“ Visit and play with tigers. „
INTRODUCTION Having recently spent a few months in Thailand I got to see some wonderful places, some of which leave me with some amazing memories. One of the best memories I have of Thailand came from visiting the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, this was somewhere I researched before enduring the fifteen hour over night train journey, as there has been so much negativity regarding these types of animal parks. However after researching Tiger Kingdom, I decided to take a visit and I have to say this was one of the best things I did while me and my husband, toured around Thailand. THE TIGER KINGDOM Thailand has many Tiger temples and sanctuaries scattered across the country, however many of these places have been tarnished by bad publicity and negative responses. Many of the bad comments have been delivered by previous tourists who have seen the Tigers being ill treated of drugged in order for the handlers to earn a few pounds, so this was something I needed to be sure of as I refused to pay and see such poor treatment of these amazing animals. I decided to visit the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai as is had been proven that the tigers were never drugged or tranquilised, I know this sounds bad but the majority of Tiger sanctuaries do drug of sedate the animals at certain points during the day so that they Tigers are calm and quiet for visitors, therefore enabling more profit by letting the visitors take pictures. The Tiger Kingdom breed and hand rear all of their Tigers, so each and every one of the animals are used to human contact and are accustomed to handling and affection, so they want and expect it. Yes they are still animals so you do have to follow certain rules and regulations but this is something you will expect when you are coming in close contact with the animals. THE TIGER EXPERIENCE Well all I can say is this was a very moving experience, it was a once in a life time opportunity not only to come so close but also touch and play with full size Tigers. After arriving at the Tiger Kingdom you were taken in groups of no more than two people, to complete an induction course, which informed us on how to interact with the Tigers safely. The main things were not to wear bright red and never touch the Tigers feet or make sudden movements. After the introduction you soon realised that these instructions were not only for our safety but also the Tigers, the handlers explained that if you touch their feet they may think you are trying to play with them and therefore they may become too excited and frighten you. The only risk we may impose on the tigers is frightening them by approaching them suddenly from behind, which seems crazy but as they are so used to human contact the chances of being hurt by one of them is minimal. After the induction and any questions we had were answered, we were led into a huge pen that contained a big pool for the Tigers to cool off in, and masses of grass and trees for the Tigers to roam around in. We were told that this enclosure was as near to their natural habitat as possible. I was very wary and a little frightened at first as four huge Tigers plodded towards me and my husband, once they had a sniff they just laid on the floor with their legs in the air, waiting for a belly rub. Me and my husband had fifteen minutes in with the Tigers as well as the induction at the start, part of the experience package was a photo shoot which took place during the experience. So after the experience we had the hard evidence to prove we had done it. OTHER INFORMATION The handlers are allocated a hand full of Tigers so they are responsible for them throughout their life, from a very young age the Tigers are trained so that they soon realise the clawing of biting in not allowed. One of the first things I noticed was that trainers were carrying sticks, which shocked me as I assumed that they wacked the tigers if they didn't do as they were instructed, but after my questioning and watching the trainers I soon realised that these were used to simulate the tigers by waving them about and getting the Tigers to play. The trainers do not encourage the tigers to play while you are in the enclosure, but after you leave you can stand outside the enclosure and watch them play with their brothers and sisters. So after watching this and seeing the tiger behaviour for myself. I have no doubt that they are well cared for and completely happy. I did notice a few marks and scars on a couple of the tigers, which disturbed me but this was caused by the tiger's brothers of sisters when they were playing together. However the tigers don't seem to bat an eyelid when the other play and scratch hell out of them. At the Tiger Kingdom they have no funding what so ever so they are reliant on tourists and visitors alike, to visit and play with the tigers. This then pays for their up keep such as food and veterinary treatments that maybe needed in the future. Therefore they rely on donations and people paying to undertake the tiger experiences. EXPERIENCE PRICES The prices do vary depending on what you would like to gain from your experience, below I will list what is available and what you get for your money. LARGE EXPERIENCE consists of a large tiger encounter, the tigers are all older meaning they can be anything from 9 months to years old. These tigers are very big and can look very dominating but I went for the large package and in my opinion they were very soft indeed. You get fifteen minutes within the enclosure and as much time as you want walking around tiger kingdom, looking at the other tigers and the important induction, that gives you all the relevant information and all of your questions answered. This Package will cost you 320 Baht, which works out at roughly £6.40 per person. This is the cheapest experience but this is because the tigers are older and they don't really play, you just get to stroke and pat them. SMALL EXPERIENCE includes everything mentioned above, but the difference being the tigers are aged between 2 and 5 months old, these Tigers are a lot smaller and very cute but very lively at the same time, so if you want tiger to play then this is the package I would recommend. This experience will also cost you 520 baht, which worked out at £10.40 each. MEDIUM EXPERIENCE these tigers are 6 to 9 months old and some are playful and some are not, so depending on the age you may be able to play or sit and stroke them, we found that these tigers did not really get many visitors as they have just had some babies at the park and visitors were wanting to play with the babies. This Package will cost you 320 Baht, which works out at roughly £6.40 per person. If at the time of your visit they have baby tigers you can also interact with and feed them, however this costs more for the baby experience. PHOTO EXPERIENCE if you want an extra special reminder of your time at Tiger Kingdom you can buy the photo shoot, which consists of 50+ professional photographs or you interacting with the tigers. The parks professional photographer will follow you around the 15 minute enclosure experience taking photos and at the end of your visit you can have the copies of all of the photos. This costs 200-400 baht depending on the package size, which is £4.00- £8.00 so it is very reasonable to do and trust me you get some fantastic shots. OPENING TIMES The Tiger Kingdom is open from 10.00am until 6.00pm every day of the year except Christmas day and New Years day. The opening times are the same anytime of the year, but I should imagine that the price do fluctuate during high season, which starts in November. LOCATION The Tiger Kingdom is located in Chaing Mai Thailand, so it is very easy to get to. You can either fly directly into Chaing Mai from Bangkok or you can take a cheaper option of the overnight train from Bangkok's Hulampong train station, which is very cheap at roughly £10.00 per person but not the most comfortable, however it is an experience in itself. Once you hit Chiang Mai you need to head outside of the town to Mae-rim, which is only a fifteen minute drive in a taxi and will cost you 400 baht which works out at £8.00 each way. If you prefer you can go to the Tiger Kingdom as part of an organised tour, but you can expect to be hurried around the park quickly and not at your own leisure, so I recommend you make your own way there. CONTACT The Tiger Kingdom can be visited at Mae-rim, Chiang mai, Thailand. TEL. (66)+053-299363 (66)+053-860704 www.tigerkingdom.com MY OPINION In my opinion this is a wonderful place that cares for the Tigers, you can see that the handlers genuinely care for the tigers within their care and it is not just a job for them. I feel that the tigers love it as much as the trainers just think they so get many belly rubs and hugs as well as a nice enclosure to live in. Some may be very sceptical, I was at first but after meeting the trainers and the tigers I was totally impressed and very envious at the same time. Some may think that tigers should be living in the wild but unfortunately these have never had the chance, so I feel they have a very good second option as they have all the comforts of the wild within their enclosures but also they have the added bonus of human contact, which believe me they are very accustomed to and therefore come to expect it. I will never ever forget those massive tigers heading towards me and then rolling over with their legs in the air, this in itself tells me they were all completely happy with the situation. They are not aggressive as I once thought, I now have a new found love of them. I strongly recommend you visit the Tiger Kingdom if you ever visit Chiang Mai as this is an experience that will never leave me. So I am sure many will agree if they ever experience it.