China's expansive and unique geography is home to a distinct array of wildlife that is famous around the world. If one were to visit China without seeing some of its most iconic inhabitants, then some might argue the visit has been wasted.
Most famous for the rare and beloved Giant Panda, China is the only place to find many amazing animals.
For those who wish to find some of China's most iconic wildlife look no further than this guide, which will cover a few good places to connect with nature.
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Possibly the best and most accessible place to find Giant Pandas is the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Facility roughly 10 kilometers north of Chengdu. Everyone's favorite black and white bears inhabit just a small number of bamboo forests in the mountain ranges of the Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces.
If you find yourself in Chengdu, then most people would say that the nearby breeding and research facility makes a good day trip.
The Chengdu Panda Base was founded in 1987 with 6 pandas that were rescued from endangered habitats, but by 2008 it had seen 124 births, and the protected panda population skyrocketed to 83.
Today, the Panda Base is also a famous home to other beautiful wildlife like red pandas, swans, peacocks, butterflies, and many birds and insects.
In addition to animal sightseeing, visitors to the Research Base can find the Giant Panda Museum. The Giant Panda Museum teaches tourists about wildlife conservation and spreads awareness about other endangered or rare species in China.
Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant Valley
Located in the Southeastern Province of Yunnan, this elephant sanctuary is famous for being a great place to spot Asian elephants and other wildlife.
Roughly 300 Asian elephants occupy 914 acres of rain forest. Asian elephants are incredibly social creatures and often live in packs of 15 or more, so your odds of spotting a large group are high.
The elephants you'll find here are excellent swimmers. Elephants spend a lot of time near water and can swim fully submerged while their trunks are used as a snorkel above the water.
The elephant-performance school located near the sanctuary in Xishuangbanna is the first of its kind in China, and some elephants are known to salute people that pay them a visit.
The Jinghong Bus Station has convenient travel to Wild Elephant Valley for RMB 15-20 (roughly between $2 and $3 USD).
In addition to the two locations talked about above, there are a great number of other locations to see some of China's less well-known wildlife.
In Yunnan Province, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is best found with a hike in the Hengduan Mountains near the city of Lijiang.
Moreover, the ecological diversity of China can't be understated. Anyone who has been in the North of China near cities like Dunhuang and Urumqi can find desert wildlife abound including amazing camel trains. A far cry from rainforests and mountains!
While near Guilin in Guangxi, try to find some water buffalo or bison. Despite being used as farm animals, they are still fantastic to see. Some people recommend taking a guided bike tour through some local villages
When deciding where to go while in China big cities come to mind, and rightfully so. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, and Chengdu are full of people, history, food, and night life.
The wonderful thing about such a large country though, is that just hours outside of large cities you are able to find stunning wildlife that can't be found anywhere else. It may be worth your time to visit any one of the locations above, even if just for a day, to see what the landscape has to offer to you.
About the Author: Fletcher Calcagno
Fletcher Calcagno is an undergraduate at George Washington University where he is pursuing his degree in international relations and philosophy. In his free time he enjoys debating world affairs at GW's Parliamentary Debate Society.