The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (formerly known as Pangani Forest Exploration Trail) is a walking tour that continues the experiences of Kilimanjaro Safaris. Along the paths, guests can find Western Lowland Gorillas, Nile Hippopotamus, Colobus Monkeys, Meerkats and more.
The backstory for Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail explains that guests are visiting the Pangani Forest Conservation School and Wildlife Sanctuary. While exploring the trail and exhibits, guests will see chalk boards and other signage meant to represent recent studies done by the students. At the “Endangered Animal Rehabilitation Centre” we see some of this signage explaining Colobus Monkeys:
Endangered Animal Rehabilitation Centre
The staff and students of Pangani Forest Conservation School have set aside this area for the care and rehabilitation of wild African species. Endangered animals are provided with shelter, medical care, and relocation to a protected environment.
Angolan Black & White Colobus Monkey
- Woke to loud calls by the colobus males. They were probably announcing their feeding area to other colobus groups.
- Monkeys spent most of the morning feeding on tree leaves, buds and shoots
- Individuals in group were observed grooming each other
- Highest ranking monkey received the most grooming.
I continue to see fewer and fewer animals. This over hunting for bush meat has caused serious declines in colobus and populations across Africa. – Aaron M.
Near the Colobus Monkeys is a termite mound with signage explaining the composition:
Home to millions of termites, this rock-hard formation of mud and saliva houses a complex world that function as a Fortress, City, and Underground Garden.
The sign diagrams the termite mound with several pieces of information about different parts of the mound:
- Circulation ducts carry heated air upwards to cool and circulate back down into the nest.
- Food storage galleries feed workers who never leave the city
- Partially digested grass and wood is stored in warm, humid chambers to create nourishing fungus gardens.
- Water wells descend into the soil to tap into water.
- The royal chamber houses the queen termite, fed and tended by thousands of workers, her only job is to lay eggs – up to 30,000 a day.
- Nurseries house growing larvae
The next exhibit features Okapis, Stanley Cranes and Yellow-backed Duikers. Signage at this exhibit reads:
The Yellow-backed Duiker (cephalophus sylvicultor sylvicultor)
Of species of duikers yellow-backed is the largest.
Has the widest distribution of all forest duikers
Weight: 125-175 pounds
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Gestation: 7 1/2 years
Duikers will often stand on their hind legs to feed on leaves and other items normally out of reach.
Stanley Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus)
You South Africans should recognize this as your national bird
One of fifteen crane species, the Stanley Crane is found in eastern and southern South Africa
Status in wild: Threatened
Estimated population: 21,000 and DECLINING
This crane inhabits dry, upland grasslands. It is omniverous feeding on plants, grasses, insects, fish and other small animals.
The path continues into the Research Center where guests can view a selection of terrariums that feature invertebrates, hedgehogs, lizards, tortoises, naked mole-rats and more. Signage at the exit of the Research Center indicates the students have been studying hyenas. Prior to the park opening, hyenas were considered as an animal for Kilimanjaro Safaris and these photos are a nod to that.
A sign by the Naked Mole-rats reads:
Naked Mole-Rat Studio Burrow
The glassed-in burrow allows our researches to gather biological data and observe natural behaviors.
Study specimen is Naked Mole-Rat
Conservation Status: Secure
The Research Center leads into the aviary. Inside the aviary, guests are given a “Bird Spotting Guide” that lists the species that are visible. This guide explains:
Many of our birds in Africa are threatened with the destruction of their wetland and forest habitats. Survival of these beautiful creatures depends on our efforts to protect critical habitats by reducing pesticide use and supporting renewable forestry practices.
In the aviary is a collection of fish from Lake Victoria known as Cichlids. Signage explains the conservation effort underway involving these fish:
Lake Victoria Cichlid Conservation Effort
As part of an International Conservation effort, Harambe has been chosen as a site to help preserve and propagate endangered native freshwater fish. This glassed-in pool will allow researchers to study the lives of Victorian Rock Cichlids, 99% of which are found nowhere else in the world.
Over 60% of the lake’s Rock cichlid species have already been wiped out by the introduction of the Nile perch. This has severely disrupted the ecology of the lake, a source of livelihood for many fishing people and the final destination of Harambe’s rivers.
- pyxichromis orthostoma
- labrochromis ishmaeli
- paraiabidochremis plagiodiodon
- prognathochromis perrieri
Notes from students can also be found below the cichlid information:
Found my first living lung fish today near the shores of Lake Victoria.
This amazing creature survives the dry season by burrowing into the mud. There, it uses its primitive lungs, to breathe. I’m told that they can survive in this manner for many years.
Once the rains return and the lake waters rise, the lung fish emerges and once again uses its gills to breath underwater.
According to the fossil records, the lung fish has been around for over 250 million years.
Traditionally the lung fish has been an important source of protein for local people, but harvesting has significantly reduced their numbers.
I am thinking of starting a project to breed them locally, so that we can replenish the stock. This could help ensure the lungfish’s survival and the survival of those local peoples who rely upon them as food.
Citizens of Harambe
Nile Perch can grow up to four feet long and weigh 200 lbs
The Nile perch, introduced to Lake Victoria for commercial fishing in the 1950’s is an on-going threat to our native freshwater fish population.
The perch’s destructive impact on Fulu – the species of Rock cichlids found in Lake Victoria – has greatly reduced this very important food source for local people.
Do not transport perch in any life stage-eggs or young-to the waters of Harambe – We must PROTECT our native species.
Your diligence will prevent the loss of native species and damage to the local eco-system
Ministry of Wildlife
The aviary leads into the underwater viewing area for the hippopotamus. A bulletin board in the hippo area features illustrations from students as well as letters/illustrations from kids f the North Eastern District Matumaini Primary School. A photo of that letter can be seen below:
In that area, an additional bulletin board has more information on cichlids. The fish can also be seen swimming in the same pool as the hippopotamus.
More information on the hippopotamus can be found in this area as well:
One of the largest terrestrial mammals. Adult males can reach 15 feet long and weigh up to 5000 pounds.
Hairless skin dries out easily, so daytime is spent in water or protective mud.
Curved, tusk-like canines used for threats and defense, not food-gathering.
Grass is main food – grazing takes place at night up to five miles away from river.
Extremely dangerous – surprising a hippo in water or on land at night in frequently fatal.
Hippos are hunted for their meat and their ivory, which has greatly increased in value since the 1989 ban on elephant ivory. They are seriously threatened by loss of grazing lands as human populations expand. Estimated population remaining in E. Africa – 40,000.
Additionally notes are hand written and they reference observations like an increasing tilapia population and sightings of cormorants. There is also a story about “When Hippo was Hairy” that looks at Kiboko the Hippo. The full story can be seen below:
The pathway leads slightly up hill to a clearing where guests can view meerkats and Grevy’s zebra. Historically this has also been home to gerenuks, maribou storks and warthogs. Signs in this area look at how a variety of animal species share the savannah.
Sharing the Savannah
How do so many grass-eating animals share the same environment?
Each animal prefers different parts of the grass. Heavy grazers tear up the tall, coarse grasses while lighter grazers eat the tops of shorter stems. Nibblers follow up by cropping tender new grass.
- Elephants break down trees and dense brush, helping to widen the grasslands.
- Buffalo graze the tallest grasses
- Zebras eat tough grass tops
- Wildebeest follow the zebra, eating shorter grasses
- Gazelle and warthogs crop the short turf
The baobab is a familiar symbol of East Africa. its giant, swollen trunk and leafless branches outlined against the sky, this remarkable tree may reach up to 25m (90 feet) in height and live as long as 2,000 years. It is commonly found along the coast and dry inland savannah.
The baobab’s soft, spongy wood stores water well, making it the frequent target of thirsty elephants, who gouge open the trunk with their tusks for the moist wood.
Greatly venerated by local peoples, the baobab is sometimes hollowed out to serve as shelters, poaching hide-outs, or even a prison lock-up!
By consuming different types of grass, the animals reduce food competition and ensure survival for all. The pathway continues to a covered viewing area for Western Lowland Gorillas. A chalkboard diagram in this section explains details of the gorillas physical makeup:
The covered/glassed in viewing area of the gorillas is a stopping point before the path continues to a larger viewing area. Bridges and pathways separate two separate troops of gorillas. A family troop on the right side and a bachelor troop on the left side. Signage in the outdoor viewing area reads:
This stream marks a rough boundary between the home range of a family troop of Lowland Gorillas and Territory used by a “Bachelor” or all male group.
Young male Gorillas frequently leave the family troop when they begin to mature sexually. Some gather into temporary groups, while others wander in search of receptive females. This behavior aids genetic diversity by avoiding inbreeding within the family troop.
Harambe Wildlife Reserve
The path has circled back to where it started, on the opposite side of the Angolan Black & White Colobus monkey exhibit. Passing by the Colobus monkey, the pathway leads to the exit.
Welcome to Pangani Forest Conservation School and Wildlife Sanctuary – A joint effort of the citizens of Harambe and international conservation groups.
“We do not inherit the earth from our parents – we only borrow it from our children.”
Karibuni Nyani Falls Shule Ya Hifadhi Ya Wanyama – Umoja
Wa Wananchi Wa Harambe Na VikundiVingine Vya Hifandhi Ya Wanyama Duniani
This attraction appeals to guests of all ages, especially animal lovers.
TIMES GUIDE - OPENING/CLOSING
This attraction opens with the park and typically closes at dusk.
The animals may go into their night houses earlier than the closing time for the park when there is an early sunset. On these days, refer to the time guide or in park signage for the closing time. Signage exists near Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek indicating the closing time for those attractions. Most other animal enclosures will close at around the same time with the exception of Kilimanjaro Safaris which remains open later.
The attraction opened with the park as Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail on April 22, 1998. Shortly after opening, the name was changed to Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in July of 1998. The name remained until May 27, 2016 when it was changed again to Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.
The Maharajah Jungle Trek is a similar exhibit in scope.
Attractions in the park that feature live animals are as follows:
- Kilimanjaro Safaris – Africa
- UP! A Great Bird Adventure – Asia
- Animal Encounter – Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- It Was All Started By a Mouse – Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight – Discovery Island
- The Oasis Exhibits – The Oasis
- Discovery Island Trails – Discovery Island
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail – Africa
- The Maharajah Jungle Trek – Asia
- Affection Section – Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- The Tree of Life Exhibits – Discovery Island
- Siamang and Gibbon Exhibit – Asia
- American Crocodile Exhibit – Dinoland U.S.A.
- Habitat Habit! – Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- Conservation Station – Rafiki’s Planet Watch