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One of the best ways to see some of Disney’s most exciting animals up close is to walk through the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (formerly known as the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail) located in the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris. If you’ve never taken the time to explore this area read on to learn all about the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail!
Recently, Disney changed the name of this walking trail to the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (which was actually the name of the trail when Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened) from the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail – but the change was in name only. So don’t worry, the gorillas are still accompanied by several other animal friends on this trail!
First, let’s talk about what you’ll see other than gorillas on this trail!
The first animal exhibit you’ll come to once you enter the trail is the Angolan Colobus Monkey. Although they are located in a section of the trail called the “Endangered Animal Rehabilitation Center,” these monkeys are not actually endangered in the wild currently – but they are adorable and fun to watch!
The day we visited, two of the monkeys were hanging out together way in the back!
Next along the trail is the Observation Blind section of the trail. In this section you’ll find the Yellow-Backed Duiker and the Okapi. Both of these animals can also be seen on Kilimanjaro Safaris, but this is a great place to learn more about these unique animals!
Although they were all hiding during our last trip, the cast member in the Observation Blind told us all about the Duikers and how they actually stand on their back legs to reach leaves in the trees!
As you continue on through the trail, you’ll come to Research Center used by the research team that studies the animals in the area! In their research office you’ll get to see several different animals in terrariums (lizards, frogs, etc) and a group of Naked Mole Rats.
Just past the Research Center, you’ll enter the aviary section of the trail. Be sure to pick up a bird spotting guide to help you identify the birds you see in the area!
We found all but two of the birds on the guide – kids will love trying to find them all!
Also in the aviary, you’ll see a huge tank of beautiful fish that originate in Africa
After you exit the aviary, you’ll come to the hippopotamus viewing area! Every time we’ve visited the trail the hippos have been sleeping toward the back of the tank – but I hear that they are often more active in the late afternoon (between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.).
You can just barely see the hippo’s ears above the water!
Just past the hippopotamus viewing area you’ll be able to see the meerkats and the Grevy’s zebras! We absolutely loved watching the meerkats – the cast member in this area told us that most of the meerkats sleep during the day but one is always out “on watch” while the others sleep. Then, periodically, a different one will come out and switch for his turn on watch!
This little guy is keeping his eye on the zebras in the distance.
The zebras were hiding in the shade on our last trip, but even in the distance it was fun to see this threatened species of zebras.
After the zebras, you come to the main event of the trail: the Lowland gorillas! There are two different groups of gorillas on the trail – the bachelor group (all males) and the family group (mostly females and young gorillas).
In the observation area you’ll often see the large male gorillas and you can learn about the structure of a gorilla’s body!
If there aren’t any gorillas in the first observation area, just continue along the path and you’ll probably be able to catch them hanging out on the hillside in the shade.
Now that you’re excited to visit the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, here are a few tips for touring!
- Visit early in the day or right before the trail closes – since the Kilimanjaro Safaris line empties right near the entrance to the trail, it is often crowded when the safaris are busy
- Allow at least 20 minutes to go through the trail (you’ll need more time if you’re planning to try to spot all the birds or talk to the cast members about the animals)
- Talk to the cast members! They are extremely knowledgeable about the animals on the trail and they love to talk to guests.
- If your group includes Wilderness Explorers, be sure to get your handbook before you visit the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, as they’ll earn a badge here!
If the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail seems like something you’d enjoy, be sure to also visit the Maharajah Jungle Trek located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom! You can read all about that trail here.
What is your favorite part about the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail? Share in the comments.