Holly and I are both big animal lovers and when we travel, we always try and find some unique thing we can do with wildlife. As I was researching China, doing something with Pandas was extremely high on my list of things to do. Through my research, I somehow stumbled upon the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (and subsequently saw Samantha Brown’s episode about it on the Travel Channel here), which is basically a good sized zoo of nothing but Giant Pandas and Red Pandas. You get the opportunity to see these really cool animals in almost every stage of growth; from newborns to elders.
Now, I realize you can go to lots of zoos in America and see Giant Pandas and Red Pandas… but what you can’t do… is touch one. :) Turns out that at the research center they have a program called the International Intern Program that you can sign up for and devote as little as a day to as long as a month of your time to lend a hand in caring for the pandas. You get to clean their cages (yeah, I know… totally worth it though), make their food, FEED them their food (totally awesome… and totally forgot about the cleaning part), and yes… you get the opportunity to pet one. Some people even get to hold them, but unfortunately the younger ones that they let you do that with weren’t feeling so well the day we were there. You get what amounts to a behind the scenes look at how the pandas live and you get to interact with them in a way that is just amazing.
I of course had my camera with me the whole time to take lots of pictures of the pandas (yes, I’ve got 100s), and this one was on of my favorites.