A visit to Chengdu is not complete without a trip to see these adorable, lazy creatures we call pandas. Actually these pandas were really the only reason I wanted to go to Chengdu in the first place, and though this definitely isn’t the cheapest experience (volunteering – which actually is paying a higher price to go clean their poop, being so much closer to them and learning more about their current state was so rewarding and fulfilling)!
(This little guy is giving us the glare because he wants more food!)
Chengdu has a few different panda bases and this time we opted to visit Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Dujiangyan, a small town approximately a 1.5 hour drive North West from Chengdu city.
We booked via Klook simply for the ease and (for me trust – but I’m a big advocate of Klook) but I won’t deny we had our fair share of hiccups. Firstly I don’t personally think they made it clear enough that we needed a health certificate in order to do the volunteer experience. I only realised the night before we were supposed to fly from Hong Kong to Chengdu, and it was a bit of a nightmare being able to get the health cert so quickly.
Luckily I did get it in time, only that no one ended up checking or asking for the health certificate!! HKD$280 extra for… nothing! (It’s not covered by health insurance.) So I’m not sure where the message falls apart but although I’m fine since I ended up having it, it also wasn’t the smoothest experience.
Other than that we also weren’t sure why my friend and I were the only ones who didn’t have a tour guide for the day. We only had a driver who dropped us off/picked us up from the hotel but other than that he didn’t accompany us. (We saw it was actually really useful to have a tour guide with you for the day because they’d end up being able to tell you lots of facts but also help with taking photos/video-ing). But it wasn’t too big of an issue as I had my own POV camera gear, and also the zookeepers/workers at the centre could speak English so they shared a bit with us too.
But those were just minor things, overall the day was SO AWESOME! Even though it was pretty cold (around 14-15 degrees celcius) we were blessed with no rain and being able to volunteer with lots of happy adorable & healthy pandas!
Some of the activities we did included:
Cleaning up their homes, their poop and replenishing their food with new freshly prepared bamboo.
Making some other food they eat – panda cakes/panda bread.
Feeding these adorable & cute little beings! (Watch the video to discover why they put their arms out like that)
Watching them just being suuuper suuuper adorable.
Watching them eat fresh new bamboo (and also seeing whether or not they “approve” on the freshness of the bamboo.
Overall, this was such an unforgettable experience being a volunteer for a day and definitely a must must visit when in Chengdu. You also get to learn how pandas have recently moved from an endangered to vulnerable status (in terms of population size) but also how the research centre is trying to increase the giant panda population and make sure they’re well equipped for the wild.
If you’re keen on trying out this experience click here, or if you just want to be able to visit the pandas at other bases (and not necessarily get your hands dirty (literally), check out other activities to try out in Chengdu/China here.
To be honest I was hoping we’d get to have photos with them, but apparently they’ve been a bit more strict about it due to concerns around protecting the pandas. So it seems it’s not really advertised or promoted anymore but you can do it (but you also have to pay more too).
Regardless, paying around HKD$1,600 was still worth it for this trip as at least you know the money is going to a non-profit who have been successfully increasing the population of pandas in recent years, but are trying to actively find sustainable ways to ensure they can survive in the wild too.
Don’t forget to click below and watch the video, yes it is 15 minutes long but these pandas are just waaaaay too cute and I really couldn’t bear to edit out any footage. They’re so adorable!