Panda Experience

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about Voluntour packages from STA Travel. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website

Part 1 of our Voluntour series will be looking at the Panda Conservation Adventure. It is normally for two weeks, and the cost is that of just over £1000.  This project is based in China’s Sichuan province and the itinerary includes Shanghai and Beijing.

STA Travel is offering Voluntour packages in many different countries as a way to learn about the people and the place you are visiting on a far deeper level than just your average holiday or backpacking tour. The Voluntour series is a fantastic way to contribute to combating poverty; protecting the environment and improving the lives of all those you meet. You will be touched by this experience.  It is extremely unique and allows you to develop new skills, increase confidence and have a fresh perspective on life.

Panda Experience Overview

It will come as no surprise to those of you who know my work with WSPA and particularly my love of pandas that I choose to start with this Voluntour for the series.  There are thought to be less than 1000 pandas left in the wild with about 80% in Sichuan province. The reserve where this project takes place is called Bifenxia Panda Reserve and houses approximately 70 pandas.

Bifenxia is aiming to prevent the extinction of pandas by providing a good breeding environment for them so they can be released back in into the wild.  If you choose this project you will be able to help in preparing meals, gathering bamboo, cleaning the panda enclosures and assisting the researchers. This centre is known as the largest panda reserve in the world and you will be able to observe these shy solitary creatures up close and personal. It is a genuinely remarkable experience.

The accommodation for this Voluntour is mainly hotels and guest houses. The in-country support comes in the form of a volunteer project coordinator, a chief experience officer and local guides. Meals will not be included so a budget of approximately £150 per person is suggested.

This Voluntour also allows you to explore China; there will be an optional orientational walk of Shanghai, a Shaolin Kung Fu display and lesson, a Terracotta Warrior tour and a trip to the Forbidden City. A two week package also allows you the ability to absorb in the culture and history of the ancient Tang Dynasty in Xi’an and even the chance to visit the Sichuan Opera. If you book this package it will not be long before you are travelling to Tiananmen Square all while admiring the view of the rolling countryside later that day and even climbing the Great Wall of China.

Those of you who wish to extend their stay can do so, or alternatively you can make the most of your time and even learn Mandarin Chinese at the Cyups University in Beijing which costs approximately just under £600. This is one of the most prestigious universities in Beijing, they can tailor a language program to fit your needs be it evening classes or one to one teaching. Packages outside you 14 days can include accommodation at the University and courses can be from 1 month to a whole year.

All in all this Voluntour is definitely top of my list and one I am proud to start the series with.

Volunteer Projects Overview

Voluntour provides a wide range of products and wherever you choose there will be guidance from an in country project coordinator. They will most likely be from the local area or live in the community as a volunteer themselves. They will help you get settled and provide an excellent support system insuring you get the most out of you Voluntour.

Most projects will require you to work as part of a team but you will not be required to speak the local language.  English will be the main language. You do not need any special skills just enthusiasm and a wish to participate and learn. However, the projects involving working with children will require a series of forms that will need to be completed before you travel.

Whichever city or project you choose you will be welcomed by your in project coordinator, you will be transferred to the site of the project, settled into your accommodation and be given a briefing of what to expect.

There are different levels of comfort for your stay but all tours allow you a way to give back to the community you are visiting either by lending a helping hand to someone, working in conversation, working directly with animals, working directly with children or with the community as a whole. The community projects tend to be based in the sectors of health, education, conservation and small business opportunities.

The accommodation may be in the form of a volunteer house, which provides the comfort of a home, rooms can be twin, multishare and often have shared bathrooms and kitchen facilities, alternatively there is on site accommodation and in the more remote areas there will be the chance of home stays giving you a truly unique experience. You will be sharing obviously with other volunteers.

For those of you who prefer the camping aspects some project do offer this and these will be clearly indicated. Alternatively offer guest houses, hotels and lodges for those of you who want a little more privacy. These locations are all stunning and a truly breathtaking experience.

For more information of these packages visit the STA Travel Website.

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