A Few Hours with the Big Cats at Chiang Mai’s Tiger Kingdom
Alex and I LOVE tigers. We think they are the most beautiful animal in the entire animal kingdom! We were very excited to visit the Tiger Kingdom, which houses many tigers, separated by age. What sets Tiger Kingdom apart from an ordinary zoo is that you can actually go into the various enclosures and see the tigers up close and personal!
Of course, this freaked out our parents and we received numerous emails with articles on tigers mauling people. After an extensive internet search, it seemed ‘fairly’ safe to visit: no deaths but some people were scarred, and a slight handful of people might have gotten just a little too close to a big tiger, but these were spread out over the last 10 years. Anyway, we were pretty scared but still determined to pet the tiger cubs…
We had a taxi pick us up from our hotel early in the morning and drive to Mae Rim, home to the Tiger Kingdom. We chose to only do the “smallest” tiger enclosure (it was difficult to decide because you get more discounts the more enclosures you pay for… it’s the best deal if you opt for all four enclosures). Alex and I changed into the slippers provided, washed our hands, and waited our turn. We could see the people interact with the cubs from the outside. The cubs were SO SO SO CUTE!
When it was finally our turn, we were ushered through to the larger sub-enclosure with three 4-month old tiger cubs (already pretty big). Their paws were HUGE. These cubs were pretty docile (the rumor is that Tiger Kingdom drugs their cats, but I’m not sure how true that rumor is), and liked to sleep. We were encouraged to pet them (with a lot of pressure, because a soft petting may feel like a fly or some other nuisance to the tiger) and lie across their bellies (very soft and warm)!
The other sub-enclosure had three 2-month old cubs and these cubs were rambunctious! They were playing, pawing at each other, and rolling around. Their little growls sounded extremely cute, more cat than tiger.
After 15 minutes of bliss, we were ushered out. Even though we only purchased tickets to the smallest-cat enclosure, we could still walk around the grounds and see the tigers. There were a bunch of BIG tigers (after the age of two, the tigers are considered aggressive and no longer allowed to interact with humans) in a big enclosure. Tiger Kingdom even had one lion (the tigers are much more beautiful).
We saw the cub nursery and saw cubs that were only a few months old (still larger than a house cat!). Then, we walked around the “small” enclosure (four to six months old), the “medium” enclosure (up to one year old), and the “large” enclosure (up to two years old). Even the “medium” tigers were gigantic. It was unreal, just watching people posing for pictures with these large cats and petting their heads!
Alex and I really enjoyed the Tiger Kingdom. We didn’t feel unsafe at all- there was a guide with us at all times inside the enclosure. The guides only carried around a stick (no taser, etc.) and we could see them playing with the 2-year old tigers. I think if we had more time in Chiang Mai, we would have made another trip to Tiger Kingdom to spend more time with the tiger cubs!
Watch our video (copy the link and watch if you’re reading this via email) of two tiger cubs playing. It’s adorable! 😀