More and more people come to Chengdu, Sichuan to see the Giant Pandas, one of China’s national symbols and a much beloved animal, and who could blame them? This adorable black and white creature is one cute clumsy bear. While seeing this animal in Chengdu is a must, many people don’t realise that the province of Sichuan is home to a few Panda reserves, and that you could visit and even volunteer in some of them. All quite different, it might be worth considering spending more time in Sichuan and picking the best reserve for you. In this article we’ll tell you about the 4 main Sichuan giant panda sanctuaries in the province and while you can now only visit 3 of them, there is one for everybody.
Please note that at the time of writing this article (June 2015), the activities in close contact with Giant Pandas have been suspended due to the canine distemper incident that happened in Xi’an. Dujiangyan has resumed volunteer and panda holding programs, Bifengxia seems to be re-opening theirs too.
Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre.
The Panda Base in Chengdu is probably the most popular one in China and for a good reason: it’s easy to get there and you can observe most of the 50 pandas in their big enclosure. While Giant Pandas are the main attraction, red pandas also roam freely in their enclosures, which you can enter and walk near to those little red furry animals.
This base is trying to reproduce the Pandas natural habitat and educate visitors. A lot of information can be found while walking in the park concerning the region and its natural habitants.
Museum, nursery, medical facilities, this centre is perfect for visitors and animals alike.
If your biggest dream is to hold a panda then lucky you! Chengdu offers a program to hold one of them for a photo opportunity. The cost is high (2.200RMB) and only 20 visitors are allowed to do so daily (for the well-being of the pandas). Be careful: this program is currently not available!
There is, though, one big problem with this base: it’s always crowded! Being so easy to access visitors are plenty and you might feel a bit cramped in there.
How much does it cost? 58 RMB
How to get there? In Chengdu take a taxi for around 28RMB or take a bus. Depending on where you are staying in town your hotel should be able to help you.
Bifengxia Panda Base Protection and Research Centre.
Located 2 hours away from Chengdu, Bifengxia Panda Base has made its name thanks to its volunteer program giving you the chance to spend time with the local pandas for a week or more, working with those big creatures. But there is something else about Bifengxia that makes is worth the trip: located in a picturesque gorge, a day at Bifengxia includes a beautiful walk around the local nature and the sight of Pandas.
Quiet (probably because getting there isn’t as easy), this base received many pandas after the 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan that made a lot of the Wolong Pandas homeless. While Bifengxia is believed to have more pandas than most bases, you can only visit a few of them. The big enclosures are lovely and you can get very close to the animals. A kindergarten also exists but is currently being re-built and is expected to open in October 2015.
Holding a panda and volunteering are both normally available at this base but they are sadly currently not possible. We still believe it to be one of the best bases to observe pandas in a quieter environment.
How much does it cost? 118 RMB (This include entry to the Bifeng gorge, a sightseeing bus, the panda base and more)
How to get there? From Chengdu take a bus to Ya’an. Once at Ya’an bus tourist station walk to get near the road, there you will see a few mini-buses, ask for Bifengxia and hop on one of them, cost should be 5 RMB. The base is located 150km away from Chengdu.
Dujiangyan Panda Base.
Recently opened (2014), Dujiangyan is the newest of the panda bases in the Sichuan area. With only a few pandas living there at the moment, this base is there to rehabilitate the ones who used to live in different countries, but is also targeting older or injured pandas.
A focus on disease prevention has also been given to this base which makes it very unique. Its location ( around 60km away from Chengdu) not so far from the main roads makes it a perfect place to treat and take care of pandas.
Quiet, well located and with the same programs available than Bifengxia, you can hope to spend some quality time with the pandas. While this base will surely grow more popular with time, now is the perfect time for you to go there and still enjoy some peace and quiet!
How much does it cost? 60 RMB
How to get there? From Chengdu you can take a bus or a train and a bus. The base is located 60km away from Chengdu, you could also take a taxi for an arranged price.
Wolong used to be one of the biggest Panda Base in Sichuan, sadly after the 2008 earthquake in Wenchuan most of the pandas lost their home and the reserve had to close and move the animals to different areas.
While the Natural Reserve is now re-opened for research purpose, public visits are still not allowed in the area, and no date has been given concerning a possible new opening of the place to visitors.
Wolong National Natural Reserve is currently closed to the public. Re-opening date is unknown.
How to get there? From Chengdu, you can take a bus for Wolong. It should take you 3 hours.
If you are wondering how well the pandas are treated in this places it is safe to say that they are loved and well looked after. Chinese are passionate about their pandas and they will prove it to you. Pandas are slowly being rehabilitated into the wild and the work done by those bases and reserves are helping to slowly grow the population of an endangered species.
So if you come to the area make sure to visit one of these base. We’d recommend Bifengxia or Dujiangyan if you are not afraid to find your way there just for the peace and quiet you can enjoy but if you don’t have time, stick with Chengdu!
Have you ever seen a panda and if not would you like to? If you have visited any of those bases, what did you think of them? Tell us everything in the comments!
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