‘One Hundred Treks and Thousand Friends.”
Talking on the time-honoured commitment to visiting Virunga Gorillas, McDonald said; “We thought about visiting Rwanda for the first time in 2000 but our efforts remained inert for tourism had not yet progressed well in the country. We came later in 2003 but it was not easy as there was a problem of infrastructures like roads and hotels which were not in good conditions. We immediately pledged to visit Rwanda for several times each year and bring at least six tourists as we return,” he said.
“ We were excited by how Rwanda boosted tourism sector and using it to improve citizens’ welfare through Revenue Sharing Scheme. We come to Rwanda very often and amazed by the hospitality of Rwandans,” he added.
In 2014, after 11 years of visiting Rwanda, the couple dreamt of naming a baby born gorilla. At the time they had already brought 500 tourists. Their dream came to pass during the 22nd edition of Kwita Izina, a gorilla naming ceremony of baby gorillas on 2nd September 2016 when Mary Ann McDonald and her husband were selected among the namers (in Kwita Izina parlance).
“We were extremely delighted for being selected among people to name baby gorillas. We named the baby gorilla ‘Nchili’ originating from the family of Kwitonda.The name we called the baby gorilla is ‘Ntamupaka’, a free gorilla which has rights to walk the entire park without barriers,” says Mary.
In 2013, Joe McDonald and his wife Mary Ann McDonald had spent USD 1 million in Rwanda’s tourism. The couple had to visit Virunga Gorillas more than seven times a year.
The couple has also visited various parks in East Africa like Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. They visited parks from South Africa, Arizona, California, Florida, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware among others.