Visiting pandas in Chengdu is a must. If you haven’t seen the pandas, then you haven’t been to Chengdu. Or so it seems that way. “Panda tourism” is big business in China. Each year hundreds of thousands of people (both local and foreign) visit the country’s world famous centre in Chengdu. a city about 2,000km southwest of Beijing.
I vaguely remembered my 1st visit to Chengdu many many years ago. 15 years ago maybe? At that time I didn’t even own a camera and never had any urges to take pictures. How life have changed since!
My tour was to Jiuzhaigou Valley and I went with some friends from Penang. Part of the itinerary was 2 nights in Chengdu and I think we may have visited the same panda farm since there’s only one here.
However nothing seems familiar as I stepped in. Perhaps there has been many changes since then. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is huge, and that’s putting it generally. Entry fee is 58 yuan (RM30) and I think it’s reasonable as Chengdu Panda Base is a non-profit organization dedicated to wildlife research, captive breeding, conservation education and educational tourism. Founded in 1987, it has since witnessed many successful mating and births of baby pandas.
The drive here from the city (our hotel) takes about an hour. Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a world renowned ecological conservation base and it houses the largest captive-born Giant Panda AND Red Panda population in the WORLD.
More googling tells me that there are 41 panda reserves across China but only 7 are open to the public, including the zoos in Hong Kong, Shanghai & Beijing. But if you’re in China, the Chengdu Panda Base is the largest and easiest to get to; as it is not far from the city (Chengdu) and doesn’t require you to trek through uncharted territories. In other words, it is authentic enough for a satisfying experience yet suitably commercialized to allow visitors to explore in relative comfort.
This 100 hectares of green jungle, sprawling lake, nearly 400 species of trees is as close to their natural habitat as it gets. There are also many species of bamboo that the giant pandas loves to eat.
Plenty of panda related activities ensures visitors are duly preoccupied. Here’s 2 suggested routes – a 1.5 hour itinerary or a 3 hours itinerary. Both will take you to the key areas of Chengdu Panda Base.
If you’re feeling guilty of consuming too much of the spicy and oily Sichuan cuisine I’ll suggest you to walk as you explored one area to another. Else hop on the service shuttle that will cost you 10-15 yuan.
From what I observed, many tourists took this option.
Which is sad, as the Chengdu Panda Base is such a tranquil natural reserve.
It is clean, well maintained with safe walking routes and surrounded with greenery, sounds of nature and fresh air. If you love nature you would love this place!
But expectedly at key attraction areas be prepared to jostle with the crowd for a sneak peek of the pandas.
It is still summer now and thus there weren’t many pandas out at the outdoor enclosures. To avoid heat stroke the pandas spent their summer time in their air conditioned enclosures.
However we did managed some close-up encounters (if you consider 10 metres away from the fence close-up) and lingered for a while to observe and take our obligatory photographs.
Lesson number 1 – pandas eat all the time. Ah, what a life! 😀
Lesson number 2: They are really playful creatures. Looking at them I am sure every single visitor to Chengdu Panda Base wished that they could cuddle and squeeze one there and then!
I was thinking to myself; these are baby pandas. What about the giant ones – the adults? I don’t think they are that cuddly! But we didn’t see any big ones that day though.
Here are some information about the Giant Pandas yearlings.
While being born in a captive environment increases the chances of survival for the new born, it deprives them of their natural learning capabilities or the learning curve with their mums. At one enclosure we watched a baby panda being taught to scale a tree by a few of it’s caretakers. To some it was cute, but to me it was well, a bit sad.
I took a short clip of the “action”. Enjoy the short video. This little panda is really adorable! 🙂
As we passed the buildings that houses the pandas I thought they looked like prison cells.
The pictures are blurry due to the condensation of the air conditioning on the glass. But could you spy the pandas?
But I guess it is still the best option for now to ensure the continuous livelihood of the species. There is a United Nations report that states there are just about 800 wild pandas remaining in the world.
Here, read the part under “Giant Panda” – “ Giant pandas can reproduce for 10-15 years. However in the wild a female raises ONE cub every 3 -4 years. The mother gives birth to 1- 2 cubs only each time but will only raise ONE. In captivity we can keep both alive.. ”
A sobering fact isn’t it?
Next we moved on to the nursery. We were lucky that there is a newly born baby panda so we got to watch it close.
Needless to say there was a crowd. But the line moved in an orderly manner thanks to the personnel on duty.
This was what everyone was clamoring to get a peek.
This is a very “Oh my god” moment right? 😀
Even I, the ever cynic was enamoured.
The nursery looked something like a hospital with all these “doctors” and equipment doesn’t it?
After the nursery we moved on to the Red Panda area.
The Red Panda are not as charming as the black and white fluffy ones. I guess having the appearance of almost a raccoon could be one of the reasons.
See what I mean?
Similarly the Red Pandas feeds primarily on bamboo (at times omnivorous and eats eggs, birds, insects, small mammals), are solidarity creatures and they do little more than eat and sleep.
Having had covered the main areas of Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding we walked towards the main entrance/exit. On the way we admired the lush greenery and the view.
At one point we were surprised to see a hanging punching bag in the middle of nowhere. Visions of Kungfu Panda immediately came to mind! 😀
For visitors who are interested in the natural history of giant pandas, the Panda Story Cinema is the perfect venue to pick up such knowledge via entertaining and educational films that presents on a wide range of topics including the birth, the breeding process, the conservation efforts and research work.
There are a few souvenirs shops within the research centre where all forms of panda momentos can be found. Rings, bracelets, handphone accessories to soft toys, fridge magnets and bags in different shapes and sizes; it is challenging to walk away without buying anything!
The obligatory “I was here!” shot. 😉
The research centre.
At the souvenir shop. “Take me home please?“, this little cute panda begged. Well, I almost did. Almost.
After 2 hours we bid farewell to the pandas. There were still a few places that we missed such as the Panda Kitchen (where you can watch how “Panda Bread” is made and eat it), Giant Panda Science Discovery Center and the Giant Panda Museum.
However, to be really upclose and personal with the pandas I would recommend the Panda Volunteering Tours. This is where you can touch, interact and observe the pandas all day/days long.
From online research, Panda Volunteering Tours are volunteer programs where visitors will spend hours observing the panda cubs, and volunteers lend a helping hand to the pandas’ keepers. Activities includes cleaning the pandas’ garden, preparing food, feeding pandas, collect behavior data and more. Every small group will have their own panda keeper or expert to given instruction before volunteering. Panda volunteer programs can last from 1 day to over one month.
Example: http://windhorsetour.com & onthegotours.com.
So, who would be keen for such tours? Any panda lovers around? 😀
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Address: 1375, Panda Road, Northern Suburb, Chengdu, China. Zip: 610081
Email: [email protected]
028 – 835 10033/835 16748
Direct Bus to Chengdu Panda Base:
Bus 902 From Chengdu Tourist Transportation & Service Centre to Chengdu Panda Base
Buses that pass through Chengdu Panda Base:
Bus 198: From Zhaojeusi Bus Station to Poly 198 Park
Bus 87: From Zhaojeusi Bus Station to Longtan Industrial Park
Bus 867: From Shiling Bus Station to Xindu Zhonglou Bus Station
AirAsia X flies to Chengdu from KUL 7 times a week.
The timetable of the flights are as follows:
|Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu||1815||2240||4 hours 25 mins||Mon – Fri|
|Chengdu to Kuala Lumpur||2355||0430||4 hours 25 mins||Mon – Fri|
|Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu||0915||1340||4 hours 25 mins||Sat – Sun|
|Chengdu to Kuala Lumpur||1455||1930||4 hours 25 mins||Sat – Sun|
*This wonderful experience is part of our media familiarization trip by AirAsia X.