I am the first to admit, I made a special detour to Chengdu just to visit the giant pandas. The facilities in Chengdu are the only locations in the world where you can hold a giant panda. The opportunity to see them up close and hold one was too much. I had to go!
I decided to visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Center. It’s located about a 40-minute drive outside the city, however this is not the only panda research base. There are two other options available in Chengdu.
Getting to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Center Center
Take a Taxi for Transportation
I recommend hiring a private tour or private taxi for your trip to the breeding center. If you arrive at the facility using public transportation (like a bus) you will risk arriving too late. The buses don’t really start to run until 8:30am, and arriving early is very important. Also, if possible, try to avoid weekends.
Pandas are the most active in the mornings. You will want to be there for feeding time around 9am. Arrive early because the crowds form about 30 minutes before feeding time to watch them race out for their breakfast.
The panda’s 2 favorite activities are eating and sleeping. If you arrive too late, it is likely they will defer to pastime #2 of sleeping. So get there early, you don’t want to miss it!
Sunshine Panda Nursery
Another reason to arrive early is to see the panda nursery before the crowds arrive. March to May and is the “love making” season for pandas, and that means autumn or winter are your best bets at seeing tiny newborns in the nursery. If there are newborns, prepare for large crowds with their faces will be pressed against the glass. I could have stayed for hours taking in the cuteness of these little tots!
Now, to the Juicy Details:
How to Hold a Panda in Chengdu
What to Expect
Panda holding is allowed two times a day, 10:30am and 2:30pm. Reservations are not required, but try to be at the Sunshine Panda Nursery around 10am and 2pm. Here you’ll sign up and pay the panda-holding fee.
You will receive a neck tag and return it when it’s your turn to hold the panda. When it is your turn, you will follow a staff member to watch a video on pandas and clean some bamboo. Then you’ll put on the required blue scrubs and plastic covers over your hands and shoes for sanitation purposes. The cuddle session is only about 2-5 minutes. But don’t worry, the staff will take photos of you with your little ball of fluff. 🙂
Be warned, it is not cheap to hold a panda. The prices are constantly rising, but expect to spend at least $320 USD. The best way to rationalize the cost is to think of it as a “donation”. The funds help preserve these animals that had been on the endangered species list for over a decade.
Payment is made in cash only, and there are no ATM’s on the facility.
Which Facility Should You Go To?
There are 3 panda facilities in Chengdu:
- Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
- Dujiangyan Panda Base
- Bifengxia Giant Panda Base
The most common and popular location for panda holding is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. However, this location’s panda holding program has been suspended.
At the time of writing, the Dujiangyan Panda Base (located about 1.5 hours outside of Chengdu) is the only facility that offers panda holding as well as the panda volunteer program.
A re-opening date of Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and the Difengxia Base is still TBA. But keep an eye on updated rules and requirements as they change often. Stay the most up to date by checking the China Highlights site and the Chengdu Panda Base site directly.
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