Pandas are the national animal of China and are a must-see if visiting the province of Sichuan, home to 80% of the population of Giant Pandas. Nowadays they are endangered and it’s very rare to see them in the wild. Some zoos around the world are lucky enough to host pandas, but if you really want to see them interact in a more natural environment then schedule a visit to one of these panda bases.
Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base
Also known as the Chengdu Panda Base, this breeding center is located about 30 minutes from Chengdu’s city center. It is the largest and most well-known panda base in China and is the place where you will find the largest number of Giant Pandas of all ages. It is also the home to many other endangered species like Red Pandas, black-necked cranes, white storks as well as over 20 species of rare animals.
One of the best times to visit the breeding center is in high summer between July and September. With a bit of luck, you will see a row of swaddled baby pandas in the nursery through its floor to ceiling plate glass windows. After that, find the young pandas to enjoy their animated interactions in a grouped pen. At a young age, they enjoy each other’s company as they clamber up trunks, hang down from arching branches and wrestle with each other along the forest floor. At meal times, the larger solitary adult pandas wake from their lazy slumber to mosey to a nearby pile of bamboo shoots laid out by the keepers for them. Their muscular jaws make quick work of stripping, mincing and munching through their fodder.
For those with a time limit it is recommended to visit this center as it’s the closest one to Chengdu city center, but note you cannot hold pandas here.
Young panda cubs at play
Dujiangyan Panda Base
This Giant Panda Base covers an area of 56 hectares and is located by Qingcheng Mountain in Dujiangyan, about 34 miles from Chengdu. This is the place to come if you want to have the opportunity to hold a panda. It’s a very exclusive experience so must be booked in advance as the young panda only accepts 20 pictures a day! You will sit with the panda only long enough to have your photo taken with it so the experience is over quickly but the memories will last for a lifetime.
At this panda base you can also become part of the Panda Keeper Program and act as a volunteer for the day – this is the perfect way to learn about pandas and get up close to them. You will be provided with special work garments and tasks include cleaning pens, slicing bamboo for the pandas (pandas eat about 40kg of fresh bamboo shoots a day, so get ready to work!), prepare panda snacks, and other activities that the base has prepared for you.
Red Panda – native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China
Panda Valley (Baima Village, Dujiangyan)
If you are looking for the experience of seeing pandas in a quieter and more natural environment, then this is your place. Panda Valley is located 1h30 away from Chengdu, also in Dujiangyan.
It is a small panda base that you can easily walk around in an hour and where you will find about a dozen pandas as well as the beautiful and endangered Red Pandas. The area has been landscaped beautifully.
Here you can also have a once-in-a-lifetime experience: become a volunteer for a day. You will join the Panda Valley staff in preparing meals for the pandas, cleaning the pens and feeding your assigned panda. By the end of the day you will have learnt lots about pandas and will receive a certificate for volunteering.