The Tiger Kingdom just outside of Chiang Mai is a bit touristy, but well worth the visit. We had a red truck song thaew take us there from Tha Pae Gate, wait for us, and bring us back for 250B. I was a little hesitant at first because I thought that the tigers were drugged (they are not) and that it probably isn’t a good idea to have tigers and people together.
I did a little research and all of the tigers are captive, not wild. They were all born at the Tiger Kingdom. And while I am still not completely cool with the idea of having people and tigers mix, I do think there are some positives such as awareness of habitat issues. Unfortunately, that was not mentioned at all which I think is a missed opportunity.
The Tiger Kingdom is solely about hanging out with tigers and getting your picture taken with them. They treat the tigers well from what I could tell, though we did see one tiger get smacked pretty hard because he wasn’t interested in getting in the water. Apparently some lady wanted to see the tiger swim so the guides wanted to accommodate her. Of course, this is the same woman that just walked right into the cages without waiting for the guides and was constantly sticking her fingers through the fence (here, eat my fingers). I never cease to be amazed at how stupid some people are.
Me and my friend chose the small and large tigers to visit, which ran about $25. When you arrive they let a certain number people in at a time. The guides keep and eye on the tigers to make sure they don’t go crazy and start using you as a catnip toy. They have some basic rules posted that they always make you read before entering each tiger area (like, don’t come at the tiger from the front—that means you want to play, and tiger play can hurt sometimes because, well, they have sharp teeth and claws).
Most of the tigers are lounging around, though some get a bit more playful (usually the younger ones). Tigers sleep upwards of 18 hours a day, and these cats are well fed and happy to just lounge around doing nothing. The guides are all about you petting and touching the tigers—a good combination, I suppose.
Despite the fact tigers sleep so much, this little tiger is a 6 month old female that was rather feisty. Her siblings where lying around being lazy, but she was all over the place. While we were walking out of the small tiger area, I knelt down to take a picture of her playing in the grass. You are told not to go face-on with the tigers because that is an indication you want to “play”. I didn’t think she would notice me, but she immediately jumped up and started running towards me just as I snapped the photo and stood up. Fortunately, the guide said something and she ran off to the side—and I also quickly got out of the way. 🙂
These tigers are apparently just as happy to have their bellies rubbed as a regular house cat. Though, I have to say, rubbing a giant cat’s belly while it’s pawing in the air is a bit intimidating. They seem perfectly happy to have you rub them, so might as well make them happy.
All in all, I had a good time. I was far less intimidated than I thought I would be. There is a guide for every two people and they are keeping a close eye on you just as much as they are the tigers. Tiger Kingdom is a little touristy and perhaps could do a better job of educating people about tigers, but it is well worth the visit.