When I decided to book a trip to China last year, seeing giant pandas was on my must do list, along with visiting the Great Wall!
So much so that despite reading a lot about China being super difficult to travel alone, I decided to forgo an organised tour so that I could tick both of those things off within the short time I had.
Disclaimer: China is not that difficult to travel around independently and it’s really safe for female travellers.
The majority of tours that I came across didn’t include Chengdu and the city doesn’t seem to be that high on the list for tourists. If you’re planning to travel around China, I’d highly recommend adding Chengdu to your itinerary.
And I mean, who doesn’t want to see giant pandas in their home country?! The city has so much more to offer too, but I’ll save that for another blog post.
Now, I’m not a fan of zoos and am very conscious about the ethics of animals for entertainment etc. but after carrying out substantial of research before my trip, it seemed to me that Chengdu Panda Base is ethical, and has a positive impact.
I generally don’t agree with keeping wild animals in captivity but felt that Chengdu’s base does a lot of work to help these beautiful animals by carrying out research and working to preserve pandas.
I still hold that belief after visiting the centre, and am all for the work the centre does to breed pandas and ensure that we don’t lose these amazing creatures.
In this post, I’ll cover a what the current situation is for pandas, what the base is trying to do to help and some practical information about visiting the centre. There are plenty of cute pictures too!
What’s the current situation?
Although giant pandas are no longer on the “Endangered list”, they are still classed as “Vulnerable” by WWF, with just over 1,800 left in the wild.
There are a number of reasons why there aren’t many pandas left in the world but the main driver is loss of habitat. Humans have cleared many bamboo forests, and pandas are unable to adapt to new habitats where there is no bamboo, as it is their only source of food.
They also have some trouble reproducing, and where a panda gives birth to twins, only one will survive in the wild, stacking the odds against them even further.
With that in mind, it seems like a degree of human intervention, especially when the species was classed as Endangered, was require to stop giant pandas dying out. That’s where research centres like the one in Chengdu come in.
How is the Chengdu Research Base of giant panda Breeding trying to help?
Chengdu Panda Base, as it’s known by its short, informal name, is a not for profit centre geared towards the research and breeding of Giant Pandas. It was established in 1987 and it’s goal is “to be a world-class research facility, conservation education centre, and international educational tourism destination”.
The base has essentially created a natural habitat for giant pandas and red pandas. I’m by no means an expert but I felt that the enclosures were large and well-maintained, with plenty of space for these beautiful creatures to roam (not that they like to move around much haha!).
They aim to encourage breeding and ensure the survival of both cubs when a panda gives birth to twins.
What’s the best time to visit?
You can visit the centre year-round but September is a good time in general to visit Chengdu (and most of China), plus you’ll likely see newborn pandas in nursery!
In terms of time of day, arrive at the centre as early as possible. The pandas are most active early on, and you’ll also miss some of the crowds that appear later on.
How do I get to the centre?
Hotels and hostels offer tours to the centre. I went with my hostel and we were essentially driven there, left to roam around and then driven back, which was ideal.
Visting the centre through your accommodation is very convenient, but it is also the most expensive option.
You can travel there via bus or metro, details below:
1. Take bus 87, 198, 198a, or 655 to Xiongmao Jidi ( Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding) Station.
2. Take bus 9, 18, 25, 32, 64, 64 Express, 70, 85, 87, 99, 146, 150, 156a, 156b, 166, 193, 527, 650, 1030 or 1035 and get off at Dong Wu Yuan (Chengdu Zoo) Bus Station. Then, change to bus 198 or 198a to the base.
3. Take bus 60 or 87, and get off at Longqing Road Shulong Crossing. Then, walk along the Xiongmao Avenue for about 15 minutes to the base.
Take Metro Line 3 and get off at Dong Wu Yuan Station. Get out from Exit B and then take bus 198 or 198a direct to the base.
Or you can take the same metro to Panda Avenue, and then take bus d025 to the base.
What should I expect when I visit?
There are several different enclosures to see, and each has facts about specific pandas, with quite a few funny and almost insulting lines included. Be sure to read them!
There’s also a room where you can view a video about the centre, which is really informative.
If you do visit when there are newborns, make sure you swing by the nursery. Swing by being the operative word- you really are only allowed a glimpse before being moved along by staff!
Be prepared for huge crowds, this is China after all. Although not as bad as in some other tourist sites in the country, I found that there was still a bit of pushing and shoving as people try to get the best views and photos.
Is there anything else I should know?
- Wear comfortable shoes- the centre was relatively hilly and there’s quite a lot of ground to cover once you’re inside.
- Photography is allowed but make sure the flash is turned off.
- The centre is open daily 7.30am to 6pm. As I said, be sure to to get there early; at opening time if possible.