Chengdu in the Province of western China, the 5th largest city (with only 10 million + people) is famed for its Pandas, and like many that is the reason I ventured there. I mean who doesn’t love Pandas? The sweet and soft animals you just want to take home and love find their home at many of Chengdu’s Research Bases. I personally was lucky enough to spend a day volunteering at Dujiangyan Panda Base about an hour and a half out of the city centre, this base still allows you to take a photo with the panda as well as help clean the habitats, prepare food for the pandas and even help out with the feeding! (Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base, closer into the city of Chengdu has halted interactive experiences with pandas at this time)
For this trip to Chengdu we had a guide Weaver, he was super vital to this short trip as he was our transport, translator and provided us with an abundance of information on Chengdu and the Pandas! Especially in China where the language barrier can be much larger and individual guides often end up being cheaper than large group tours. (I really recommend checking out viator for some amazing guides!) Having a guide was also super helpful as Weaver organised the volunteering beforehand as the base only takes on a limited amount of people per day, and this mean the likelihood of being turned down on the day is significantly reduced.
Weaver took us to Dujiangyan Panda Base and we were thrown right into it helping clean the pandas’ habitat. After this, we were given the opportunity to help feed the pandas with what they call panda cake, before finally an opportunity to be up close and personal with a 1-year-old panda pictured below. The base is very strict with this and will only allow it when they see fit, we were recommended to go in the middle section, not first but last to ensure we could see how the panda reacted and not miss this opportunity when the panda wandered away.
Wearing the blue plastic cover and the gloves is an important requirement for this as it ensures the pandas won’t get sick from us. Surprisingly a panda is not soft and cuddly as I had imagined and even through the plastic gloves you can notice its thick and coarse fur which is suitable for the mountainous terrain. (to this day I still want to bring one home as they are so cute!)
One of the best things about the Panda Bases in Chengdu is in the mountains that surround the city are the Giant Pandas natural habitat, so these beautiful creatures are living in a very similar climate to what they should naturally live in. The Panda Bases in Chengdu are some of the best in the world, they have done vast research and are one of the largest reasons that in 2016 we can officially say pandas are no longer endangered! And Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base have successfully integrated 5 captive-bred pandas into their natural habitat with hopes of much more in the future!
All images are my own