Category: Health




Why Close Panda Encounters in China are No Longer Legal

Posted by on July 18, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

If you have yet to hear, there’s something happening in the field of wildlife conservation that you really should know about…the animal rights movement is growing. This decades-long form of activism has created meaningful change – especially as of late. A great example of this is with the famed giant panda. Pressure from activist groups, along with other factors, has led to a significant policy change by the Chinese government: close panda encounters in China are no longer legal.

Officially, those visiting the Dujiangyan Panda Breeding Center or other panda centers in China can no longer pay an extra fee for a hands-on panda experience. For many, this is a surprising move by the government, so let’s look at the reasons for this change and Discover Corps’ stance on the issue:

Safety Concerns

Several recent incidents involving what officials referred to as “bold travelers” led to visitor injuries caused by the pandas during the experience. The facility has since stated that it was a safety issue because they could not guarantee the protection of clients who chose to experience this close encounter. This also leads us to believe the pandas may have felt threatened by travelers coming so close. 

Panda Encounters in China
An example of the now-banned panda encounter

Income: A Key Motivator Has Now Been Eliminated

Historically, a key motivator for research centers to offer these hands-on experiences was the additional source of income (as the experience was very lucrative by Chinese standards). But the change in policy also brought a new financial source, as the government has stepped up to provide funding to centers, thus reducing the impetus to continue the experience given the risks mentioned above.

Reputation Concerns 

Perhaps the final straw for this issue was the increased push back and negative publicity from animal rights groups opposing these close panda encounters. This, understandably, put heat on the government to act. As a highly controversial subject, many in the public view these types of experiences as the manipulation of pandas for profit, rather than providing any real benefit to the animal. As such, this is the primary reason why Discover Corps never formally included it in our itinerary, but only as a non-compulsory activity at the travelers’ discretion on our China: Panda Conservation Adventure trip.  

What This Means for Future Travelers to China 

We fully agree with and support the new panda-related changes. If the health and well-being of animals are ever in question, we will consistently air on the side of caution in support of wildlife. As the issue of animal rights continues to evolve, Discover Corps pledges to continually evaluate best practices and seek out the best outcomes for all animals that we encounter.

If you are considering going to China and were looking forward to a panda encounter, the Dujiangyan Research Center still has much to offer, including: an incredible educational tour, the opportunity to volunteer in panda enclosures and learn what it takes to take care of pandas, the ability to prepare food for and feed pandas at a safe distance, and much more. Importantly, all funds from these experiences go to support panda conservation.

You can learn more about Discover Corps China: Panda Conservation Adventure here




Is Purposeful Travel a Cure for Loneliness?

Posted by on May 22, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a Great Time to Reflect on Travel’s Role in the Space.

Can you remember the last time you were lonely? When the thought of reaching out to others for a social outing left you feeling anything but…social.

Interestingly, our bodies provide key indicators into how being lonely affects us. Research has found those excluded from social interactions have a noticeable drop in skin temperature. This is likely a protective mechanism, but it brings an entirely new meaning to the expression, giving the cold shoulder.

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Discover Corps Diet Friendly Locations Guide [Infographic]

Posted by on March 25, 2019 · Leave a Comment  

Food can be a wildcard when you travel. Will it be tasty, spicy, chewy…cold? Certainly, part of the beauty of traveling is the unknown delicacies that await, but if you’re gluten-free, it’s nice to avoid the guessing game. Let our Diet Friendly Locations Guide point you in the right dietary direction, with countries that have options for vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo diets, and more:

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Why Eco-Lodges Are the Way to Go When Traveling (Plus: Photos!)

Posted by on February 2, 2018 · Leave a Comment  

It’s hard to plan your travel these days without hearing the term “ecotourism” – fortunately, a trend in the right direction. Choosing green hotels or eco-lodges as your travel destinations have risen in popularity in recent years, so exactly constitutes as an eco-lodge, and is there any difference between an eco-lodge and a green hotel?

In short, both terms are often taken for granted and used interchangeably. While both of these institutions rely on using materials made from naturally renewable sources and are greener, or taking initiatives to preserve the nature of our planet, in practice there are some important things that differentiate an eco-lodge from the green hotel:

  • Green Hotels. No matter how green they tend to be, hotels are demanding large infrastructure and a great amount of cash to build and maintain. It is not out of the question that a large conglomerate or multinational company is behind the entire concept of the hotel. This is not a bad thing, and in fact it’s great to see larger businesses focusing on the planet, it just means you will likely have a more traditional experience. Oftentimes green hotels are positioned inside the large urban areas and cities, which is the main differentiator between green hotels and eco-lodges.
  • Eco-Lodges. One can say that eco-lodges are a little bit less mainstream and a little bit greener than green hotels. They are often made of natural materials from the country you’re visiting, which often means you’ll see the architecture of the country and feel immersed in nature and the wildlife that surrounds you. Almost always situated in a remote area set amongst impressive terrains, eco-lodges take into consideration all that their presence touches and what it means for those native to the land.

So where do you find the coolest eco-lodges today? Below are just a few of our favorites:

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Staying Healthy While Traveling: 12 Simple Tips

Posted by on May 2, 2016 · 2 Comments  

Are you traveling to a developing country for the first time? If so, you may be worried about getting sick. Though it’s always a possibility, there are certain steps you can take to ensure you stay healthy while traveling.

It’s important to remember that illness and injury can happen wherever we are. We must always take care of ourselves, whether we’re at home or on the road. But there are certain risks that increase in developing countries, where many of the best volunteer vacations tend to happen.

Oftentimes the water supply isn’t safe to drink, and certain foods might not be kind to our foreign bellies. Lately, travelers are increasingly seeing the Zika virus in the headlines. You might be nervous to travel to countries where cases of this mosquito-borne illness are increasing.

Lucky for you, we at Discover Corps have learned some tricks over the years. We think it’s important to be careful, but also not to allow unnecessary fear to dictate our travel plans. (And the media does have a tendency of escalating our fears.)

Here are 12 tips you can use to stay healthy while traveling, allowing you to enjoy the experience of visiting developing countries.

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Benefits of Traveling: 5 Ways Travel Keeps You Young

Posted by on March 28, 2016 · 9 Comments  

You don’t have to be a twenty or thirty-something to pack your bag and hit the road. Travel can make us feel young again at any age.

In the classic Pixar movie Up, Carl Fredricksen is a 78-year-old widower who has always dreamed of traveling to Paradise Falls in South America. After Carl’s wife dies unexpectedly and he faces the possibility of moving into a nursing home, he ties thousands of balloons to his house and floats off to explore the destination of his dreams.

Up might be a fictional cartoon, but its core message is very real.  It’s important to embrace life while you still can and do those things you’ve always wanted to do. With the right attitude and a bit of gumption, age can’t hold us back.

Luckily for you, a thousand balloons aren’t necessary. There are plenty of convenient ways to fulfill your bucket list adventures, see the world, and feel younger while doing it.

Here are five ways that travel can make us feel young again…

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The Dangers of Volunteer Projects Abroad: Your Fears, Addressed

Posted by on August 4, 2015 · 4 Comments  


Safe travels! This is a common way to wish someone well just before they embark on a trip.

But is it really necessary? Doesn’t wishing someone “safe travels” inherently imply that travel may not be safe?

It’s natural to have certain fears surrounding travel in general, and participating in volunteer projects abroad in specific. After all, you’ll be going to a foreign place, surrounded by a culture you’re not familiar with and people you don’t know, speaking a language you might not understand. These things can be scary, particularly for those who don’t travel very often.

But responsible travel can be perfectly safe with the right preparation, awareness and guidance from those who understand the place you’re visiting.

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