London Zoo is returning to the wild as cages and bars are torn down and replaced with natural enclosures.
Within two years gorillas will live in a man-made forest clearing as part of a £5.3m African rainforest area to bring visitors closer to the animals.
Next plans will be drawn up to free tigers and big cats from their pens and create a more natural habitat for them.
Chris West, director of the Regent's Park Zoo, said they wanted people to get "up close and personal".
"We are at the start of a vision to modify the zoo. We are getting away from bars and cages.
"It may sound a bit cheesy, but we want people to go away inspired and having had some real connection with the natural world," he said.
As part of the plans for a gorilla island, visitors will be able to walk along raised paths and watch the apes from a forestry glade, as if they were based in a Congo field house.
Heated rocks, designed to attract gorillas to the area, will give humans the chance to take a closer look at the animals.
Visitors to the zoo increased by 40,000 after the opening of a monkey walkway in March which gives access to 14 squirrel monkeys.
An African birds safari, complete with lilac breasted rollers and hornbills, opened on Monday.