Once we had completed the living with big cats program in South Africa, we asked ourselves “where to now?”, what animal or project could come close to working with teenage lions, elephants and wild cats? Well we didn’t know that volunteering in the incredibly beautiful region of Sichuan in China at Go Eco’s Giant Panda project would easily become one of our favourite projects to date.
Why Giant Pandas?
Okay lets put aside that Giant Panda’s are arguably one of the fluffiest and cutest animals on the planet. Agreed?
Besides being adorable, these animals are on the Red List of Threatened Species (by the World Conservation Union’s) with only 1600 left in the wild and 300 in zoos. In a Panda’s lifetime they may successfully only raise about 5-8 cubs which means that there is a very slow re-production rate for these endangered animals.
The Giant Panda Center
The China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) is located in Bifengxia and was established primarily as a breeding and research centre to ensure the survival of the highly endangered species. The centre has been very successful with the rise of the initial Panda’s at the centre going from 6 to over 70.
The centre is open to visitors so don’t be surprised if the odd tourist tries to snap a shot of you working with the Panda’s.
Volunteering With Panda’s: What To Expect
As of writing this review, about 18 months ago an unfortunate outbreak hit the Giant Panda Centre – changing the course of the program for future volunteers. All interaction with the animals including going inside the enclosures (with the Panda’s still inside them), or touching of the Panda’s is now gone which to be honest considerably lowered our expectations going in (for the better).
At some volunteer projects you may question why you are actually allowed to touch and cuddle the animals – they wouldn’t be touched in the wild so why can I now? With this in mind we believe you will enjoy your project way more and trust us, being able to get so close to a Panda and feeding them will instantly brighten your day.
From initially just thinking they are cute to instantly going on our top favourite animal list by the end of the week tells you all you need to know about why just being close to them (even though through an enclosure) is still worth making the trip to China to work with them.
If you plan to stay for just the one week then your daily tasks will start on the Wednesday allowing three full days of volunteering and working with the Giant Panda’s. Each and every morning consists of easily convincing the Panda’s to leave their giant open air enclosure to go inside and snack on some bamboo so you have access to clean up last nights mess. Once this is complete you then need to get the Panda’s back outside (once again very easy – thanks to their love of bamboo) so you can go into their inside enclosure to clean up the rest.
The main task at the centre is feeding and boy do Panda’s eat a lot – 4 times in total over the course of the day. So if you were worried about not seeing them enough, do not stress you will get plenty of opportunities to feed them and watch in awe as they gracefully take their food from your hands and sit on their bums to eat it.
Panda’s get a mixture of bamboo, carrots, apples, more bamboo (this time in the form of bamboo shoots) and some Panda bread (their favourite) which is provided to give extra nutrients.
Cleaning the Enclosures
Preparing the Bamboo
Preparing the Panda Bread
Feeding the Pandas
Upon arrival in Chengdu we received our weekly schedule which surprisingly included a day of exploring the region, trying local cuisines and going on hikes to temples and amongst the luscious rainforests of the Sichuan province. Most projects have either none or minimal area exploration included so this was a very pleasant start to our week.
Chengdu Sightseeing Tour
Tasting the Local Cuisine
Exploring the National Park
Dumpling Cooking Classes
Chinese Calligraphy Class
Organising Volunteering Abroad
If you are interested in volunteering abroad we feel the best way to do this is with an organisation that can set you up with a project of your choice. We teamed up with GoEco who help people that want to volunteer abroad do just that. You simply tell them what kind of volunteering you are interested in experiencing and what country you would like to travel to and they will help find you your perfect project.
If you are interested in the volunteer project we experienced check out the Giant Panda Center with GoEco.
The Giant Panda Project has easily become one of the best volunteer experiences we have ever done! Rather than just coming here to volunteer with animals we got a complete holiday package. A lot of volunteer projects can learn from this approach as for a lot of volunteers this is their vacation, this is their holiday time off and being able to experience and see the region should be just as important as the working aspect.
As always, we filmed our entire experience here at the project. If you want to see exactly what it’s like to volunteer with Giant Pandas in China you can watch our experience below.
Day 1: Trying Spicy Mouth Numbing Chinese Food
Day 2: How Does A Place Like This Exist?
Day 3: Volunteering With Giant Panda’s In China
Day 4: Does It Get Any Cuter?
Day 5: Adorable Baby Panda’s Rolling
You can book your volunteer experience in China for $750USD per person, per week.
Have you ever volunteered abroad? We would love to read about your experience below.
Thank you to Go Eco for allowing us to experience this incredible volunteer project in China. Our opinion is, as always, our own.
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