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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt a strong connection to animals. From the critters that roam my landscape to the wild animals I get to view when we visit Walt Disney World, all of them fascinate me.

“A Moment of Zen” (Silverback Gorillia, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Disney’s Animal Kingdom) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 61.2mm, F/5, 1/50s, ISO 800, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Vignette Blur’ Filter

Whenever we travel to Disney, we simply have to visit the Animal Kingdom, skipping the ‘rides’ and heading straight for the nature trails.

One of our favorites is the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail – a self-guided walking tour of native African wildlife.

Pangani means “place of enchantment,” and the imagineers certainly have done their best to transform this small slice of Florida into a lush, tropical forest and verdant valley that are right out of the heart of Africa.

On this last trip, I found the Lowland gorillas to be especially impressive.   Though they may look fierce, Gorillas are “gentle giants,” eating only vegetation and only becoming aggressive when threatened.

“Gentle Giant” (Silverback Lowland Gorilla, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Disney’s Animal Kingdom) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 70.4mm, F/5, 1/30s, ISO 800


Other interesting facts:

– Gorillas neither make nor use tools.

– Water is taken from greens and fruit.

– They cannot swim.

Also, did you know that 98% of their DNA is identical to human DNA??

Here is the closest I may ever come to a 600+ pound adult Silverback male. The sheer size of him was indeed intimidating, yet I felt no fear. I sensed a playfulness and calm curiosity as he held this long gaze with me, and when I look at this portrait, I cannot help but wonder about all that is going on behind those amazing eyes.

Mesmerizing, isn’t it?


  1. They most certainly are a very intelligent and impressive creature aren’t they, with such hominal expressions too… I could sit watching them for hours (if it weren’t for the smell.. lol).. I know another interesting fact to add to your list too btw… They have never been known to water-ski within 2 hours of eating jello… Apparently it’s bad for their digestion… 😉

    • I’m right there with ya, Brian! We watched the troop for quite awhile…I agree, their ‘musk’ is a bit strong, yes! 🙂

      Ha! A very interesting fact, indeed! I bet you could locate a few rogues, though, who just might water-ski only after 15 mintues… 😉

  2. Gorillas are such amazing creatures. I used to want to be Dian Fossey when I grew up, spending time with the gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda. Maybe not such a good place to be now, though.

    Beautiful captures, especially the second one where the viewer can, like you, look right into the gorilla’s eyes. 🙂

    • Thank you, Robin! 🙂

      I couldn’t agree more…I remember seeing a documentary on Dian and being completely enthralled with the work she did. She was a brave woman and her death, so senseless. Anyone who devotes their life to the care, protection and education of animals is a hero in my book.

  3. great shots, they look very much like what you’d see in their natural environment….

    • Thanks, Derrick. 🙂

      This particular habitat has an amazing natural feel to it. When you are on the trail, all thoughts of Mickey Mouse go straight out the window. I’d imagine it to be quite overwhelming to anyone only familar with city life. The gorillas are simply incredible.

  4. It is incredibly fascinating to be close to so closely related and so peaceful animals, I fully understand and take part in your enchantment! And I felt the same meeting the orangutans when i travelled in Borneo earlier this year. But it’s not good for the survival not to be afraid of the worst “animal” on earth: Man!

    • Aw, Truels, your photos of the orangutans were amazing!

      I agree…the biggest mistake many animals make is to trust man.

  5. These shots are amazing! I have never been able to get a decent photo of the adult males when I’ve been there. This is my favorite trail in the entire park. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, KD! 🙂

      These are the best ones I’ve EVER gotten of the gorillas. It is all about timing and luck…right place, right time. It was such a special day. I knew immediately I had something as I was clicking away. Those are the moments I live for.

  6. What great photos. Truly spectacular and your post is wonderful too. It makes me sad though looking directly into his eyes (I actually have to look away) — I guess guilt over him having to be there, and what man has done to his kind (our relatives) and to this Earth and her inhabitants. That being said, if he has to be captured, it’s nice to live in such a place. And he’s protected also (from man).

    I never knew Disney had such a place. You’ve given me a reason to go and visit. Great images here. And a great post. Wonderful.

    • Thank you, Katie. I think you would like Animal Kingdom.

      I completely understand how you feel. What you may not know is, the majority, if not all of the animals at Disney came from other zoos, from wildlife officials who have rescued orphaned animals or from endangered habitats. From what I understand, the animals that are there would not have survived in the wild. The habitats are so realistic at the park that each and every species has successfully produced off-spring – a good sign that the animals are healthy and happy in their environments. To avoid over population, many animals are sent to other zoos and conservation areas to educate humans as well as preserve the species. Some animals are rehabilitated and then re-released back into the wild.

      My preference is for animals to be in the wild and allowed to live their lives untouched. However, we all know that is a fantasy and I am glad for places like this that offer a good home for those animals who otherwise would not make it.

  7. I know how goofy it is but I rented zoo-keeper for my kids this weekend and this photo so reminded me of that. Loved it.

    • Ha! Glad the post sparked a good memory! Thanks, Tammy! 🙂

  8. It’s almost like when I look into a mirror, M.P.!
    Seriously, though… wonderful, wonderful images. I’ve always wanted to get a nice shot of a Silverback, but I’ve come nowhere near this close to getting one! Wow! So cool!

    • Ha! I bet, Sig! 😉

      Thank you. As always, your comments are so very kind. 🙂

  9. What a wonderful experience for you to have had. That picture does make you wonder just what he is thinking. All of your recent photos make me want to find a way to get back to Disney some day. Not an easy proposition when you work in a school!

    • Thank you, Karen! Yes, it was a nice moment and still makes me smile in wonder.

      If there’s a will, there’s a way!! All you need are a few days… 🙂

  10. Absolutely amazing animals – I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the flesh, but I’d love too.

    • They truly are, JP!

      I am positive that with your world travelling you’ll make it to Africa some day! 🙂

  11. A couple of months ago, we went to see an interview with Jane Goodall via live satellite. Before the interview, the theater aired a documentary about Goodall’s life — which, of course, included her work with chimpanzees. It was nothing short of amazing.


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