The giant panda is China’s unofficial mascot and Sichuan, a province located almost directly in the middle of the country, has long been where these cherished animals have made their home. A number of breeding centers, reserves, and research facilities have been established in Sichuan to help protect the giant panda from extinction. These reserves offer the modern traveler plenty of extraordinary ways to visit pandas in their natural habitat.
Here are some of our favorite ‘out of the ordinary’ ways to visit pandas in China:
Visit Pandas in China – Chengdu Panda Research Center
The Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center is located within the city of Chengdu (the provincial capital) so it’s an easy reach for anyone who doesn’t have much time to spare. This center is focused on being educational and the keepers share a wealth of information with the visitors. You’ll learn about the vast quantity of bamboo a panda needs to consume each day and can even sample the biscuits that keepers designed specially to ensure the pandas get enough nutrients.
A truly special treat (even better than trying the tasty biscuits) is that you may have a chance to see baby pandas here. Depending on the time of year, a number of cuddly babies will be being hand-reared by the keepers. In the Chengdu Breeding Center, you can be just a few meters away from some of the cutest baby animals on earth.
Visit Pandas in China – Dujiangyan Panda Reserve
The Dujiangyan Panda Reserve is located 1.5 hours outside of Chengdu in the Qingcheng Mountains. The first panda sighting in Dujiangyan was in 1953 and since then, several wild pandas have been spotted in the area. The center was established with a primary goal of increasing the wild panda population – thus the grounds are designed to fit their natural habitat. In Dujiangyan, the keepers are training the pandas to survive and thrive in the wild.
In Dujiangyan you’ll adventure through the bamboo-covered hills to seek out pandas and you can even volunteer for the day as a panda keeper. You’ll get to feed the pandas and clean out their enclosures.
Visit Pandas in China – Laohegou Land Trust Reserve
Laohegou, a 325-acre Land Trust Reserve in Western Sichuan, provides an important migration route for giant pandas.
Here, you’ll track pandas with a conversationist and although it is extremely rare to actually see the pandas out in the wild, you will learn about the important work being done to protect them. Laohegou is also home to a large variety of other animals, including golden snub-nosed monkeys, Asian golden cats, musk deer and black bears.
Visit Pandas in China – Tangjiahe Nature Reserve
Tangjiahe Nature Reserve is located in the Sichuan basin and was established in 1978 to protect a diverse array of wildlife. Over 70 endangered species find a protected refuge in the reserve.
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is about a 3-hour plane ride from either Beijing or Shanghai and from there, you’ll drive west to the nature reserves. Reaching Tangjiahe or Laohegou will take up most of a day but it’s definitely worth the journey.