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Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a half mile long, self guided walking tour in the Africa section at Animal Kingdom. Disney invites you to “explore a lush tropical forest inhabited by native African wildlife including gorillas, hippos, and exotic birds.” Animals you might encounter include African Bullfrog, Angolan Black and White Colobus Monkey, Western Lowland Gorilla, Nile Hippopotamus, Meerkat, Naked Mole Rat, Emerald Starling, Kenyan Sand Boa, Dung Beetle, and Pygmy Geese. Pangani, which means “place of enchantment” in Swahili, is different than many other attractions in Walt Disney World. I believe the longer you take to admire the surroundings and learn about the specific animals, the more enjoyment you will take away. In other words, this is not an attraction to rush through to check off your list and hurry on to the next one.
As you start your journey, make sure you are always looking in every direction. That includes looking up!
The trail starts off by introducing you to Angolan Black and White Colobus Monkeys.
These monkeys have no thumbs and are threatened in their natural habitat by hunters and deforestation.
Next you will come to the first observation post where Okapi and Yellow Backed Duiker roam.
Okapi resemble zebras as they have horizontal strips on their front and hind legs; however their closest relative is the giraffe. The Yellow Backed Duiker is a member of the antelope family and gets its name from the African word meaning diver because it dives into dense vegetation for cover.
Continuing on, you arrive at the Endangered Animal Rehabilitation Center. This research building displays nests, bones, and African wildlife facts.
Small exhibits include lizards, tarantulas, mice, snakes and perhaps the most interesting, Naked Mole Rats.
They are the only hairless rodent and have a lack of pain sensation in their skin. They live in an entirely underground habitat that resembles many insect colonies.
Next up is the free flying Aviary Area which affords sightings of many rare African birds.
Make sure you pick up an identification chart on your way in and see how many you can spot.
The underwater viewing area showcasing The Nile Hippopotamus will command your attention right away. These impressive mammals weigh 5 tons and spend up to 16 hours a day under water to keep their bodies cool.
Continuing on, the Savanna Grasslands houses gerenuks, dik diks, and my personal favorite, the meerkats.
Meerkats are highly social animals that have a keen sense of smell, vision, and hearing. The gerenuk is a long-necked species of the antelope family and is able to obtain all the water it needs through moisture in its food. Dik diks are known for their shrill whistling sounds.
As you enter the “quiet zone”, you are also entering the gorilla research camp that is perhaps the most popular of all the exhibits.
The glass viewing area shows off a family of silverbacks. Last time I was there, the young gorillas were playing tag, swatting each others behinds, and somersaulting down the hill which was a humorous sight.
There is also an open viewing area on the swaying suspension bridge outside. The family will be on your right and the separated bachelor gorillas will be on your left.
As you make your way to the exit, beautiful scenery still surrounds you.
This attraction is great to experience any time of day; however 9:30am – 4pm can be a little more crowded as people exit the safari through the trail. The gorillas can also be more active in the late afternoon. Have your camera ready for all the great photo opportunites. Engage the knowledgeable cast members stationed along the way. They love to answer your questions!
Animal Kingdom is typically viewed as a half day park; but I believe this park has much more to offer. While you can do the trail in as little as 5 minutes, I think 30 minutes is more adequate. Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a perfect example how the park was designed to be explored savored and enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
You can find out more about the rest the park in our Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park Guide.