At the Panda Research Base in Chengdu, China, the habitats are beautifully kept. The pandas sit, roll around and eat bamboo all day long. It's incredible to be able to be so close to them.
Years ago, you could pay to hold a panda at the research base. You paid your fee and dressed in disposable scrubs so as not to expose the panda to germs. The employees limited each panda to being held by around ten people. Then a new panda was brought out so that the pandas were not overtaxed. It became more and more expensive as they allowed fewer and fewer people to hold the pandas each day. They realized that people would pay almost anything so they could have fewer people hold the pandas, but make the same amount of money for their research and facility upkeep.
The increase in price did not stop me from paying the fee three times. I first held a panda when I went to China with my kids, paying the equivalent of $150 US for each of us. The next time I was in Chengdu, the price was about $220. The last time, I paid $300. I would have paid $500.
They have suspended the program to hold pandas at the Panda Research Base, but I understand that they still allow it at Dujiangyan Panda Base, about two hours from Chengdu. I have not been to that facility before, but I will check it out the next time I go to Sichuan Province.
Whether you hold a panda or not, the experience is surreal. There is something about seeing them in their natural habitat and knowing that these beautiful creatures would be extinct were it not for the extreme efforts of the people of Sichuan Province. Perhaps you will venture with Chow Fun Tours to visit the pandas with me!