We went to Chengdu to see pandas, and we were not disappointed. We went crazy taking panda pictures. The pandas were one of the highlights of our China trip.
The Chengdu Panda Base has excellent outdoor displays of pandas grouped by age. Each age group has its own behaviors.
The first group was adult pandas. Pandas eat only one kind of bamboo that provides little nutrition, so the adults eat and sleep alot.
A panda walking from one spot to the next.
Next were the babies, born in the spring. They can barely nudge themselves along. But some babies eventually move off the platform and are returned to the pile. You can see the size of a baby panda compared to a person.
Here’s a panda mother and child. The mother stays on the platform. The child climbs the platform and gets on the mother. The mother gently nudges the child off the platform, and the child climbs up again. We watched this cycle at least a half dozen times.
The teenagers are the most active group. Volunteers feed the pandas apples on a stick.
The pandas are adorable and extremely popular. Our guide has an repeat customer who returns from America every year to see the pandas with our guide. Visitors who pay $150 can hold a baby panda; another tour group had a member who did that. China leases pandas to foreign zoos for $1M a year. The zoos probably make money by advertising the pandas and drawing more visitors. The leased pandas and any offspring are returned to China when the lease expires, maintaining the Chinese monopoly and brand.
The Chengdu Panda Base is an excellent, large facility. Visitors are spread across several displays of pandas grouped by age, with lots of railings for people to watch. We visited in the morning, when the pandas are eating. The crowds were manageable — we were always able to get a spot on the railing without waiting too long.
We’ve been asked whether a tourist who wants to see pandas should go to Chengdu or see pandas in a zoo in another city. Ask about the pandas in the zoos. If zoos have only adult pandas, you’d miss out on the other age groups and their behaviors. Chengdu and Lhasa were our two favorite places on our China trip, so we’re happy we went to Chengdu.
You’ll take lots of pictures so be sure to have disk space and battery power for your camera. Bring a telephoto lens if you have one.