If you go to China and you don’t see pandas, did you even go?
But while a lot of the major city zoos in China do have panda enclosures for you to see your favourite black and white fur-pals, if you want a truly incredible panda experience, Chengdu Research Base of Panda Breeding is where you need to be. The base is in the north-east of the city, and about a 20 minute (£5-6) taxi trip from the city centre – probably the easiest way to get there!
First things first (quite literally!), to get the best experience you need to arrive early – about 8am – as that’s when the pandas are most active, before the midday heat drives them indoors to sleep! Its often quieter then too, so its a win win.
As well as adult pandas, the base has a group of yearlings, which are really fun and cheeky, and love playing together, and two delivery houses: Sunshine and Moonlight. In the Sunshine Delivery House, you’re a pane of glass away from tiny newborns in their incubators, ranging from the teeny pink babies to those developing their fur. Its a walk-by set up, so you can’t just stand and look at them all day, but their asleep pretty much all the time so you’re not missing out on much action!
If you’re looking for adorable action, head over to the Moonlight Delivery House as this is where you can see the babies and mothers interacting together. I could have watched them for hours! This is best visited between about 9-10am; the keepers tend to clean out the indoor enclosures at this point but the cubs are still in there and they get really playful with the keepers! After the cleaning is over, the mummies are let back in and playtime continues until everyone’s so exhausted that its nap time again!
While the classic black and whites steal most of the attention, there are also red pandas living and breeding in Chengdu. The delivery house was closed during our visit due to the number of expecting mothers needing privacy, but we could still do the walk-through of the red panda forest; they can be pretty hard to spot but they’re so cute!
And if you too want to make like a panda and have a rest away from the heat of the day, there’s Panda Cafe! This cute little setup involves comfy sofas and stuffed toys, and serves a multitude of cold and hot drinks, including smoothies and milkshakes.
Adult entry to the centre is 58RMB, which is about £8 – a total bargain and worth every penny!