WILD PANDAS IN THE QUINLING MOUNTAINS

Giant Pandas are extremely rare, shy and elusive and it is a unique privilege
to see them in the wild. During our 2007 recci trip to the Quinling Mountains
we observed Pandas twice - stunning yet fleeting glimpses into their lives. We
have decided to run a photo tour into this area - extending the time frame of the
tour in order to provide an opportunity to capture them on camera. In order to
have any measure of success the tour members will need to be both committed
to wildlife photography and very physically fit to endure a sustained effort of
tracking for an extended time in steep mountainous conditions.
Having seen Giant Pandas it is easy to appreciate why they are the emblem of the
WWF. In addition to these iconic creatures we look for other rare wildlife such as
the beautiful Golden Monkey and Takin.
The research camp in the Quinling mountains has only very recently opened to
tourism, we hope that it assists conservation of the Pandas in the same way
tourism has succeeded in protecting populations of Mountain and Lowland Gorilla.

Day1: Arrive in Xi'an. Transfer Yangling. From the famous city of Xian we drive
south through villages and vast agricultural area. Night at Garden Hotel.

Day2: Drive to Yang County to the site of the very rare Crested Ibis.
We drive over a high mountain range with some narrow picturesque passes and
then down again into Yang County. Our objective is to see the rare endangered
Crested Ibis. This species of bird was once widespread through China and Japan
but went extinct everywhere except for one remaining colony in Yang County.
The colony roosts and breeds in a small clump of trees in the middle of an
agricultural area. It is now protected and we can watch as the birds come into
roost in the evening.
Night at Ibis Hotel.

Day 3: After seeing the Ibises leaving the nest in the morning, we drive
to Foping Nature Reserve and walk into the reserve in the afternoon.
The next day we drive to the headquarters of the Foping Panda Reserve in the
Qinling (pronounced She Ling) Mountains transferring to a 4x4 vehicle that takes
us to the top of the mountains and then walking 8km on a good concrete path
down a very picturesque valley to Sanguanmiao – the research station which is
our home base for the next few days. Luggage will be carried on horseback.
On the way down we look at for wildlife such as Surow (an antelope-like animal)
and Golden Pheasant.
This walk is magically scenic and we will be running a short landscape
photography workshop during this transit, which we’ll resume throughout the
duration of the tour.

Day 4-13: Sanguanmiao (pronounced “sung one miaow”) Research station
has until recently housed only scientific researchers and their staff but recently
opened up to accommodate tourists. It is situated on the side of a fast running
river from which they generate electricity – a recent development.
Although our rooms are basic and stark they are quite adequate with electric
lighting, 2 large beds, enamel basin on a stand and boiled water provided in a
thermos flask. Each room has a wood stove for heating.
We eat all our meals in the dining room next to the kitchen so the meals are
freshly cooked and made of locally grown products.

For the next few days we walk up into the mountains in various directions to look
for the animal specialties of the area. The guides choose a path for the day that
take might take us up some steep hills and we walk through various vegetation
types such as deciduous forest (Rhododendron), patches of tall thick bamboo and

pine trees. Depending on the time of year there may be snow on the slopes of the
mountain. Generally the guides go ahead of us and keep in radio contact calling
down for us to follow if they spot something of interest.
Besides Pandas we aim to see several other special animals of these mountains
including Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys, Pere David’s Squirrel, Flying Squirrels,
Surrow, Golden Takin, Musk Dear, Goral and various birds species including the
beautiful Golden Pheasant, Elliot’s Laughing Thrush, Black-throated Tits, Great
Tit, Vinous-breasted Parrotbill, Chinese Babax, Rufous-capped Babbler, Streak-
breasted Scimitar Babbler, White-capped River Chat, Orange-flanked Bluetail.

Day 14: On our final day we walk up the path to the top of the pass where we
are met by a vehicle, which takes us back to Xian. This will be a long drive but we
will be treated to a luxury international hotel at journeys end.

Day 14-16: Having spent the week experiencing rural China we now have the
opportunity to learn some of the rich history of the Chinese civilisation. The
city of Xian has its origins 1100 year BCE. It was an important trading, cultural
and political centre at various times of its long history and so there are many
extremely interesting sites to see in and around the city. During one of our days
here we take a tour to one of the most important and fascinating archaeological
sites in the world – the Museum that houses the Terracotta Warriors and
horses. We will also visit the wall around Xian, the Steele Forest, Big Wild
Goose Pagoda and the Grand Mosque.
Although the tour ends on the 16th day it is possible to stay a few days more and
further arrangements can be made accordingly but at the clients request and
expense.