Ever wanted to live alongside one of the world's most adored animals?
This is a unique chance to get up-close and personal to the precious Giant Panda in the remote Chinese wilderness. Life is rarely black and white… unless you're a Giant Panda on the brink of extinction. With an already low world population in decline there are certainly no grey areas in this panda project, so do your bit and ‘panda’ to their every need! Based in majestic surroundings at the foot of the Qingling Mountains, you'll also have the chance to work with other species indigenous to China such as the Golden Monkey, Red Panda and the sheep-like Takin.
- Spending time with Giant Pandas - wow!
- Experiencing China - a huge and mind blowing country
- Learning some Chinese. Not as difficult as you may think(!) and richly rewarding
What's not included
Day 1 – Saturday: Welcome to Xi’an (Airport code XIY)
Today you’ll fly into Xi’an airport and be collected by our local i to i team who will be waiting in the arrivals hall holding our logo!
You’ll be transferred to either our volunteer apartment or a local guesthouse (dependent on availability) in Xi’an centre, and it will take up to one hour to get there. This will be your home for the next two nights whilst you receive your orientation and you are in a great location to explore the city and see the sights of Xi’an!
Tonight though, you’ll most likely need a good night’s sleep, so this is your chance to relax!
Day 2 – Sunday: Orientation time!
Today you’ll be given an orientation at the volunteer apartment in Xi’an with all the other volunteers arriving the same day as you. There will be volunteers from all the other different projects that we have in Xi’an; so it’s a great way to meet more people and make more friends!
The orientation is a crucial part of settling in to life in China and will take you through what it’s going to be like at your project, do’s and don’ts, how to stay safe and it’s your prime opportunity to ask any burning questions that you haven’t yet had answered. After the orientation you’ll have some time to relax and prepare before being transferred to the Panda project tomorrow.
Day 3 – Monday: Transfer to Lou Guan Tai
This morning you’ll be packing up your bags and heading to Lou Guan Tai. The transfer will take around 1.5 hours. You’ll be driving through some amazing scenery, so make sure your camera is within easy reach!
You’ll be introduced to the project staff who will take you around the centre, show you to your room and give you time to unpack and get yourself acquainted with your new surroundings!
Depending on what time you arrive at the centre, you may start your activities today and you can work with the staff to decide what you can help the project with during the time that you are there.
Days 4 – 7 : Carry on at the project
The rest of the week will be spent getting settled in and finding your own routine as you learn to live like a local with your new friends and new lifestyle!
Days 8 - 9 (Saturday to Sunday): The weekend is here!
The next two days are yours to spend as you please! We’d be delighted to offer you the following ideas:
There are plenty of beautiful lakes and waterfalls in the vicinity that you can roam around and explore! There’s also nothing like mountain climbing whilst breathing in the fresh and clean air around you!
The region you'll be staying in is at the northern foot of Mount Zhongnan - 15 kilometers southeast of the seat of Zhouzhi County, Shaanxi Province. The area is backed by mountains and overlooks a beautiful river. The surrounding forests are very lush and are great for walking in and are full of Chinese pine, juniper trees and bamboo. There are temples near to the project too that you can visit.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery and fancy the hustle and bustle that only a city has to offer, there is very limited public transport into Xi’an. (You may also be able to ride with the project staff.) The sensational local sights of the terracotta warriors, Chinese Gardens, historic Muslim Quarter, City wall, bell tower and Pagodas await you! There will be internet access if you are looking to keep in touch with friends and famly back home. Please note that the cost of the transfer back to the city is not included.
The following weeks will be spent settling in at the project and helping out wherever you are needed- be prepared to get your clothes dirty at this project! You’ll spend time learning basic Mandarin, eating delicious local food at a nearby restaurant and falling into bed each night. This project is perfect for volunteers who are looking to live and work within a beautiful centre focused on the well-being of endangered species.
Your Last Day (Saturday)
On your last day of the project, you’ll make the journey back to Xi’an airport which takes around 2 hours. This is not covered in your project fee, so will be at your own cost, but our team are on hand to help you make any arrangements and to offer advice.
The transfer back by taxi to the airport costs approximately US$50 so please budget for this. There is a local bus that you can catch, which is cheaper. You can ask staff at the project about this when you get there if this option takes your fancy!
What does the project do?
At this project you will be working in a Chinese conservation centre that aims to preserve some of the world's most endangered species. These include: Giant Pandas, Golden Monkeys, the Crested Ibis, the Takin; which is a large sheep-like creature that lives only in China and Bhutan, as well as the Sika, which is similar in appearance to a deer. The Golden Monkeys and the crested Ibis are both indigenous to China.
The world's total population of wild Giant Pandas stands at about 1,000, which are mainly distributed in Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces of China. In Shaanxi, there are about 270 giant pandas living in the Panda Reservations.
What’s the project like?
You will be working in a very remote location, which is about 1.5 to 2 hours away from Xi'an city centre. The area is very rural so whilst you won’t be living amongst nightlife, restaurants and shops, you will be living amongst stunning scenery and within a serene, laid back lifestyle!
It is important to note that this project does not involve any hands on work with the pandas. You will be getting involved in feeding the pandas and cleaning their cages, you will also be in extremely close proximity to them with just with a sturdy cage separating you at all times from the pandas (for health and safety reasons).
You can also help the staff with their English, which is important so that they can attract more tourists and generate an increase in revenue at the centre, this can then pay for research and looking after the pandas. The project staff also want to improve and practice their English, so that they can attend international conferences about animal conservation.
There's a wide range of activities which you'll be able to choose from to ensure you get the most from your trip! Daily duties have been developed by previous volunteers working together with the staff at the centre and the in country coordinator to maximize your experience and learning opportunities. You will be able to specify which animals in particular you want to work with. Please note that the Pandas are kept in enclosures in the park with access to greenery, however the park is not a safari park.
Activities and schedule
Your help would be appreciated for 2-4 hours each day; the park is open between 8am and 6pm daily so you can work with the team when you arrive to devise a timetable and work plan. Your typical schedule is between Monday-Friday and the weekends are yours to spend as you please!
Project resources and advice
Having read through lots of volunteer feedback, we recommend you bringing the following items with you to the project:
A decent camera – you cannot take photos inside with a flash, so it is worth having a camera that can support good photos without a flash.
Please note that while you are welcome to take as many photos as you like for personal use, you will be asked to sign an agreement with the project not to use any photos or videos taken for commercial purposes, such as media.
The project will aim to provide any materials or equipment such as boots, gloves and overcoats.
Take old clothes that you don't mind getting dirty, comfy hiking shoes are essential. Bring a hat in the summer and thick jumpers for winter!
In order to protect the Pandas from any infections, the project has requested that you provide a medical note from your doctor when you arrive, confirming that you are fit and well and are not carrying any infectious diseases. Please send this into our office a month prior to your arrival and take it with you to the project. Please also note that as the pandas are ultimately released into the wild then human contact is kept to a minimum and you will not be able to hold them.
You will need a TOURIST visa for your trip to China. We ask that you do not mention “volunteering” as immigration departments often get confused and think you are receiving something in return. You have paid in full for your trip and therefore are travelling as s tourist. It is your responsibility to get the correct visa and we cannot offer any other invitation letters other than one for a “Tourist Visa”.
The communal lounge is large and has lots of wooden chairs, coffee table and computer desk. You will have shared use of a fridge, freezer, TV/DVD player, books (left by previous volunteers), PC, kettle, toaster, crockery, utensils and microwave oven. Lockers with keys are available in the lounge area and rooms are kept cool by a large portable fan.
The bathroom area consists of two basic showers with hot water, two western toilets and a sink.
There is a washing machine and powder is provided and an outdoor and indoor washing for drying. Towels have been left by previous volunteers and are available to use. Bedding and a pillow will be provided. There is a mosquito proof net at each doorway and each bedroom door has a lock and key. There are no hooks to hang personal mosquito nets, so we recommend that you do not bring your own.
WiFi is available throughout the building.
Please be aware that there are occasional power cuts to save energy which lasts for long periods. We highly recommend that you are prepared with torches, lanterns and battery operated fans.
The accommodation is on site in a semi secluded part of the park, which is approximately a 1.5 hour drive to Xi’an.
What to bring from home
You will have breaks during the day and your evenings will be free, so we do recommend that you bring books, playing cards, travel games etc to keep you occupied. There is a hot springs nearby, so we recommend that you also take a swimming costume.
What you get
What exactly do i to i Volunteering provide?
It may seem like a strange concept to pay for your volunteer experience. You'd be right if you think you shouldn't and the truth is you actually don't! Your placement is free; it's the benefits around it that you pay for. It's important to note that i to i Volunteering is a travel company and not a charity. We provide a professional travel service. We are responsible for finding and assessing worthwhile projects across the world, preparing you for the volunteering experience and supporting you whilst you're there.
Project sourcing and assessment
We work with hundreds of locally run partner projects around the world and are constantly sourcing new opportunities. We visit all projects to check that they are worthwhile and legitimate and we also conduct a thorough safety assessment before we'll send volunteers there.
Almost everyone who works for i to i Volunteering has traveled extensively or worked overseas. This means we're a goldmine of information; we're always available to offer support and guidance before, during and after your trip.
Thorough project briefing materials
Once you book on to a project you'll receive an online account that contains loads of general information about volunteering, about your chosen country and how to have fun and stay safe. We'll also give you advice on visas and inoculations.
It can be pretty daunting arriving in a different country for the first time - especially after a long flight! If you arrive on your project start date, there'll be a welcoming face at the airport to pick you up and take you to your accommodation.
Soon after you arrive you will attend a thorough orientation with our in-country team. This is to cover important safety and security information. You'll also get some tips about sight-seeing options for your time off and maybe even learn some of the local lingo!
Accommodation and meals
Accommodation is included with all projects and meals are even included with some. We only use locally-owned and operated accommodation so that part of your placement fee is filtering back into the local economy. Most projects offer homestay, guesthouse or shared volunteer houses as standard accommodation, but some offer the chance to upgrade to a more comfortable living standard.
Local in-country coordinators
Your in-country team will arrange a pick-up for you at the airport and will conduct your orientation upon arrival. All coordination teams are English speaking and are locals of your destination country. They won't be at your project every day, but will be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need them.
24/7 emergency support
Aside from the local support from your in-country team you'll be given access to a 24/7 emergency phone line manned by our response team in case any problem should arise while you're overseas. We also hire crisis management professionals to be on hand in case of a situation that requires additional expert support.
The safety and security of our volunteers is paramount. For this reason we provide ongoing crisis management and emergency response training to our local teams around the world. We also fly in our in-country coordinators to the UK regularly for thorough training to help them offer the best safety to the thousands of volunteers they support each year.
Supporting our projects
We don't fund our projects directly from the project fee that you pay us. Instead we choose to support a number of projects through our Helping Hands Foundation to provide resources to those projects that really need it.
Recruiting people like you
We make no secrets of the fact that part of your placement fee is reinvested in to recruiting volunteers just like you! The volunteers recruited in one week will typically deliver over 2000 man-days of service. The difference this makes to projects overseas is immeasurable. Many of our overseas projects rely on assistance from international volunteers, so it's necessary for us to put together brochures and websites to find the people who can support them. This recruitment process is vital to ensure programs have a constant stream of reliable volunteers.
Please note: You may be the only volunteer at your chosen project at any one time. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us.
What we will do after you've booked:
- Once booked on you will instantly receive a welcome email confirming your booking with access to your online account
- Community Development and Teaching customers will be requested to complete a police check (where relevant)
- We will contact you if we require anything else e.g. CV/resume for some projects, doctors note for medical conditions etc.
- We will prepare for your trip and you will receive all information required to prepare yourself in your online account
- We will ask you to complete personal information and pay your final balance if they are still due when required
- We are available for any questions you may have on email@example.com
What you need to do after booking your place with us:
- Book your flights
- Arrange suitable travel insurance
- Fill out your personal details through your online account
- Complete your police check if requested
- Make final payment at least 90 days before you go
- Make sure you have a visa for your trip if it's needed
- Visit a nurse or travel clinic for advice on inoculations and malaria prevention
- Read all details and prepare as much as you can for your trip
- Take contact details of the in country team and where you're going in your hand luggage - just in case!
- Get on the plane!
Flights & insurance
It's important that you get adequate travel insurance for your i to i Volunteering experience and as many of you will be working this often means standard policies won’t work. The good news is that no matter where you're coming from we have already found a policy to suit you.
The best time to get your insurance is when you book your project as this means you can get a fully tailored policy exclusive to i to i Volunteering, just ask your consultant for further details at the time of booking.
For prices, policies and key facts click here
As with insurance we advise you get these booked as early as possible to avoid high prices and to make sure you arrive on the right day. The i to i Volunteering team is right up to date with the best deals no matter where you’re flying from; their insider knowledge could save you some time and money.