Visiting the wonderful Pandas in Chengdu, a look into the lives of these beautiful, funny and charming endangered animals!

For years visiting this place has been on our bucket list. Seeing these wonderful and clumsy creatures in a place as close as possible to the wild was a dream. To see them being so well looked after, protected and eventually prepared for the wild was the most rewarding element of the day. But seeing these funny and adorable creatures up close really made the previous 27hr train journey worth it!! We visited the Pandas without a chengdu panda tour and also debated whether or not you should really pay to hold a panda chengdu?

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The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding:

Founded in 1987 and now covering 92 acres the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding was created to replicate as closely as possible the Pandas natural environment. Native to China the Giant Panda is only found in the Sichuan (where Chengdu is), Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, which means that being here in Chengdu is right at home for them!

There are fewer than 2000 of these lovable creatures left worldwide and 70% of them are to be found within Sichuan itself! It did make us question whether our original intention to hold a panda chengdu was really such a good thing? 

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The main aim of the centre, as suggested by the title, is to facilitate the successful breeding of the Giant Panda. With their dwindling numbers in the wild due to habitat destruction and human interference, combined with their lackadaisical approach to both everyday life and their love lives this centre is of vital importance.

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However the centre has been able to make up great grounds in improving the prospects of this most wonderful animal. By 2008 it had gone from having just 6 pandas it rescued from the wild to over 124 panda births! During this time the researchers have also been able to observe the pandas and learn invaluable information about their habits and conservation as well as educating many people of their plight.

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Our amazing time spent with these wonderful creatures:

We awoke that morning at 5:30am, planning on getting to the park as soon as it opened at 8am in order to avoid the crowds. Slipping into the almost empty park the morning fog was still lingering amongst the alleys of bamboo and the Pandas appeared to be still tucked up in bed. After wandering around some of the first enclosures we were disappointed not to see a Panda, we did wonder if this sometimes shy creature was actually a lot harder to see here than we imagined. We did wonder if the chengdu panda tour would have made it easier, but we needn’t have worried! 

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Walking around the corner though we spotted a dash of black and white amours the sea of green…there they were! Quickly making our way over before anyone else noticed them we were alone with them, only a few short feet away from where they sat! I couldn’t believe how open the enclosures where and how close they allowed us to get! Here they were tucking into their breakfast, one even laying on his back as he forced more bamboo into his mouth than he could realistically eat…I loved these guys already!

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As we moved further around the park and the morning wore on closer to 9am we started to see more and more pandas. Most of them hanging out and munching bamboo…their favourite activity other than sleeping! Even after seeing so many of them our joy at spotting another never dwindled, each and everyone was so special and more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.

Just standing there and watching them move around was entertaining enough. There clumsy and laboured movements make them such adorable and funny creatures, its not wonder so many of them fall out of trees!

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One of the most amazing sections was visiting the younger pandas. From a couple of adolescent males play fighting, roughing each other up and of course taking a few tumbles. Teeny tiny babies just learning how to walk and climb before one of the slightly older ones chased one of the scientists! This area of the centre was filled to the brim with cuteness! It made getting up extra early and missing the chengdu panda tour even more rewarding! 

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One of the unexpected highlights were the Red Pandas, these little guys are much smaller and more agile than their giant cousins! Sprinting around their enclosures, climbing up into the highest branches of the trees and even through specially made holes in the fence and right on to the path they were hard to keep up with. These cheeky little critters were also a lovely colour of red with little character bear like faces and stripped tails.

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Most people only recommend half a day here, but we actually ended up spending around 5 hours here. The park is quite big and despite many areas getting busy you are well rewarded with walking to the lesser populated areas and seeking out the Pandas yourself. As you can see, taking the organised chengdu panda tour means you only get a fraction of the time we spent here! 

We had the most amazing day visiting the pandas, seeing them eating, playing, sleeping and hanging out high up in the trees. Each one with their own unique personality and characteristic they are the most precious and wonderful creatures!

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Long live the Panda!

The future of the centre:

As one of the world leading centres for the preservation of this creature the institution is always looking to develop. Being in the ideal place for the Pandas to live the centre is looking to extend its site to another 500 acres in the next few years. These plans are intended for an area in which they are better able to simulate the natural habitat and conditions where the pandas are found. It is hoped that this will then lead to many of the pandas eventually being released back into the wild and the program being extended to not just breeding but the final goal of repopulation! But whether you take the chengdu panda tour or go it alone you are supporting the future of these amazing animals! 

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Not holding one of the Pandas, is it really a good thing to hold a panda chengdu? 

Many people who come to the centre do so with the wish to hold one of the young pandas. Indeed it was way back when I first learnt of this place that this was my dream too. Seeing photos of people with the little cubs over the years it seemed like an amazing opportunity. But yet somewhere for us to hold a panda chengdu didn’t seem the right way to interact with these creatures. 

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However many come here and leave disappointed. In recent years the ability to hold a cub has been stopped and only available for those willing to pay around 2,000 Yuan, about £240! This needs to be paid in cash and reserved before, for that you get a timed two minutes with the cub.

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However the more I thought about it the more it just seemed wrong. These precious animals aren’t made for us to poke, kiss, cuddle and create like a cuddly toy or a commodity for us to pose with. They are critically endangered, sensitive and in need of the upmost protection. Having see the way in which many of the, mostly Chinese tourists, act around many of the Pandas. Shouting at them, screaming and crowding round. I worried for the well being of these animals and wonder really if holding them is such a great idea. I think I would like just to stand quietly and watch them doing their own thing in peace!

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How to get there and cost without the Chengdu panda tour

Getting here from Chengdu is easy as it is so close to the city.

Soon the subway will run all the way too with its own dedicated station.

For now the easiest way is to take Subway line number 3 to the Zoo. This should cost 3 Yuan one way.

The cross over to where all the buses are stationed and take the 198 or 198A for around 20mins. The driver should let you know when you are there. This costs 1 Yuan each way.

There really is no need to do the organised chengdu panda tour as it cost you at least double each and you get much less time to explore.

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Entrance to the park is 58 Yuan and half that for students, children and OAPs.

Opening hours: 07:30 to 18:00

Best time to visit: 09:00-10:00 in the morning for feeding and less crowds.

You also get there before the chengdu panda tour!

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Visiting the beautiful Pandas of Chengdu!

Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • Lara Dunning

    I’m with you on not paying to hold a panda.Viewing them in a natural environment is much better. I’m glad the price is high as that means less people will do it Sad to hear that some of the folks crowd around and shout at them. Not only does that seem bothersome to the animals, but the humans that are there too.

    • Yes I much prefer just to watch them in this area, the Chinese tourists really were too much and it really got me annoyed, I am not sure why they think they have to act like this!

  • Passports & Pigtails

    Agreed on the panda holding, and I am so glad you respected them with quiet watching eyes. What an incredible, dreamy experience, something like this is at the top of both of my daughters’ wish lists. I am glad to hear they are making strides, and hopefully the work can lead to them being brought from the brink of non existence.

    • Yes it is so much more rewarding to just watch them I think, I hope to be able to go back in maybe 10 or so years time and see them in the wild!

  • Arvin- Kohli

    What an amazing day, to spend it being with the Giant Pandas. I didnt even know Red Pandas existed till I read your post and actually saw the pictures. Also I agree on not holding the Pandas. Thanks for the info on how to get there!

    • Thanks, yes they are so cute to watch running around and so different to the lazy giant pandas!! ha ha!

  • Milijana

    OMG, they are so cute!! I can only imagine what’s the feeling of being so close to them in a natural environment! Btw, I have never heard before of Red Pandas. Tnx for spreading the info about them! 😀

    • Those red pandas were so funny, running all over and on the path!! So cute! It was so nice to just see them chilling out and being happy!

  • Sadie

    Love love love pandas! And good for you for not holding them. Before having my eyes opened to the real truth behind animal tourism, I would have wanted to hold one too, but like you said…they are not here for us to cuddle. We should be happy with seeing them peacefully in their natural setting.

    • Yes it was so nice to just watch them, they are endlessly entertaining it is so funny! To be honest a while ago I really did want to hold one of them but as time goes on and you look more into animal tourism you see how they exploit these animals.

  • Jem

    Ooh I love pandas. When I was in Thailand my student gave me a giant panda stuff toy and it was huge! I am so jealous of you guys. Love the photos too. I think it was the best decision that you didn’t hold them. You treated them with utmost respect. Thanks for sharing your experience, tips and tricks.

    • Thank you, they are just the cutest aren’t they!! We really fell in love with them too, it was pretty unreal to just watch them and their actions, so funny!

  • Kaylene Chadwell

    SO cute! I’d love to go there and visit the pandas! I remember going to the San Diego Zoo when I was kid and being mesmerized by the pandas. Love your photos!