Some of us travel for adventure, for culture, for the opportunity to meet new people.
And some of us travel to all the cute animals.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the adventure, the culture, and most people, most of the time. But I must admit that I have planned a lot of trips where my sole purpose was to spy some unique and adorable animals.
One of those trips took me to the Giant Panda Research & Breeding Center in Chengdu, China, better known as the motherland for the panda freaks the world. It was there that I gave my own baby panda cuddle for approximately 60 seconds. The baby panda was completely un-phased. I was over-the-moon.
We love giant Pandas because they are so cute, so seemingly hug? Or do we love them because we have learned they are rare and special. The giant panda only lives in a few mountain ranges in central China, and there are very few of them in the wild. They are rare and special, the diamonds of the animal kingdom.
The truth must be told, there is not even so much in captivity. The most of any zoo worth its entrance has a lion, a tiger and a bear, but only a select few can call themselves home to the giant panda. Even less reserves and zoos have the ever-elusive baby panda.
These are the places that you must visit to get up close and personal with the world handful of cute baby pandas.
The Giant Panda Research & Breeding Center In Chengdu, China
Xinhua News Agency via AP Images
This is the ultimate bucket list trip for anyone who can’t get enough of baby panda s.De Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is open to the public since 1987 and has since then been entrusted with the study and protection of giant Pandas. While here you can find the dozens of baby pandas interact with each other. You can also call ahead to reserve a slot to cuddle a baby panda.
The National Zoo in Washington, D. C.
The home of the “Panda Cam,” also known as the “biggest drain on productivity since Seinfeld reruns began on the cable”, the National Zoo currently has two baby giant panda Bao Bao, born in 2013 and Bei Bei, who is so brand new that the Panda House is closed, so that mama panda Mei Xiang for the care of the cub. No worries. Bao Bao is more than enough little panda to get the crowd excited and you can always spy Bei Bei on the Panda Cam until the new baby is revealed to the public later in 2016.
The San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California
The San Diego Zoo/AP
Xiao Liwu, panda baby, born in 2012 to just 3 last July. The zoo celebrated by giving him a big ice cream cake because apparently pandas are part of the ice cream over butter frosting. Although Xiao Liwu is now technically a young, he still has that sweet baby face.
Bifengxia Panda Base, Ya’an, Sichuan, China
This panda breeding center offers you the opportunity to do volunteer work with the panda keepers, or take a tour. The reserve is about an hour by bus outside of Chengdu, but the scenery is much more spectacular than what you see closer to the city and provided with two V-shaped gorges with a stunning view over the valleys and waterfalls of the giant Pandas once called home.
Dujiangyan Panda Base, Dujiangyan, China
Want to spend as much one-on-one panda time possible? Then this is where you want to go. It is much quieter and receives fewer visitors than the more popular Bifengxia Panda Base and Breeding Center, so that visitors and volunteers get a lot more time to spend with the pandas.
Viator offers a number of great packages that allow visitors to “volunteer for a day with giant pandas on a private tour at the Dujiangyan Giant Panda Centre. Help record panda behavior, clean enclosures and prepare food with a professional animal keeper as you get close to China’s beloved black and white bears.”
The Zoo Of Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
When Atlanta resident Lun Lun gave birth to panda twins in 2013 it was really a big deal. Baby panda births may be rare, but the twin is really something out of the ordinary.
Last year the babies, Mei Lun and Mei Huan were weaned from Lun Lun. They now live together in a different environment, is equipped with an indoor day room, an outdoor swimming pool and a play area. They are usually only on exhibition until about 3 hours, so if you want to see them play, try to head there early.
The Toronto Zoo, Toronto, Canada
On 13 October 2015, the Toronto Zoo announced the birth of two giant panda cubs! Giant Panda mothers often reject a twin. Thus, in order to ensure that each of the cubs has been well cared for, the zoo keepers are the switching of the twins in and out with mama.
These cuties are still very, very small, so do not expect that they on display until late Spring of 2016.
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