All foreigners will need a passport valid for at least six months from date of departure and a tourist visa to enter China. You can apply for a visa at the Chinese Ambassy/Consulate in your country.
No health certificates are currently required to enter China. Please check with your Doctor if you need special veccines. (at least 4 – 6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect)
Biting insects are not numerous, although mosquitoes are present in small numbers at a number of sites. We may encounter a ver few small terrestrial leeches on some forest trails; they are not harmful, and can be deterred with insect repellent sprayed on your boots.
Tap water is not safe to drink; bottled water and soft drinks are readily available, and all of our accommodations offer boiled water for coffee or tea.
In Chengdu it will be hot and fairly humid. On the lower slopes of Wawu and Emei Shan, it will be similarly hot but significantly more humid. Temperatures at all three of these areas will typically reach 77 to 90°F by midday. It will be cooler and less humid higher in the mountains, where some of the early mornings can even be cold. This will be especially true when we are near the summit of Wawu Shan, along the Balangshan pass between Riolong and Wolong, and up on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau around Ruoergai. We anticipate making several very early starts in these areas, and the temperatures at that time might be below freezing (perhaps dropping as low as 25°F if skies are clear), and there will probably still be some snow on the highest peaks. Rain is common in Sichuan throughout the year and is perhaps most likely on Emei Shan. It is perhaps least likely around Ruoergai up on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau but cannot be discounted anywhere.
Chengdu city is at low elevation, but the rest of the tour is operated at quite high altitude. We’ll spend considerable time above 11,000 feet, often sleeping at elevations of 5,000-7,000 feet (and once at 11,000 feet). Our highest elevation will be Ba Lang Shan pass at 15,000 feet.
When at high altitudes we will attempt to limit our activities, avoid excessive uphill walking, and move at a slow pace so as to avoid headaches and breathlessness. Most altitudinal problems can be overcome by sitting quietly in or near the vehicle and drinking plenty of fluids.
Participants should note that this tour is more strenuous than most of our tours.
Pace of the tour
This is not an easy or relaxing tour. There is a reasonable amount of traveling and many of the days are long and tiring. Most of the places we visit, Wawu and Emei Shan, the Rilong-Wolong area, Ruoergai, and Jiuzhaigou, as well as several places in between, are in the mountains and are strenuous places to visit. Many of the trails are steep, and while we’ll walk slowly, we are still at altitude and it is easy to become tired. A reasonable degree of fitness is essential. Due to early morning bird activity, we’ll be out in the field early each day. This will often mean being out before 5:00 am and having a picnic breakfast in the field.
We’ll compile a checklist of the birds we’ve seen just before or just after dinner every day and aim to retire early to bed (especially when we are making an early start next day).
We try to make as many of our birding excursions as possible optional, so that if you find the pace too tiring it is possible to take some time off and relax. We will also spend a fair amount of time driving from one of the main sites (Chengdu, Emei Shan, Wolong, Ruoergai and Jiuzhaigou) to another and there is often little to do on these long journeys other than admire the often spectacular scenery.
Essentially we intend to provide dawn to dusk birding for those who want it and as many opportunities as possible to opt out for those who wish to pursue other interests or simply relax.
The hotels at the foot of Emei Shan, at Wolong, at Jiuzhaigou and in Chengdu at the end of the tour are of a good international standard with private bathrooms, proper restaurants, and the other facilities you would normally expect.
Elsewhere on the tour we’ll stay in a variety of hotels and guesthouses. All accommodation is the best that is available and acceptable: rooms are clean, spacious, and reasonably well maintained. Each has a private bathroom with washbasin, western toilet and shower. In some cases, showers and toilets may occasionally not work properly, leaving us to wash with cold water or to use hot water from the thermos flasks that are provided.
Chinese cuisine is well-known and widely appreciated. The Chinese way of eating differs from that in the west in that a selection of different dishes are shared by those sitting at the table. Food is almost always plentiful. Few of the restaurants we visit provide knives and forks—chopsticks, often disposable wooden ones, are used instead. If you are not used to eating with chopsticks, we suggest you start practicing right away or bring your own cutlery.
Transportation is by minibus. In Jiuzhaigo National Park, tour groups are required to use a park minibus or park taxis.