When it comes to new experiences on a trip I think its fair to say they don’t come too more unique than what we encountered on one of our days in Chiang Mai.
Tiger Kingdom is located about 10km from Chiang Mai’s centre and on arrival in the car park you are given a card to keep with a three digit code on it. The reception area has machines displaying the options available, a counter where you actually choose the package you want and a checkout where you can finally pay!
There are four different sizes of tigers; Smallest (2-4 months), Small (5-10 months), Medium (11-15 months) and Big (16-36 months) which unbelievably you can play with and touch whilst using your own camera to capture the moments. We opted for a package ticket of Big and Small which cost 840 BHT ($25); a bargain for such a priceless activity if you ask me. For the record, just one tiger costs 420-620 BHT depending on size and you can do all four for 1480 BHT ($45).
Even without the hands-on aspect of the place its still pretty amazing that you can actually watch some of the tigers without there being a glass window in the way which is the usual style for viewing such animals in most zoo’s in the developed world. You can see a white tiger, a lion and a few other tigers and poke your camera through the fence to capture the animal well on photograph.
The whole system seemed very efficient as outside the cages for each size tiger is a monitor displaying all the numbers of each visitor so can see how far down the list you are. We had to wait 45-60 minutes at the most to spend about 15 minutes with the small tigers followed not long after that by the big tigers for the same amount of time. It was all definitely worth the wait.
The tigers are hand raised and trained and over time they are used to being around humans. Of course when you go in the cage there is a trainer with you who basically does whatever it takes for the consumer to get their photos which some like and some don’t!
You’re told to approach the tiger from behind rather than head-on and to cuddle and stroke the big cats firmly which they find comfortable. However, gentle stroking is ticklish and irritating to the tigers, especially if they are sleeping which seems to be a very common activity for them! I’m told that some of them sleep up to 18 hours a day which of course leads many visitors to wonder, given their wild status, if they’ve maybe been drugged. Tigers daytime vision is supposedly similar to humans but their night vision is six times stronger and thats when they tend to hunt their prey meaning they’re more active at dusk which can explain why they’re sleeping in many of our pictures.
I know I said in a recent post that the elephant adventure we went on just a couple of days prior to this one was great and it really was but to get up this close and personal with one of my favourite animals was absolutely awesome and something I never even realised was possible until I saw some friends pictures from this place a few years ago.
I felt like young Pi; the Indian boy in ‘Life Of Pi‘ (2012) as we were allowed to rest and pose in all kinds of positions with the tigers not that such scenes ever happened in that movie or the book that it was adapted from!
We were on a bit of a high after experiencing such an incredible thing and had lunch (yet another green curry for me!) in the Tiger Kingdom’s restaurant which overlooks the cages where you can see all the other tourists spending their time with the big tigers.