These shy animals hide in the remote, mountainous bamboo forests of central China. Giant pandas spend twelve hours a day eating and 99 per cent of their diet consists of bamboo. However, bamboo is not very nutritious and pandas only digest a fifth of what they eat. They must eat 12.5 kilograms (28 lbs) of bamboo (15% of their body weight) to stay healthy, so they eat fast – very fast! Pandas are solitary animals and have a highly developed sense of smell, which males use to avoid each other and find mates. Cubs are born blind and only weigh 142 grams (5 oz) – 1/900th of their mother’s weight. There are estimated to be only 1,000 giant pandas left in the wild and another 127 in captivity.

Crib Notes:

  • Pandas are good swimmers and will climb trees as tall as 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) to fill their insatiable appetites.
  • Pandas used to live in south and east China, Myanmar (Burma) and north Vietnam.
  • The Chinese word for giant panda is daxiongmao, which means ‘big bear-cat’.

Time of year: The weather in Sichuan province ranges from 3°C in winter (December to February) to 29°C in summer (June to August).

Destination: The Shangri-La Chengdu is located in the capital of China’s Sichuan province; a wealthy, bustling metropolis and the perfect base from which to explore the city and of course one of the last wild refuges of the famous panda. The hotel offers spacious guest rooms, suites and even serviced apartments for the more long-term visitor, and facilities ranging from a gym, tennis courts and pool to the luxurious ‘CHI’, the spa. Services include babysitting and child care and the hotel has repeatedly topped lists of best restaurants and hotels in China, most recently in 2012. The hotel was proud to announce its ‘Care for Panda Project’ late in 2012, supporting a 1.6-hectare bamboo plantation to ensure food security for the much-loved and endangered animal. From mid-2013, guests of the hotel will be able to arrange tours and activities in the centre; and in the meantime visitors to the area can embark on the many local tours that visit reserves dedicated to caring for the panda.

Price Guide: From 1,370CNY