Location of Adventure
Group Size Limit
Approximately 12 Travelers
Small groups are the best way to experience nature travel, and this is especially true for our photographic adventures. With no more than 12 travelers, you’re assured plenty of space and personalized attention when you need it. As a small group, we maintain the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions in a way that maximizes the photo opportunities—we'll depart early in the morning to chase the best light, remain at a site of specific photographic interest to fully explore the potential, or move to a new destination when desired. Our expert naturalist and accomplished photographer is always available to answer your questions, provide tips and techniques, and to help you better understand and photograph this remarkable region of the world.
Specialized 4x4 Land Rovers and Land Cruisers
Our Private Leaders
Arrival and departure airport transfers (if you are staying at the Shangri-La Hotel), accommodations, land transportation, internal flights, meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on final day, drinking water throughout the trip and soft drinks at meals, local wine and beer at dinner, services of an NHA Expedition Leader and local guides, most gratuities, all permits, entrance fees and taxes.
Round-trip transportation to and from the start and end points of the trip (Chengdu, China), airport transfers if you are staying at a hotel other then the Shangri-La, passport and visa fees, optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, Internet, etc.), alcoholic beverages (other than those described above), some gratuities, airline baggage fees, required medical evacuation insurance and optional travel insurance.
In order to participate in this trip, you must be able to walk unassisted for a minimum of two miles over uneven terrain, as well as be active at altitudes exceeding 8,000 feet above sea level. Our itinerary involves daily walks or hikes of varied lengths over pavement, boardwalks and dirt forest trails that can be muddy, slippery and uneven with roots and rocks (note that all walks can be more difficult to navigate during inclement weather). Some activities involve walking up and down hills, including our visits to the panda bases and the golden monkey nature reserve. Our excursions in Jiuzhaigou National Park require climbing multiple sets of stairs, many without handrails. Some walking activities take place at altitudes over 8,000 feet, and we will drive across and stop on top of mountain passes that exceed 12,000 feet in elevation. The trip also involves many very early morning starts and long, full days of activities with little down time. Some drives between locations are long (5-6 hours or longer depending on local conditions) and occur on winding roads that are often somewhat rough.
Important Information About This Trip
China is typically known more for its history and culture than its nature. But we focus on natural treasures most visitors miss, including an in-depth experience with the pandas of Sichuan province and a remote, rarely visited wildlife reserve where wild giant pandas, as well as a host of other rare animals and birds, live and breed. Expedition Leader Brad Josephs, who helped create our itinerary, made this comment about it: “This itinerary trades time spent in polluted air, traffic, crowds and airports for beautiful, pristine mountain country. But we don’t always have 5-star restaurants or services, and English-speaking locals and hotel staff do not exist in many areas. Parts of the trip are more rustic, but the nature rewards are so worth it!”
That said, however, it's important to note that there is a fundamental difference between the wildlife photography experience in China and what you would experience on a typical African safari. Terrain here is heavily forested, and while wildlife abounds in natural areas, animals are not always easy to see or photograph. Many are expertly camouflaged or hidden within the vegetation, making them challenging to spot. To date, we have never seen a giant panda in the wild, as they are exceptionally elusive. But we have seen signs of them, including chewed bamboo and scat. Guests should not come to China expecting to see and photograph wild pandas, but it is exhilarating nonetheless to know we are in their midst. Weather can also affect wildlife sightings, and when it is inclement, animals may be more likely to take cover in the deep forest. However, our itinerary is carefully designed to capitalize on the very best opportunities to spot and photograph rare Chinese wildlife, maximizing your chances. Our seasoned Expedition Leaders and local guides are experts at locating wildlife—and we encourage our guests to understand that the privilege of stepping into a wild, untouched world inside China is a reward in itself.
We do have multiple opportunities to photograph giant pandas up close, though—a highlight of our trip. These encounters occur not in the wild, but at China's panda research bases where the pandas live within a constructed setting that contains or mimics elements of their natural habitat. While the environment is more zoo-like, it provides a rare chance for hours of observing many pandas at close range, a privilege very few people get to enjoy. It's a moving opportunity not available anywhere else but Sichuan.
Since the areas we travel to are remote and wild (that's why we go there!), we require that all guests have medical evacuation insurance for this program. If you decline the medical evacuation insurance coverage offered by Natural Habitat Adventures (NHA), we require that you send us documentation of the independent coverage you have selected. We recommend that your chosen independent insurance plan includes at least $250,000 in medical evacuation coverage. Please note that we will add the cost of NHA's medical evacuation policy (currently $48 per person) to your tour invoice until you provide our office with proof of coverage including your insurance company's name, phone number and your individual policy number. Thank you for understanding that our policy exists exclusively in the interest of our guests' safety.
To protect your investment and to provide peace of mind while you travel, we also strongly recommend purchasing comprehensive travel insurance. Plans may cover everything from medical treatment to trip cancellations and delays and lost luggage. Please contact our office if you would like more information about the medical evacuation and comprehensive travel insurance policies we offer by calling 800-543-8917.
Getting There & Getting Home
Arrive in Chengdu by 2 pm in order to participate in activities beginning at 5 pm, followed by a welcome dinner. You are free to depart Chengdu anytime on the final day. We can best serve you if our Natural Habitat Adventures Travel Desk makes your reservations, as our staff is intimately familiar with the special requirements of these programs and can arrange the most efficient travel. Please call us at 800-543-8917. Note that while we offer you the best possible rates available to us on airfare and additional nights' accommodations, you may find special web rates or better fares online.