It was just a couple of weeks ago I heard Sandhill Cranes flying overhead. I looked up to see those beautiful birds winging their way to the south, marking another change of season. They made me think of the stately Black-necked Cranes and my upcoming trip to China. The only alpine crane, Black-necked Cranes are one of the world's rarest birds and revered as symbols of luck and happiness. The last time I was in China, I learned a Tibetan song that suggested that like the bird, I too might return. Quest is providing the opportunity for me to return in its upcoming “Wildlife of China” trip, April 2014.

China is of course an immense country that is incredibly diverse. We all have our own mental images of the exotic Far East. In particular, the remote highlands have fascinated the outside world since the time of Marco Polo. With the passing of time, tales of unicorns, dragons and phoenixes have been replaced by scientific descriptions of native wildlife, but the attraction remains. We will be travelling to Sichuan Province, a small corner of the country that is part of one of the world’s top 25 biodiversity hotspots.
 
 

The first westerner to see a Giant Panda was Armand David, a missionary in Sichuan widely known as Père David (1869). This was also the area combed by the great naturalist-explorers Rock, Wilson and Andrews. The botanist E. H. Wilson hailed this region as home to the richest temperate flora in the world and a centre of diversity for many animals. Scientists continue to discover new species and the region is now the last refuge for many species that once ranged more widely.
 
Our journey will take us to see Giant Pandas and learn about the efforts to restore the wild populations. At Tangjiahe Nature Reserve we will look for some amazing wildlife such as the Tibetan Takin, Chinese Muntjak, Rhesus Macaque and the famous Golden Pheasant.

In Jiuzhaigou we will spend time with a Tibetan family (one quarter of all Tibetans live in western Sichuan) as well as explore the fairlyland of lakes and mountains and abundant wildlife that make up this World Heritage Site.
 
 

At Baihe Nature Reserve we will have a chance to see Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys and at Ruoergai spend time on the expansive Tibetan Plateau. Looking back in one of my travel journals, I wrote “We know immediately when we have reached the high plateau. The winding mountain road unravels into a straight line. The jags and bumps in the landscape flatten out and the sky expands, opening all around us. It has a familiar feel for those of us raised on flat prairie land—a full-circle point of view. But the quality of light is different, being filtered through a thinner atmosphere.” It is here we will hope to see the Black-necked Crane.
 
I am so looking forward to this journey and to meeting those of you who will choose to join me. You may request a detailed itinerary here.

**UPDATE: This departure has since been cancelled.