A Herpetological Expedition in China

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12 Days
August 11-22, 2024
Hong Kong
Min Age : 16+
Max People: 10
WildChina x Serpentine
About this Journey

WildChina and Serpentine Expeditions are partnering up to launch an expert-led herpetological expedition in China, featuring a quest for the Mangshan Pit Viper.

Since antiquity, reptiles and amphibians have held a place of reverence and mystic power in Chinese folklore, inspiring the motif of dragons and celestial serpents. This expedition follows the path of some of the Middle Kingdom’s most coveted herpetological treasures, covering both those who have adapted to live on the fringes of densely populated urban centers, and those who remain in their natural habitats, now protected national forest parks and UNESCO-recognized biosphere reserves.

Meet the herping experts leading this expedition:

Michael Ring

An avid conservationist and anthropologist, Michael excels at highlighting the intersectionality between natural and cultural heritage in the expeditions he leads. He started his guiding career in China, having worked domestically in Sichuan for years, leading trips ranging from tracking snub-nose monkeys to trekking with Tibetan nomads. Michael received a Bachelor of Arts in ethnographic studies and Chinese culture before studying mandarin at Southwest Minzu University (西南民族 大学). In addition to acting as media spokesperson for the largest reptile sanctuary in the United States, Michael is a prolific field-herper and spends his free time documenting wild reptiles. He is featured as co-host for the field-herping program, Serpentine, and his footage is featured by Apple TV+. To him, field-herping and travel are ways to provide clients with mediated experiences in the natural world while empowering them to engage in conservation. His favorite animals include elephants, great apes, monitor lizards, tree vipers, hornbills, and crocodilians.

Ian Breland

Coming from Phoenix, Arizona, Ian is a Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning (RMSEL) graduate, freelance Conservation Videographer, Wildlife Photographer, and Expedition Guide. He has worked on a diverse range of projects concerning wildlife conservation; from Operation Milagro VIII in Mexico alongside Sea Shepherd Conservation Society & supporting anti-poaching operations in Indonesia, to appearing on BBC’s My Place on Planet Earth and filming with wildlife rewilding centers as well as newly established preserves in the Peruvian Amazon. He is a co-host of the short-form field herping show known as “Serpentine”, popular on CarbonTV. Today, Ian leads expeditions across the planet in search of rare, imperiled, and understudied reptile & amphibian species. He also collaborates on a myriad of international conservation projects, applying technical skills, logistics management, and a background in Wilderness Medicine towards not only making adventure more accessible, but inspiring others to appreciate what we have while it’s still here – and fight to protect it.

Jaime Culebras

Born in Spain, Jaime holds a Bachelor of Biology, MSc. in Environmental Education and MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation of Tropical Areas. He has been living in Ecuador for more than 7 years, where he works as a reptile and amphibian researcher and nature photographer, receiving numerous photography and conservation awards such as Big Picture Photo Competition, Montphoto, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, among others. Conservation Award “Montphoto Grant – WWF 2017” to promote the conservation of reptiles and amphibians of Chocó in Ecuador, Colombia and Panama; and, 2018 Conservation Photographer Award for the Spanish Association of Nature Photographers, for their work in spreading Ecuador’s biodiversity and its threats. Jaime was also featured in BBC’s Planet Earth III. His greatest interest is to spread awareness of the existence and importance of threatened species, promote love towards reptiles and amphibians, as well as the fight against illegal trafficking of species and the snake-human conflict.

What we love
  • Searching for snakes on the outskirts of one of the most densely populated cities on Earth: Hong Kong
  • Seeking the Mangshan Pit Viper in its native homeland: the Mangshan Nature Reserve
  • Hiking the ancient forests of the Tianmushan Biosphere Reserve
A Herpetological Expedition in China Map

Day 1Hong Kong

Your WildChina Hong Kong team will meet you at the arrivals hall of the airport to take you to your hotel • Check in to your hotel and relax • Kick off your journey with an orientation with Michael, Ian and Jaime and celebrate with a welcome dinner together in downtown Hong Kong


Day 2Hong Kong

The search for Hong Kong’s local reptiles will begin on the collective of small islands south of the city, which make for excellent self-contained micro-ecosystems, largely undisturbed by human foot-traffic. Primary targets here are the Tonkin’s Pit Viper, White-Lipped Pit Viper, as well as Chinese and King Cobras.

Day 3Hong Kong to Chenzhou

Spend the day continuing the search for Hong Kong’s snakes  • In the evening, head to the train station to board your high-speed train to Chenzhou (G6114, Hong Kong West Kowloon to Chenzhou West, 17:18/19:41, 2 hours 23 mins) • Upon arrival in Chenzhou, your WildChina team will meet you and escort you to your hotel for checkin and dinner

Day 4Chenzhou to Mangshan

Head to Mangshan (2 hour drive) • Begin by visiting the park’s Natural History Museum for an in-depth overview of the fauna native to this national park, including the Mangshan Pit Viper, and the story of Professor Zhao Ermi who first identified the snake as a new species in the 1990s • In the afternoon, check in to your Mangshan hotel and relax • Head out for a sunset exploration of Mangshan National Park, home to a variety of ecosystems scattered across a misty landscape of towering peaks, limestone caves, and ancient forests. In addition to the Mangshan Pit Viper, Mangshan is also an enclave for other protected species, including the the yellow-breasted pheasant, sika deer, and golden cat.

Days 5-6Mangshan

Amongst the many animals found in Mangshan National Park, the most famous is undoubtedly the Mangshan Pit Viper. This highly camouflaged serpent is a rare endemic species, found nowhere else besides the forests here on Mount Mang. Additional targets include the Fi-Si-Pan Mountain Horned Viper, Brown Spotted Pit Viper, Mandarin Ratsnake, King Cobras, Chinese Green Tree Viper, and many others.

Day 7Mangshan to Hangzhou

Head back to Chenzhou for lunch •In the afternoon, board your high-speed train to Hangzhou (G1302, 15:00/20:47, Chenzhou West- Hangzhou East, 5 hours 47 mins) • Upon arrival in Hangzhou, your WildChina team will meet you and escort you to your hotel for check in and dinner

Day 8Hangzhou

Explore the shores of West Lake, the landscape that inspired some of history’s most enduring minds, with views of tea-covered hillsides and Hangzhou’s city centre, and even the scene pictured on the back of the nation’s 1RMB note • Visit Leifeng Pagoda, home to a famous Chinese legend around Bai Suzhen and Xiao Qing (a white and a blue snake), and Xu Xi’an, a human who Bai Suzhen fell in love with • In the afternoon, head to Tianmushan (1.5 hour drive) • Check in to your hotel an relax


Days 9-11Tianmushan

Tianmushan, which means “Heavenly Eyes” in Chinese, is a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve prized for a wealth of endemic flora and fauna, such as the Clouded Leopard, Black Muntjac and Chinese Gingko Tree. The main reptile we’ll be searching for here is the White-Headed Burmese Mountain Viper, a primitive venomous snake which has remained unchanged since its kind first evolved. Additional targets include the MacClelland’s Coral Snake, Kelung Cat Snake, Brown Spotted Pitviper, False Habu, Chinese Crocodile Lizard, and Chinese Moccasin.

Day 12Tianmushan to Hangzhou, Depart from Hangzhou

Our journey has come to an end, your WildChina team will escort you to Hangzhou and help you check in for your flight back home!


EAST Hong Kong
4-star hotel

Situated on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island in the bustling Taikoo Shing district, EAST Hong Kong stands out as a contemporary lifestyle hotel, captivating guests with its sleek and stylish design. The rooms are designed with comfort in mind, offering bright and spacious accommodations with floor-to-ceiling windows framing stunning views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong’s urban landscape. What makes EAST Hong Kong truly exceptional, however, is its unwavering commitment to sustainability, featuring initiatives such as urban gardening, plant-based dining options, and eco-friendly campaigns aimed at reducing its carbon footprint.

Hilton Garden Inn Chenzhou Beihu
4-star hotel

A short drive from both of Chenzhou’s train stations and the airport, the newly opened (2022) Hilton Garden Inn is the best accommodation option in Chenzhou for weary travelers looking for a comfortable night’s sleep after a long day’s travels. Located on the outskirts of the city center, the hotel has a quiet surrounding and peaceful ambience, coupled with on-site dining and workout facilities, providing everything you need for a thoughtful stay.

Mangshan Forest Hot Spring Hotel
Local 4-star hotel

Located inside Mangshan National Forest Park, the Mangshan Forest Hot Spring Hotel is hands-down the best place to stay when visiting the park. Backing up against lush mountain foliage, the hotel offers immersive views from most every room. The best part of this hotel, however is the hot spring pool. Funky modern architecture sits beside an infinity pool, where guests can stare out into the forest peaks, with no backdrop other than the total bliss of interrupted nature. 

West Lake State Guesthouse, Hangzhou
Local 5-star hotel

West Lake State Guesthouse is located double west – in the western area of West Lake, at the foot of Dingjia Mountain, with 270-degree views straight out onto the lake itself. The hotel is an emulation of state grandeur in every aspect of the say, including the size, covering a truly expansive 360,000 square meters. The elegant and exquisite buildings of West Lake State Guesthouse and the surrounding Jiangnan gardens boast traditional Chinese charm with winding corridors and a medley of architecturally-composed angles. Enjoy the highest level of Chinese service, exactly as a state guest would do, from the on-site  Ruyi Butler and the flawless customer service. In fact, Chairman Mao stayed in this very hotel frequently and often quoted it as his “second home”.

Hotel Indigo Hangzhou Tianmushan
5-star hotel

Nestled at the base of the Tianmu Mountains, Hotel Indigo Hangzhou Tianmushan is fully imbued in the ancient forest that surrounds it. Rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with immersive views of the Tianmu Mountain landscape, or as the hotel puts it “perfectly preserved original nature, the nocturnal chirping, the smell of precious, rare herbs and plants, and the therapeutic tea art.” The health club has an oxygen bar, the cafe sits in a thousand-year-old ginko tree forest, and the food served is organic. In sum, the Hotel Indigo Tianmushan is fully committed to providing the most authentic nature experience possible, without sleeping outside!


Dates for this journey

August 11th – 22nd, 2024


This journey starts in Hong Kong. We will arrange your arrival pick up from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG).


This journey ends in Hangzhou. We will arrange your drop off at Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HGH).

What’s Included

  • All accommodations based on double-occupancy including breakfasts, as indicated in the itinerary
  • Domestic trains, 1st class tickets, as indicated in the itinerary
  • All meals, as indicated in the itinerary, and drinking water
  • All admission fees and activity expenses, as indicated in the itinerary
  • Ground transportation, including airport transfers
  • Services of an English-speaking WildChina guide
  • Services of WildChina herping experts

What’s Excluded

  • International flights
  • Chinese tourist visa, which is required for most foreign passport holders
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Meals, apart from those included in the itinerary, and alcohol
  • Expenses of a personal nature
  • Excursions and activities not included in the itinerary
  • Discretionary gratuities for guides, drivers, and experts


  • Double occupancy: 6,930 USD / person
  • Single supplement: +1,300 USD / person
What to expect

Trip Difficulty: Adventurer

This journey is for those looking for an adventure. On most days, expect several miles of hiking in nature, looking for snakes and other natural wonders with your experts. You should also be prepared for a couple of long travel days (trains + driving) to connect the remote locations in this itinerary.

Your Guides

Your guide will arrange the logistics of your trip, including meals, hotel reservations, sites, and activities, as well as providing you with information about the local region. Your WildChina guide is specific to each local region and will be confirmed during booking.

Meals and Water

Meals are included, as listed in your itinerary. We strive to arrange meals that highlight authentic local cuisine in clean, local establishments.

It is safe to drink bottled mineral water, but tap water, even in 5-star hotels, is not safe for drinking. We will provide bottled water, tea, and snacks throughout your journey.

We request guests with severe allergies to consult their physicians prior to traveling and to bring all necessary medicines with them. Inform us ahead of time of specific allergies, such as peanuts or shellfish, or sensitivities to MSG, so that we can do our best to ensure these items are not used in your meals.

Next Steps

How do I secure my spot on this tour?

For international bookings: Once you are ready to book, a USD$500 planning fee, per booking, is required to begin reserving your arrangements. This will go towards your trip costs and will be taken off your final balance amount.

For bookings made in China: Once you are ready to book, a RMB1,000 deposit, per person, is required. This will go towards your trip costs and will be taken off your final balance amount.

If you are interested in adding a private pre or post trip on to the main journey, just let us know and we’ll be happy to work on a custom itinerary with you!

What is the payment schedule?

1. Deposit:
A deposit is required to secure your reservation. Once your deposit has been received, we will send your confirmation along with a detailed itinerary and all the information you’ll need to prepare for your journey.

2. Full payment:
Full trip payment should be made 60 days prior to departure. If you’re booking within 60 days of your departure, you may be asked to pay make the full payment straight away.

Payments can be made via credit card, bank transfer, WeChat or Alipay.

Is this trip guaranteed to run?

This trip will be scheduled to run once we receive bookings from six (6) passengers. Should the journey be cancelled due to lack of sign-ups or government restrictions, WildChina will fully refund any deposits or fees paid.

What is your cancelation policy?

Please refer to our full cancelation policy and our terms and conditions .

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