The GoEco panda volunteer project is located in a nature reserve between wild forests and waterfalls – the landscape is astonishing and wild. The reserve is divided into several areas: the residential village (close to everything), the panda breeding center (where I worked) the research center, visitors center, cubs care center, and other treatment centers. The reserve is organized well and really fun, yet still a very natural habitat.
Living on the reserve was a fun experiment! It’s an old local village with local Chinese residents and of course, plenty of children. Staying in the village was an experience in itself. The basic conditions are part of the adventure, so it enhances the whole experience. You can go for walks in the park on breaks from the volunteer work. There are even waterfalls along the trails and places to hike.
I traveled and made friends with people from around the world. The people were amazing, from the organizers to the volunteers. I was very close with an American, a Swiss, and a Norwegian. Most of the time I traveled with a guy from Barcelona, that today is one of my best friends. This place has a very good atmosphere and there are lots of goodwill to help each other, the pandas, and the general success of the mission! There’s a lot of free time, so we would walk together, talk a lot, and go out at night. One day we decided to go to sleep in the town close by (Yan) and it was so much fun to break the routine to see another place and to go out with friends.
We wake up between seven and eight o’clock, have a Chinese breakfast (white rice and coffee!), then off to clean cages and feed the animals. Each pair receives a panda (I got my own) and cleans her cage leftovers and surprises she left for us during the night… The cleaning is fun and there’s a lot of laughing and taking pictures and singing and everyone works together.
At the end of the cleaning we call the pandas and feed them. My panda was called Shi-Shi. I fed her panda cookies every morning (made of soy and grains), apples, carrots, and tons of bamboo! Pandas are vegetarians and very friendly so I could feed her and touch her as long as I remained cautious.
We return home at noon for lunch (rice and noodles!) and we had 2 hours of free time, so I would go for a walk in the area or spend time with the other volunteers. You can sit around and have a drink and meet with villagers and children. We would return to work in the afternoon, cleaning and feeding, and then evening free time. We would watch movies or go out to a night club, our free time together was really awesome!
The reserve has about 200 pandas, some of which survived the earthquake a couple of years ago. During the volunteering we took care of giant pandas weighing 130 pounds!
A lot of the work is focused on breeding the mature pandas and re-releasing them to the wild. Alongside the big pandas live young pandas and even baby cubs.
This experience with the pandas will not be forgotten – they are just amazing creatures, we played with them like playing with a puppy or a baby. But you do have to maintain safety and to remember the words of warning, because at the end of the day, pandas are still bears!
Enjoy the video below!