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Trip details

14 Day Nature Photography in West China

14 Day Nature Photography in West China

Date: May to Oct

Price: Upon Request

Trip Focus: Photo+West China

Status: Open to Booking

Route: Chengdu-Wolong-Rilong-Maerkang-Hongyuan-Ruoergai-Jiuzhaigou-Tangjiahe-Chengdu

Trip Code: PH002

Overview

The Sichuan Basin is a fertile, subtropical expanse of low hills and plains completely encircled by mountains. With highland plateaus to the west and to the north, the Yunnan Plateau extends to the south, and to the east lie several hundred miles of middle-elevation hills cut by the eastward flowing Changjiang (Yangtze) River. The diverse landforms and typical subtropical climate prioritized Sichuan with abundant wildlife species and breath-taking landscapes. Deep in the forests of the Tibetan borderlands, a plethora of wildlife species live there including many of the endangered animals such as giant panda, Asian black bear, sika deer as well as many endemic precious wildlife like Sichuan Takin, Golden snub-nosed monkey and all kinds of fantastic alpine birds. It is truly a homeland of wildlife.

This confluence of various landscapes lives a mixture of minority groups. Tibetan, Qiang, Yi and Hui minority groups inhabit the mountain areas and high grassland for thousands of years. These nature residents respect the nature and wildlife as much as God, according to the local religion. The wildlife here are under great protection for generations. The nomadic lifestyle and tradition of the minority are definitely well-worth experiencing and recording with your camera.

In our western China photo tour, we will make a circle in the northwestern part of Sichuan starting from Chengdu. After a day tour in Chengdu, we will first visit the giant panda and discover its hometown Wolong. Then we venture north in the deep mountain of Qionglai to “Mount Balang” and “the four Sisters”. The twisty mountain roads will lead us to vast high grassland in Ruoergai followed by the fairyland “Jiuzhai Valley”. We will end up with wildlife safari in Wild Panda Nature Reserve tracking wildlife in the panda habitat. Along the way in our western China photo tour, we will experience different culture, track various endangered wildlife in the absolutely breath-taking nature scenery in Western China.

Highlights:
• Visit giant panda in the world panda research center;
• Explore some of the best nature destinations in Sichuan;
• Tracking endangered wildlife like golden snub-nosed monkey in the panda habitat;
• Bird watching on the wetland and grassland on the edge of Tibet Plateau

What make AbsolutePanda photography tour excellent?

•  Experienced local photography guides
Our China photography tours are exclusively led by local photographers who specialize in nature and wildlife shots. Our guides are personable and always ready to provide insight and assistance to help you get the perfect photo.

•  Relationship with the locals
For our trips, we ensure that group sizes never exceed 12 people. It is quite common for our tour groups to accommodate less than 6 people as to create an intimate travel experience that maximize your unique experience. Additionally, we want to give enough attention to each individual.

•  Intimate group size
For our trips, we ensure that group sizes never exceed 12 people. It is quite common for our tour groups to accommodate less than 6 people as to create an intimate travel experience that maximize your unique experience. Additionally, we want to give enough attention to each individual.

New born panda cub in 2015 in Chengdu Panda Base


Yusidong grassland in Wolong


The Mount "Four sisters"


Golden snub-nosed Monkey


a herd of Sichuan Takin in Wild Panda Nature Reserve

Jiuzhaigou
 

Dates & Price


Upon Request

Itinerary

Day 1 Chengdu
Day 2 Chengdu panda base/Wolong
Day 3 Wolong/Rilong
Day 4 Rilong/Maerkang/Hongyuan
Day 5 Hongyuan/Ruoergai/Tiebu
Day 6 Tiebu National Nature Reserve 
Day 7 Tiebu/Ruoergai
Day 8 Ruoergai/Jiuzhai Valley
Day 9 Jiuzhai Valley National Nature Reserve
Day 10 Jiuzhai Valley /Tangjiahe
Day 11-12 Tangjiahe
Day 13 Tangjiahe/Chengdu
Day 14 Depart from Chengdu 

Day 1 Chengdu;Meal: BLD
Upon your arrival in Chengdu, our local guide will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel accommodation to check-in. Once you are unpacked and settled in, we will begin touring the city. There are many additional options for the sightseeing in Chengdu. We could visit the historical streets and sites of Chengdu, the capital of Ancient Shu kingdom for thousands of years. Sichuan cuisine is among the top four Chinese cuisines, so a food tour will be definitely a highlight. Sichuan opera and the face changing show is also a must see that you don’t want to miss. The itinerary of the city tour will be arranged according to your arriving time and interest.  In the evening, we will prepare a welcoming dinner in the popular local Sichuanese restaurant. 
Overnight: Chengdu

Day 2 Chengdu panda base/Wolong;Meal: BLD
Another necessity for any traveler in Sichuan is a visit to a panda reserve. The Chengdu panda base is a breeding center that is known for housing the largest captive population of giant pandas in the world. In 2015, there were 13 panda cubs born including 6 pairs of twins. This facility will feature pandas ranging in age, allowing us to photograph these animals at each stage of their life cycle. Our panda expert is well-versed in both scientific facts and interesting stories about these animals. After the panda base, we will depart Chengdu and delve deeper into the panda’s wild habitat in Wolong.
Established in 1963, Wolong National Natural Reserve is the oldest and largest panda reserve in China. This facility alone houses more than 150 pandas; one tenth of the total population.  Wolong National Nature Reserve is by far the most notable of the 13 giant panda reserve centers established by the Chinese government with the help from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). During our visit, we will cooperate with panda experts who are dedicated to educating guests on these animals and the importance of their continued conservation.
Overnight: Wolong

Day 3 Wolong/Rilong;Meal: BLD
Today we will explore inside of the Wolong nature reserve in search of wild animals. While there are wild pandas in the reserve, it is far more likely that our group will spot various other species during our time tracking. Species that call Wolong home include a myriad of fabulous alpine birds’ species, macaques, takin as well as a variety of endangered alpine plants. Deep in the mountains, Wolong is very close to the Four Sisters holy mountain range. With a panoramic view often compared to the alps, this excursion is certain to offer some excellent photo opportunities.
Overnight: Rilong

Day 4 Rilong/Maerkang/Hongyuan;Meal: BLD
After departing from Rilong, our team will go north to the eastern Tibetan settlement of Maerkang. Here you group will have the opportunity to explore the colorful aesthetic of the local culture. Many photo-worthy sights can be found in Maerkang, highlighting the traditional architecture, dress and lifestyle of the local Kham Tibetans. Following our visit to Maerkang, we will board our transport once again and drive to the highland grasslands in Hongyuan. Hongyuan is famous for its wetland habitat, Moon Bay. This riparian plateau environment is host to hundreds of bird species. In addition, the local indigenous Tibetans belong to a specific group known as the Jiarong Tibetans. During our stay, your group will explore both the natural scenery in the grassland as well as visiting a nearby Jiarong Tibetan settlement to better understand the local way of life.
Overnight: Hongyuan

Day 5 Hongyuan/Ruoergai/Tiebu;Meal: BLD
Today’s activities will focus heavily on birding with our experienced photography guide. The vast grasslands and wetlands on the edge of Tibet Plateau has an abundance of various endemic birds for us to search for. A number of these species are also quite endangered such as the black-necked crane and golden eagle. Our bird expert is adept at spotting these birds and anticipating their location and behavior. Additionally, our guides have an extensive knowledge of the ecosystem and species found in these habitats and are happy to educate you or answer questions. After concluding our search for birds, we will continue farther north passing Ruoergai to the Tiebu national nature reserve.
Overnight: Tiebu 

Day 6 Tiebu National Nature Reserve;Meal: BLD
Tiebu nature reserve is famous worldwide for hosting wild populations of Sichuanese sika deer. This distinct subspecies of sika deer was first recorded in 1978 and has since been put under close protection from the Chinese government to ensure its survival. Sichuanese sika deer are considerably endangered and the remaining population is only roughly 1000 individuals in the wild. In addition, Tiebu is an excellent spot to find civets, serow, wolves and foxes. Once we arrive we will begin tracking animals in the reserve before returning to our accommodation in the park.
Overnight: Tiebu 

Day 7 Tiebu/Ruoergai;Meal: BLD
Departing from Tiebu, we will return to Ruoergai in the morning to explore the grassland. Ruoergai is home to a vast expanse of grassland sitting at an elevation of just under 4,000 meters. This habitat is teeming with life with dozens of birds inhabiting the plateau’s wetlands. In addition, Ruoergai is ideal for photographing grassland wildlife such as Tibetan wolves and foxes. Ruoergai is inhabited by the Amdo Tibetans, another distinct group. Amdo Tibetans typically lead a nomadic pastoralist lifestyle and have grazed herds of yak and horses on these grasslands for generations. We will have the chance to visit some nomad tents for a cultural exchange opportunity with some local Tibetans.
Overnight: Ruoergai

Day 8 Ruoergai/Jiuzhai Valley;Meal: BLD
Departing from Tiebu, we will return to Ruoergai in the morning to explore the grassland. Ruoergai is home to a vast expanse of grassland sitting at an elevation of just under 4,000 meters. This habitat is teeming with life with dozens of birds inhabiting the plateau’s wetlands. In addition, Ruoergai is ideal for photographing grassland wildlife such as Tibetan wolves and foxes. Ruoergai is inhabited by the Amdo Tibetans, another distinct group. Amdo Tibetans typically lead a nomadic pastoralist lifestyle and have grazed herds of yak and horses on these grasslands for generations. We will have the chance to visit some nomad tents for a cultural exchange opportunity with some local Tibetans.
Overnight: Jiuzhai Valley

Day 9 Jiuzhai Valley National Nature Reserve;Meal: BLD
Early in the morning, we will begin hiking into the Jiuzhai valley reserve in search of wildlife and natural settings to photograph. Covering 72,000 hectares of northern Sichuan Province, Jiuzhai valley reaches a height of more than 4,800 meters. This wide range of habitats has encouraged the development of a diverse series of forest ecosystems. The reserve features roughly 220 bird species as well as a number of endangered mammal and plant species. Some of these species include giant pandas, golden snub-nosed monkeys, Sichuanese takins and a variety of rare orchids and rhododendrons. Its superb landscapes are particularly interesting for their series of narrow conical karst landforms and spectacular waterfalls.
Overnight: Jiuzhai Valley

Day 10 Jiuzhai Valley /Wild Panda Nature Researve;Meal: BLD
Leaving Jiuzhai Valley, we will drive to another nature reserve in the morning. Established in 1978, this reserve covers an area of 40,000 hectares. It is dedicated to the protection of giant pandas and the plethora of other native species that share the panda’s habitat. Wild pandas are spotted frequently in the area of 1,700-3,000 meters in altitude, where preferable food sources such as arrow bamboo are found in abundance. This reserve is accredited by WWF as a “Class-A” nature reserve and the reserves frequently hosts researchers who come to study the pristine ecosystem. After our afternoon arrival, we will begin our search for wildlife.
Overnight: Hotel near the reserve

Day 11-12 Wild Panda Nature Researve;Meal: BLD
For two days, we will continue our search for wildlife living in the mountainous temperate forests of the reserve. With an elevation of 1150m to 3837m and a sub-tropical monsoon climate, the reserve is rich in its diversity of lifeforms and features a picturesque natural scenery. Overall, 430 kinds of vertebrates call this reserve home, 72 of which are state-level protected species and 13 are listed as first-class protected species (i.e.  giant pandas, golden snub-nosed monkeys and takins.) According to recent surveying, the reserve has roughly 60 giant pandas, more than 1000 golden monkeys and over 1200 takin.
Overnight: Hotel near the reserve

Day 13 Wild Panda Nature Reserve/Chengdu;Meal: BLD
On our final day at the nature reserve, our group will depart and begin our drive back to Chengdu.

Overnight: Chengdu

Day 14 Depart from Chengdu
Our team will escort you to the international airport in Chengdu in a timely manner to ensure you make your flight. This concludes the scheduled itinerary with AbsolutePanda.
We can customize this trip so as to better meet your timing, budget and interests or arrange a private extension to explore China as you wish. Please contact us for more information.

 

Map

Accommodation



Chengdu
Wolong
Rilong
Hongyuan
Tiebu
Ruoergai
Jiuzhai Valley
Tangjiahe
Chengdu
 

FAQ



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Testimonial



“Highlight of my 2-month stay in China - I know whom to thank!”
 
I was on a business trip in Chengdu and wanted to explore the surrounding areas a bit. I was so lucky to find Philip and Absolute Panda! Philip is responsive, knowledgeable and super helpful. I told him a few places I'd really love to see (panda bears + the Dujiangyan irrigation project) and he arranged a great one day trip for me. In the morning we visited the Panda Breeding Center and I still treasure every moment of it. He made sure we arrived early so we got to see the pandas at their most active and playful (before it gets too hot for them). Philip also helped me secure a spot at the Panda Interaction Center (?) to ensure I was one of the lucky few on that day to be able to hold a baby panda bear. The "donation" cost a bit more than $200 but I think it's totally worth it. Without Philip it would have been very difficult for me to navigate through the center, and I absolutely couldn't have been able to find the Interaction Center (not very well marked as another reviewer mentioned) myself! In the afternoon we visited the Dujiangyan irrigation project, which is very impressive as well. It's amazing that it was designed and built more than two thousand years ago and is still functioning well. It is not as famous as the Great Wall, but its impact certainly far outweighed that of the Wall. Philip is also an accomplished photographer and brought along his professional grade camera. He took many pictures that day and kindly offered to have all pictures downloaded to my PC...It was a fantastic day. I would recommend Absolute Panda to everyone!!!
---Matt Y from US
 
“Qinling Mountain village/birding trek”
 
 My husband and I wanted to visit a specific, remote region of the Qinling Mountains, hiking, birding and exploring traditional villages. We contacted Absolute Panda and received an immediate, enthusiastic response from Philip, our guide and the founder of the company. Right away, he asked several questions about our priorities and our abilities, and promised to cater a trip within our budget. Over the course of several months, he was in touch often, updating us on his research of the area, asking questions about preferences, and alerting us to possible inconveniences along the way (such as there being no toilet facilities, permit restrictions, etc.). It was very clear that he wanted this trip to be the best for us that it could be.

And it was! From the moment we arrived at the airport, Philip was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He scouted the area before we arrived and established relationships with villagers that made all the difference. For a week, he showed us a region that few foreigners have seen and was so attuned to our experience, that he made several adjustments without us even having to ask. In this way, within a day, he was able to perceive the balance of hiking and birding that we preferred. He was also very cautious as a baseline, but willing to be adventurous when we wanted to be. He dealt easily and effectively with the inevitable quarrelsome officials, and was a tireless, wonderful translator as we weaved our way from village to village, asking questions and sharing meals with villagers.
 What really makes Philip and Absolute Panda stand apart from other great tour services, is their perception of travelers’ needs and flexibility. Philip could tell from early on that my husband and I were very adventurous and willing to stray from the detailed itinerary he had sent beforehand if unique opportunities arose. In this way, he suggested small alterations, such as a visit to a local sorghum vinegar factory and an evening making dumplings with a village family, that proved to be highlights of the trip. And I know that if we were the type of people who wanted to stick strictly with the itinerary, he would have done so, happily.

 Philip certainly knows his birds, and moves so easily between the roles of birding expert, hiking guide, translator and trip manager. He was an equally wonderful guide to the city, showing us X’ian for a day and even treating us to a blind massage in the Muslim Quarter after days of roughing it in the mountains. All the staff he hired along the way (drivers, hosts, local guides) were competent, lovely people, all of whom we remember fondly. Four months after our trip, we still miss Philip, as a guide and friend, and are hoping to take another trip with him soon. We know that wherever we choose, he’ll make it fantastic.
---Zuma Z from US

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