Pangani Forest Exploration Trail


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The hippos put on quite a display (and draw a riotous crowd reaction) when they do what comes naturally and use their tails to scatter it over everything above and below the surface. There are other animals here, including ever-active mole rats, but gorillas are the main event. The trail has two gorilla-viewing areas: One sports a family of six, including a 500-pound silverback and his ladies and children; the other has five bachelors. They're not always cooperative, especially in hot weather, when they tend to spend most of the day in shady areas out of view. Also, this isn't considered by many guests to be one of the park's sexiest areas, so they skip it or rush through. Those who stick around for a while are likely to make return visits.
Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail takes you into a lush, tropical forest found in the heart of Africa where you can explore a variety of old and new animal friends.

As the overhead vegetation gives way to the sky, you enter the first observation post. Here you may find Stanley Cranes, Okapi, and Yellow-backed Duikers. The Yellow-backed Duiker Cephalophus silvicultor is a member of the antelope family and the largest of the Duiker species. They are native to the forests of west central Africa and grow to 100-175 pounds. The name Duiker is African for diver -- the Duikers will hide in the undergrowth of the forest when alarmed. Duikers are nocturnal.
The Okapi, Okapia johnstoni , is the only known living relative of the giraffe. They are dark chestnut brown with distinctive stripes on their legs, similar to Zebras. The most giraffe-like feature of the okapi is their very long black tongue. The Okapi have always been rare and is very shy. They are native to the tropical forests of northeastern Zaire.
The Stanley Crane (Anthropoides paradisea) , sometimes known as the Paradise Crane or Blue Crane, is the National bird of South Africa. Stanley Cranes can sometimes be found standing asleep in water with flamingos and other cranes. In the wild their diet can consist of insects, worms, small reptiles and amphibians, small mammals and seeds and bulbs.
As you leave the first observation post, your path takes you into a research building.  The research building has a few small exhibits, but the highlight of your visit will be the Naked Mole Rats. (Wheelchair/Stroller note: the doors in and out of the research building are ackward and heavy!)
The Naked Mole Rats are very curious animals. You'll have to try and get close to the glass so you can see them burrowing about in their entirely underground habitat. They are the only hairless rodents. They live in colonies with a structure resembling that of insect colonies. Each colony has a queen, a breeding male, soldiers, and workers.
Soon the sound of birds fill your ears as you enter the aviary area. Carmine bee-eaters, red-bearded barbets, Brimstone canaries and other rare African birds can be found here. Don't spend all your time looking up -- you'll find birds on ground level too!
Hippos!! Leaving the aviary through a screen door, you pass into another open air shelter with a dam on the far wall with a large panel of inch-thick glass, holding the pond. The pool is home to a trio of giant hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius).
This is a great underwater viewing area. The Hippo is a river dwelling mammal from tropical Africa and is related to the pig. Males are approximately 5 feet tall and can weigh five TONS! The hippos will spend most of their time in the water but can relax on nearby boulders, particularly in cooler weather.
Back on the trail you will come to a thatched roof structure and a large Savannah overlook into the grasslands. Tiny dik-diks, Gerenuks, and others are seen grazing in knee-high grass. The Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri walleri) is sometimes called a gazelle-giraffe because their long neck is similar to the giraffe and they have a gazelle-like body shape. An interesting fact I discovered - Gerenuk's have a special muscle on their lips which is puncture proof.
Timon!!! Yes, also in this area are Meerkats which delight children and adults with their sentinel behaviors. Meerkats are found in Southern Africa and the Kalahari Desert. They are 12 inches tall and have tails that can grow 8 inches long. They are very territorial and can often be found standing erect, guarding their space. Meerkats have an interesting diet which includes scorpions (they are immune to their venom) beetles, spiders, centipedes, worms, crickets, small mammals, small reptiles, birds, eggs, and roots.
Another member of the antelope family is found in this Savannah is Gunther's Dik-dik. They are found in the dry brush country of Tanzania and Kenya. Fully grown, they weigh about 12 pounds and will stand 12 inches tall at the shoulder. They are able to survive on the moisture from the vegetation they eat and sometimes go for long periods without drinking.

Following the leafy trail is the Gorilla Research Camp. As you enter, you'll find everyone pressed up against the glass viewing the gorilla family. Two young females and a silverback (adult) male and a baby or two may come into view. Gino, the silverback, is the head of the family troop and came from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Cast members in this area will be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Exit this area to come to an open air viewing area of the gorillas.
Stand on the swaying suspension bridge for a wonderful view of the more gorillas. On the left side is a bachelor group of 5 males, ranging in ages from 6 to 18 years.
On the right side are older gorillas and a mother and her baby. Older gorillas are often kept separated in captivity. They have a tendency to become grouchily unsociable with age. Researchers here hope to develop a compatible group that can live together contentedly for many years in the most natural of surroundings.
Trail walkers catch a final glimpse of the gorillas through a "bamboo" fence before heading to the end of Pangani Forest Exploration Trail near the Harambe station of the Wildlife Express trains.
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Your journey through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail takes about 20-30 minutes. It is a natural flow along the path as you exit the Kilimanjaro Safari. If you are interested in the gorillas, be sure to check out the research training station at Rafiki's Planet Watch where you can learn about Disney's behavior gorilla training program.
Be sure to ask the Guides any questions you might have about the animals you encounter during your trek. Many of the guides are native to Africa.
There are plenty of viewing areas for kids and lots of educational opportunities too.
Assistive Listening Devices from Guest Services Can Be Used Here.
Reflective Captioning Available.

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In Harambe Village you will find Tusker House (counter service), the Dawa Bar, Harambe Fruit Market, Kusafiri Coffee & Bakery, and Tamu Tamu (ice cream).
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The shopping area is back in Harambe Village.

The hippos are actually the same ones you will sometimes see on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride in the savannah. The hippo barn resides in between Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and the savannah river.
When Animal Kingdom opened in April 1998, this trail was named Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail -- it was renamed a few months later.
The Endangered Animal Rehabilitation Centre is dedicated to the welfare of animals threatened by the loss of forests and from poaching. The exhibit houses 5 Black and White Colobus Monkeys and 1 Duiker.
"The black-and-white colobus is found across equatorial Africa. There are five species, among which the color varies from all black to a skunklike black-and-white pattern. Black-and-white colobus monkeys weigh up to 9 kg (up to 20 lb). They live in small social groups of about ten animals, composed of one adult male plus females and their offspring." (
Duikers are small antelopes and can dive quickly to hide.
Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail is a self-guided walking safari through a number of exhibits, including a live Gorilla exhibit, where the (real) Gorillas are separated from the guests by glass partitioning, and in a couple of cases by bars in the shape of simulated bamboo poles, which are carefully mixed in with real bamboo plants in a random enough patter for them to be almost overlooked.
The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail allows some of the best close up animal viewing in the park, aside from possibly the Kilimanjaro Safari. Park visitors come face-to-face with African birds, mammals, rodents, reptiles and insects, as well as gorillas in their natural habitat. A western lowland gorilla was one of the first animals to give birth at the new theme park.
Guests wind their way through a maze of habitats, catching glimpses of animals all along the way. There are also interactive exhibits and expert trainers to answer questions and offer insights along the way.
The trail takes the guest past the Blind Mole Rat's home, an Aviary, a Fish Tank, and through a Hippo Underlook exhibit.
Note that no flash photography is allowed on the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Type of attraction: walking exhibits
Our rating: 4 out of 4   Readers' Overall Rating: 3.2
Children: 3.5    Pre-teens: 3.0    Teenagers: 2.3
Young Adults: 3.6    Middle Aged: 3.4    Older Adults: 4.0
Explore the Pangani Forest to see hippos, naked mole rats and African birds. If you are lucky, you may even get a chance to see a gorilla.

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