Rustic Pathways has developed a long-term partnership with the Bi Feng Xia Conservation Centre in Ya’an in order to provide support for their Giant Panda breeding and conservation program.
Panda Conservation: Volunteer at a renowned panda conservation centre based in Chendu and work alongside researchers to help care for the pandas. Monitor their behaviour, prepare food, feed the pandas, and clean up their living spaces.
Education and Cultural Exploration
Discover the striking contrast between the urban modernity of bustling Beijing and the quietude and tranquillity of the rural countryside as you walk along the Great Wall and marvel at the majestic limestone karst of China’s southern countryside. Learn about China’s shifting position on the world stage and soak up the ancient culture. Study Mandarin with university professors or care for pandas at one of the most progressive panda centres in the world. You may like to incorporate some of the following experiences into your Journey:
Luding Bridge: This bridge was built during the 18th century under Qing Dynasty, and was the site of a famous battle between the Chinese Red Army and the Kuomintang during China’s civil war in the 1930s.
Forbidden City: Being the home of the royal family from the Qing Dynasty, this infamous cultural site is a great sneak peak into Chinese history.
Terracotta Warriors: Located in Xi’an, these individually produced statues were made to protect the village with an army of clay and are still being uncovered even today. Catch a glimpse of the active archaeological dig site here, learn about the unique history of the community, and marvel at how incredible it is that these statues have been able to survive.
Tiananmen Square: As you are led around the biggest square in China, your local guides will give a wonderful insight into this legendary political, cultural and historical site of Beijing.
Language Immersion: Based at a university in Shanghai, you’ll experience the student lifestyle and learn from native Mandarin speakers. Designed for all levels of Mandarin speakers, you can choose between private tutoring or group instruction.
Adventure and Challenge
Adventure and challenge is inherent to every Journey, however,
if you are looking to physically challenge your students through a specific activity, you may opt to include:
Mountains & Glaciers: Trek across the Hailuogou Glacier and spot Tibetan Macaques as you hike up Mt. Emei (UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Leshan Giant Buddha: At 230ft tall, this is the largest Buddha sculpture in the world. Hike from shoulder to shoulder and take a boat ride to explore this giant from all angles.
The Great Wall Experience: Trek up and toboggan down the infamous Great Wall of China.
Kung Fu, Calligraphy & Tai Chi: Learn these uniquely Chinese cultural practices from locals in Beijing.
There are various accommodation options that we can offer in China.
Hotels: A variety of 3, 4 & 5 star hotels in cities and towns.
Guesthouses: Rustic Pathways uses this accommodation style in some of our smaller towns we visit.
Day 1 Beijing
Arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport, where your program leaders will be waiting for you. Catch a chartered bus through downtown.
Take in your first glimpses of China as you’re carried through the streets, especially Beijing’s distinctive old-meets-new architectural character. This multicultural metropolis is home to some 20 million people – one of the largest cities in the world. While Mandarin Chinese is the official national language here, nearly 300 other distinct languages are also spoken throughout the country’s 23 provinces. Welcome to China!
Day 2 Beijing to Dujiangyan
Rise early, grab your bags and catch a short flight to Chengdu. Welcome to Southwest China! Hop on a private bus that will take you to the Wolong Conservation and Education Center in Dujiangyan, less than two hours away.
Once you arrive, you’ll check into your guesthouse and enjoy a traditional Chinese lunch. Meals here are served family style, so each day you’ll get to sample different Chinese dishes. This evening, we will head into Dujiangyan to explore the town and see the beautiful squares lit up at night.
Days 3 – 5
On the first day, we head over to the conservation center for an introduction and quick orientation–It’s time to meet the pandas! Your guides will tour you around the facility, which is home to 50 to 70 pandas (depending on the time of the year). You will learn the background of this project and the goals of the conservation center. You’ll be fitted for your panda volunteer uniform and assigned to the pandas that you’ll be working with over the next four days.
The daily itinerary at the Panda Conservation will be divided between direct interaction with the pandas and spending time with your group learning about general conservation topics, participating in in-depth discussions regarding the panda breeding program, and performing behavioral observations to learn how scientists conduct research at centers like this one.
While the daily and weekly itinerary will vary based on weather and other factors, you will usually enjoy a Chinese-style breakfast at your guesthouse (fruit, oatmeal, steamed bread, noodles, fried rice, or toast and jam). Your staff members will go over the day’s schedule and divide you into groups of three or four with the other students on your trip. Each group will be paired with specific pandas and researchers for your morning service work. A typical schedule might look like this:
8:30-10 a.m. Clean the indoor and outdoor facilities that your group is assigned to, including sweeping up poop and/or bamboo leaves, picking up any uneaten bamboo stalks, and mopping the indoor facility.
10-11 a.m. Read an article about conservation and participate in a group discussion on the topic.
11-11:30 a.m. Prepare and weigh food provisions and feed your pandas.
11:30-1:30 p.m. Take a lunch break at the restaurant, rest, and play some local games like mahjong, dou di zhu, and ping pong. You’ll be introduced to the intricacies of mahjong strategy and how to play your cards right in dou di zhu (which translates to “fight the landlord”). Spend time getting to know your traveling companions and trip leaders during lunch each day.
1:30-2 p.m. Prepare and weigh food provisions and feed your pandas.
2-3:30 p.m. Perform behavior observations on the panda of your choice.
3:30-4 p.m. Prepare and weigh food provisions and feed your pandas.
Your evening activities will differ every night, but depending on the weather and time of day. You may take a walk through the Dujiangyan National Forest Park to marvel at the unique flora and fauna of the area; explore the big city feel of Dujiangyan and enjoy some traditional Sichuan hotpot; visit Jiezi Old Town for some souvenir shopping; spend a relaxing evening by the river; or learn how to make classic Chinese dumplings!
On the last day, you will return your volunteer uniform and badge as you prepare to say goodbye to your new friends at the conservation center. You will then have the the opportunity of a lifetime and be able to sit next to and hug a giant panda!!!
**This is an additional cost and not required but keep in mind that there are only two places in the world where this is possible, so you will have a truly unique chance to capture your love and adoration for the panda in this photo opportunity.
We will start the day hiking and enjoying Mount Qingcheng Park, which is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous Taoist mountains in China. Enjoy the overlook of the area you have called home for the past week. After lunch we will head to Yingxiu to learn about the earthquake that damaged the Sichuan Province in 2008. We will spend the night in Wolong, an area famous for being the natural habitat for Wild Pandas.
In the morning, we head toward Four Girls Mountain. Along the way, listen to the Chinese tale of how the mountain got its name and how pandas acquired their black eyes. Once you arrive, you’ll head to the national park that was founded in 1994. It is home to a diverse number of animals, many of them protected or endangered. The jaw dropping scenery is sure to be a treat as you hike around the different areas of the park. then head home for a good night’s rest after a full day of outdoor adventure.
It will take us all morning to head through mountains and valleys towards Danba Jiaju Tibetan Village. Once you reach Danba, you’ll meet your Tibetan homestay family. The drive will seem well worth your time when you see the beautiful mountains and hidden pagodas.
After breakfast, we have the day to relax and truly get to know Danba. There are beautiful walks around the homestay to enjoy and the locals are always excited to have foreigners come see their small village. In the evening, you will enjoy a large BBQ and learn some traditional Tibetan dances.
Hop on the bus to continue your journey to Ya’an. On the way, we will stop in Luding City to view the Luding bridge – a suspension bridge built over the Dadu River during the Qing Dynasty. The Luding bridge,a historical landmark, was an important strategic location for the Red Army during the “Long March” of 1935.
Today, you’ll head back to Chengdu for a bit of sightseeing in town. Stroll through the People’s Park, a central area in Chengdu known for its warm and friendly inhabitants who welcome you to take part in their activities! Grab a partner and join the traditional Chinese dances or the more modern group dances to the sounds of Michael Jackson! You may bump into locals playing badminton, practicing Tai Chi, or calligraphers writing beautiful characters on the ground with nothing more than a brush and water.
In the evening, you’re in for a treat – attend a traditional Sichuan-style opera. No visit to Sichuan would be complete without a trip to the opera! This isn’t what you’d consider an opera in the Western sense. It’s part acrobatic show, part comedic relief, modern and traditional dance performances, and Chinese music all blended together in a wonderful artistic performance.
After breakfast, enjoy your last morning in the Sichuan Province before heading back to Beijing. Once in Beijing, you will be able to explore the local hutongs to shop for souvenirs before enjoying a Peking Duck dinner.
Get up early and head to a remote section of the Great Wall- away from the tourists and the cities. Enjoy hiking along this picturesque section of the Great Wall and your final evening in a local guesthouse.
After enjoying a last morning in China, you’ll head to the airport and say goodbye to your awesome program leaders before you board the plane home! We hope you enjoyed your two weeks in wild China!
Please chat to us if you have any special requests that you would like included in your Journey. There is nothing too big, small, or out-of-the-box that we can’t handle.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to start designing your Journey! We would be delighted to partner with your school to support the global education of your students.