Chengdu China is Home to the Best Panda Encounter Experience
When I set out to plan my China trip, I emphatically advised that the most important thing to me in the country is getting up close and personal with the Pandas – my second favorite animal on the planet (first being koalas). I didn’t care what tour I did, as long as the pandas were part of it. So it shouldn’t surprise that once again my “Essential China” tour included a visit to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base – a government supported organization in Chengdu, considered to be the Best Panda Encounter Experience in the country. They ethically treat their National animal and are on continuous pursuit to save and protect these beautiful and unique creatures.
More about the Best Panda Encounter Experience
- An Incredible History so far- The Panda Conservation Base was founded in 1987 and since then, has assisted with nearly 130 panda births, with the number in captivity increasing to 83. This is a massive achievement as they started with only 8!
- Constant Research is being done – The work the conservation base is doing for the livelihood of China’s national animal is continuous, ensuring the populations increase throughout the nation. New regulations are now in place to assist in conservation and protection efforts in the wild so that the revered National animal thrives within its natural habitat.
- Arrive Early – If you want to get the most out of your time at the Panda Research Base, get there bright and early. Pandas enjoy their breakfast early in the morning, making it an ideal time to visit. If you visit any other time between meals, chances are they will be asleep.
- Dress Appropriately – Make sure when you go that you wear comfortable shoes as there is quite a bit of walking to get to the sanctuary from the parking lot. As you walk there, enjoy the view with the pathways surroundings of lush greenery and flowers. The research base is a vast property with many winding walkways in all directions. Make sure to stay with your group and follow the marked signs to the pandas.
Seeing the Pandas
Arriving at the enclosure there they were munching on bamboo. These beautiful giant bears were sitting comfortably a midst piles of food, climbing gyms, and trees. They looked so happy in their surroundings that were large and full of free space for them to stretch out and roam around. Some were eating and some were already sleeping. There was enough space for them to act normally as if they were in their home in the wild.
I was happy to see where the pandas lived and that it was a sanctuary of space and a facility that wasn’t cramped or stressful for them. You felt confident that they were taken care of and having a good life outside of the wild. These animals are protected by the Chinese government and there was evidence to show that. Jackie Chan and Bill Clinton also adopted 2 pandas there to help with the efforts.
Interacting with the Pandas
Ever wanted to get up close and personal with these little guys? Well, here is your chance to enjoy an ethical experience with these beautiful animals. Here at the Panda Base you can enjoy an interactive experience for a 2000 CNY ($300 USD) donation. All proceeds from the panda encounter goes to the well-being of the pandas and assists with the research to help them get off the endangered list.
Once paid, you are given scrubs to cover your clothes whilst you are with the panda, and are given a small presentation where the staff explain a few facts about the animals’ life, habits and history as well as describe where the donations go and how the funds are spent for the livelihood of the animals.
You wait in the group until it’s time for your experience. The panda is brought out and distracted with large pieces of bamboo to munch on as you sit beside him and get photos and videos taken. In the end, I had about 20 photographs and a small video of my experience. Sitting beside the panda and patting him was an experience unlike any other. Again, just like the Great Wall of China, I could not believe I was doing something I’d dreamed of my entire life – mingling with a panda. Just be careful and ensure he is pre-occupied. The trainers are close by just in case. This experience is as ethical as possible. The pandas are not stressed and are switched with each paid experience. You can pat one lightly, but no other type of activity is allowed. As well, no drugs or products are used to tame the pandas. They act naturally around you and are distracted merely with bamboo. In my photo, the panda was watching his keeper. Their safety and well-being is the sanctuary’s #1 priority.
Once you are finished your experience, you are escorted out of the secure room where you are given a bag of thank you gifts for your donation – shirt, DVD, pin, a photo frame of 2 photos they took of you and the panda, and a certificate acknowledging and thanking you for the donation and help to the research efforts.
Being with animals and having the opportunity to see them up close is such a unique experience. Pandas are just such incredible creatures that in person they just amaze you even more. If you can afford to make the hefty donation, this experience is worth every penny. Seeing the efforts and accomplishments of the research base is proof and re-assurance that your money is going to a good cause as you smile beside them.
The Red Pandas
After the experience, head through beautiful grounds to have a look at the other species of panda housed here- The elusive Red Panda. The red panda is much smaller in size and resembles a raccoon in appearance with its striped long tail. These pandas eat more than a diet of bamboo and aren’t as friendly as the giant pandas. When you are there, do visit these animals as they are fascinating to see in the their large vast sanctuary.
Not many China tours nowadays include a trip to the research base as Chengdu is not considered a main touristy city with much to see. If you can find a tour that suits you and includes a trip here, your trip will be richer than you ever thought possible.
See the pandas. take the pictures and donate. Whether in the gift shop buying one of the many panda souvenirs including magnets, mugs, jewellery or plush toys, you will feel good knowing you are helping to save these gentle giants from extinction.
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