Here are a few Giant Panda sanctuaries where you can visit these iconic bears and support conservation efforts too.
There is no doubt that China is home to a good number of wonders that animal/travel lovers would be delighted to see. These include the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Terracotta warriors, and the iconic giant panda.
In fact, the giant panda has grown so much in popularity worldwide that it may be gradually replacing the dragon as the symbol of China.
However, natural disasters, unregulated development and widespread habitat destruction means there are just a little under 2,000 individual giant pandas left in the wild. But all is not lost as this species is gradually showing signs of recovery.
Wherever you live worldwide, you could actually get to see a giant panda near you. Though nothing beats seeing them in their natural habitat. To do that, you’ll have to head down to their native home in Sichuan Province, China. In addition, you’ll not only see them but you may have the opportunity to participate in some volunteer work while you’re there.
There are several outposts and research/breeding centers all located within the larger Sichuan area. Here are 5 of the most popular giant panda sanctuaries you can find there.
Top 5 Giant Panda Sanctuaries.
1) The Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (Chengdu Panda Base For Short).
This is likely the most popular giant panda destination for foreign travelers. This center specializes in raising and caring for baby pandas. Also, they have true-to-life exhibits, educational tours, interactive lectures, a museum, and a giant panda post office.
The museum is the only one in the world solely dedicated to this species and it showcases many fossils, and highly educational scientific displays. They also have books about the giant panda written by different authors over the years.
Definitely a must-see location for panda lovers.
Chengdu Panda Base is located on Futoushan Mountain in northern Chengdu, and it will take you just about 35 to 40 minutes by taxi to get there. It’s a chance to see these creatures in their element and also have an idea about the efforts the Chinese government is making towards conservation and breeding of these animals.
Total population of pandas there is 50.
2) Gengda Wolong Panda Center
This is another post within the larger Wolong Reserve Center and the newest panda center there. It’s located in southwest Wenchuan County, about 75 miles (121 km) west of Chengdu.
This facility replaces the original Wolong Panda Center that was devastated by a 2008 earthquake. It has a research center and captive breeding program. But most of all, the pandas are bred for reintroduction back into the wild.
Some of the main attractions include the photography sessions, hiking activities, and the volunteer program where you can experience first-hand what’s involved in taking care of these bears.
There were over 100 pandas prior to the earthquake but the population now is in the range of 30.
The Gengda Wolong Panda Center served as a refuge for pandas that survived the 2008 earthquake.
3) Dujiangyan Panda Base
Dujiangyan Panda Base is a smaller, recently-opened center with a focus on panda wilderness training. It’s quite close to Sichuan Province capital of Chengdu, thus it gets a lot of traffic from tourist because of easy accessibility.
Also, their Panda Keeper Program is quite popular and is even known as ‘the best babysitting gig in the world.’ You can get involved in every aspect of caring for the pandas there like: waking them up, feeding them, cleaning their enclosures, etc.
4) Bifengxia Giant Panda Base
The Bifengxia Giant Panda Base (or BFX) is the ‘heart and soul’ of Sichuan Province panda conservation efforts. This center is located just 90 miles from Chengdu, and is right inside a valley surrounded by beautiful waterfalls.
Bifengxia is the largest among all the outposts of the Wolong Nature Reserve and it became home to several giant pandas that were rescued from Wolong after the earthquake of 2008.
In addition, this giant panda sanctuary houses a panda kindergarten, so tourists can watch caretakers tending and feeding the panda cubs.
5) Fuzhou Giant Panda Research Center
This is one of the larger giant panda sanctuaries but unlike the ones above it’s not located in Sichuan. The Fuzhou Giant Panda Research Center (or Fuzhou Panda World), is located at the Damenshan Hill in Western Fuzhou.
This center combines scientific research on the pandas along with education and sight-seeing for visitors. Also, it’s listed as a national scientific education center for teenagers. Facilities you’ll find there include the Giant Panda Palace, Exhibition for bear families, a Giant Panda Museum, a Giant Panda Theatre, and the Menshan Butterfly Palace.
If you plan to visit any of these sanctuaries, note that Giant pandas prefer cooler weather therefore they will remain indoors more during summer months. Therefore, it’s better to schedule your visit for the cooler months for a better chance to see them outside.