Growing up with a Mum that loves Pandas made it inevitable that I too would grow up to adore these gentle giants. I mean what isn’t there to love? They are basically giant walking teddy bears, that are both mischievous and clumsy, making for great videos online and a fuzzy feeling in your heart. Every time I see a picture of one I can’t believe something that cute could be real, but they are real and I needed to see one in person! At the very top of my bucket list read ‘Meet a real life Panda’. In Britain, I have two locations that I could have chosen from, London Zoo or Edinburgh Zoo, yet I have visited neither, the place that I went to see a Panda was Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna. Schönbrunn Zoo allowed me to see animals I had never met before, behind glass that I could touch, making the whole experience absolutely amazing, and trust me, I’ll be writing a whole post dedicated to Schönbrunn Zoo’s animals. I had booked our trip to Austria without having realised Vienna’s city zoo had such amazing creatures to see, let alone that I would be making a big tick off the top of my ‘must see before I die’ list. So today’s post is dedicated completely to the lovable Panda Bear and the day I finally got to see one in person, with pictures of course!
On Friday 15th September, our first full day in Vienna, we headed to Schönbrunn Zoo (we couldn’t wait), extremely excited to see some Pandas. We chose the perfect day as the zoo was not too busy and it gave us plenty of time to look at the animals without a crowd. As you walk into the zoo the Panda enclosure is one of the first you come across, and at first there were no Panda’s to be seen. Eventually we notice another person pointing up to a wooden ledge, we look up and see a panda rolling over and it’s big panda butt becoming visible. The excitement builds, we now know there’s a panda almost in sight, if only we could see its face.
After 15 minutes, my Mum who I’m travelling with, sits down on the bench facing the Panda enclosure, insisting that she will not move until a panda comes into sight. We sit down, and after some time decide we should maybe go and look at some other animals and come back. I can see the disappointment in her face at suggesting we move, as I can tell she would sit there all day if she had too. It may have been at the top of my bucket list but for my Mum to see a Panda would be a dream come true. Just as we stand up to walk away, excitement built in the crowd. I may not have been able to understand their language but their high pitch tones indicated these people had definitely spotted a Panda. The Panda that had been asleep was climbing his way down a tree and simultaneously, a much larger Panda was also appearing from behind the trees.
It’s hard to explain how that moment felt, except to say magical because I was completely in awe of them. This was the first time I had ever laid eyes on a Panda in the flesh, until this point they had almost been a mythical creature that I’d read about and grown to love from pictures and stories, and yet here one was, right in front of me and as adorable as could be. Of course, things became even more adorable when the Mummy and Baby Panda emerged. The baby panda was so cute and so naughty, jumping over its poor mum and rolling about. It had everyone watching pointing and laughing, and the Mummy Panda had the patience of a saint, washing the baby with quick licks as it darted past. I couldn’t tell you how long we were stood marvelling at the Pandas before we moved on to the other animals but judging by the hundreds of picture I took of them it must have been a while. Yet, one of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen, we didn’t witness until we were leaving the zoo.
It was nearly closing time and there were less and less people around, the stalls selling zoo merchandise were packing up and the café was closing. We were making our way to the gift shop on the way out, when we passed the Panda enclosure, only to look up and see a little Panda hugging a wooden pole for dear life, it’s head propped at the top as though it were a pillow, sound asleep. I’ve never seen anything like it, of all the places it could have chosen for a nap this was the place it was resting its head. They may be chubby but they are natures own gymnasts! As a Panda lover, this moment was very cute, and as a photographer, this shot was pure gold. I was stood on top of a bench trying to get a shot of the Pandas face, never more thankful for my 50x megazoom, and the result that I got was a picture that I will cherish forever.
The whole day and the experience of meeting not only Pandas, but other animals like a Koala and a Hippopotamus that I’d never seen, was absolutely amazing, but what made it even more special is that I had been able to take my Mum, who has only just started holidaying further a field this year, to have her dream come true and see a Panda, something she never thought she’d be lucky enough to do.
Hope you’ve enjoyed looking through some of my Panda pictures. If you’ve got the opportunity to see a Panda in real life, you need to do it, especially if there’s a super cute baby Panda causing pandemonium 😉
Until next time,
Amy Williams-Weeks (AWW)