than 2,000 pandas left in the world, roughly 300 of which live in captivity, it
is rare to get even a glimpse of the notoriously shy creatures. But every year,
a lucky few get the chance to feed, bathe and exercise the endangered animals
at the Research Base of Giant Panda
Breeding in Chengdu, China.
For a price
in the high six figures per person, the boutique tour
agency Remote Lands grants only a few guests each month private, day-long access
to an entire enclosure in the preserve, where as many as five pandas eat and
sleep. Once inside, staff members train the visitors on how to safely interact
with the animals. Since the adult pandas are strong and can be dangerous, the
guests feed them bamboo through the bars with long sticks. The pandas bite off
the hard outer part of the stalks and eat the soft fibres within.
is so low calorie, the pandas must eat almost constantly – which also means
that they can make quite the mess. As part of the experience, VIP guests also do
their fair share of hosing off the animals in the afternoon and cleaning the panda
“It is not
at all the same as a zoo,” said Remote Lands co-founder and CEO Catherine Heald,
who recently tried the experience for herself. “I was surprised at how large
the preserve is and how big the enclosures are.” And the animals need the
space; fully grown pandas can weigh up to 150kg and grow as tall as 1.8m.
preserve now has 111 pandas, a huge increase from its original population of
six in 1987. The research centre has been the world’s most successful at
breeding pandas in captivity, so the preserve also sees its fair share of cubs.
Visitors can hold and cuddle these cubs, since the babies are much less aggressive
and more playful than the adults.
As part of
the behind-the-scenes panda experience, a private guide shuttles guests around
the rest of the 260-acre preserve, which also houses red pandas, golden monkeys,
cranes and other rare birds.
the Remote Lands fee for a private driver and guide, the entire cost of the
experience goes back to the research base for the continued care and
preservation of captive and wild panda populations.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for pricing. Chengdu’s Research Base of Giant
Panda Breeding is open 8 am to 6 pm daily, and costs 58 Chinese yuan for
standard admission, which includes walking access to the park but no one-on-one
time with the pandas and cubs.