Sichuan’s scenery is on a grand scale – towering snowy peaks shrouded in twisty snake-like mists, and big skies over high-altitude (3,500+ metres) grasslands that stretch from one horizon to the other. I was delighted to lead our first trip to the region in October 2018, not least because of the region’s delicious and world-famous food. However, it’s the province’s fantastic wildlife that makes Sichuan truly special for nature enthusiasts.
Our Sichuan adventure began on the grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau. A snowy walk brought us to within a few hundred metres of a pair of Tibetan wolves. We had great views of one wolf as it turned to look at us, and then of the second as it trotted over to join its companion.
Elsewhere on the high grasslands we saw larks, snowfinches and pikas, a hunting saker falcon and upland buzzards, Himalayan vultures and red-billed choughs. Then a hillside scan brought us our first view of Tibetan fox – the first of an impressive tally of nine Tibetan foxes that day. We saw another of our target species, the elusive Pallas’ cat, by torchlight.
Next it was time to explore Sichuan’s forested mountains, already looking spectacular in their autumn colours. A trio of glamorous pheasants awaited us: blue-eared, Lady Amherst’s and golden, as well as endemics including Sichuan tit, Sichuan leaf warbler and crested tit-warbler. Black-necked crane, six species of redstarts and four accentors were also noteworthy.
In total we saw 35 mammal species, including a family of feeding golden snub-nosed monkeys in Labahe forest, and the rare Asiatic black bear in Tangiahe. Other special mammals included Chinese goral, forest musk deer, both Tibetan and rhesus macaques, and the sought-after takin – some of these photogenic mammals were even seen wandering around the grounds near our hotel rooms.
Overall, it was a wonderful trip, and I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Sichuan, both for its wildlife and delicious cuisine!