project review

Panda personalities, chopstick expertise and impassable mountain roads!

Review submitted by Sian Owens
Review date 8 Apr 2017

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My boyfriend Andy and I went to the panda breeding centre in August 2010 and it was an absolutely incredible experience. I completely recommend it for people who are passionate about pandas and/or conservation, want to experience a new culture and want to meet people from all over the world.

When were arrived in Chengdu, we met our co-ordinator who was lovely and we were introduced to Chinese food and given a tour of Chengdu which was interesting. This gave us a couple of days to get our bearings and then we were taken to the panda base which was to be our home for the next four weeks. The accommodation is basic but completely fine and you get fed three meals a day which mostly consist of rice! But you get plenty of practice with using chopsticks and by the time you leave, you will be an expert at using them!

Life at the panda base was brilliant – there is quite a lot of work to do but you also get a lot of free time to spend exploring the base, walking around the local area and spending time with the staff and the other volunteers. The work consists mostly of cleaning out the panda cages first thing in the morning (work starts at 8am) and then various feedings throughout the day. You may clean some cages out more than once in a day but it depends. During the four weeks, we also cut and moved bamboo, helped with the transferring of baby pandas and were in charge of preparing the food for the pandas. Apart from the volunteers, you come across very few Western people at the panda base so when Western tourists do come, it is likely that you will be used to help with showing people round and telling them all about the pandas and the panda base.

Working with pandas is amazing. We worked with the same few pandas for the four weeks and you really get to know the pandas you are with and their personalities – they are all different and have their own unique characters. They are wonderful animals to spend time with and over the four weeks you will learn so much about them.

We had a bit of drama on our trip when the weather turned nasty! The base is very remote, up in the mountains and there is only one road connecting it to the nearest town. Some torrential rain storms caused the mountain road to collapse and it was impassable for about 3 days. For this time, the park was closed and no-one could leave but we had our accommodation and food so we were fine!

After four weeks at the panda base we were very sad to leave and already cannot wait to go back. It was an amazing experience and I would really recommend it.

Read more about the China Panda Breeding Centre.