Tiger Kingdom is situated in Northern Thailand, about 25-30 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, in an area called Mae Rim. We made a day-trip out of this experience, and went with our friends who we had met on route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We hired a driver and his songthaew for the day, and paid 400 Baht ($12), splitting the cost between four of us. Our driver took us to Tiger Kingdom and then waited there for us while we cuddled these amazing creatures.
The Tiger Kingdom is very much set up as a modern tourist attraction – there is a large entrance with a restaurant attached. In this same area you can choose which experience you wish to have. Each, of course, has a different price tag. There are large, medium, small and smallest to choose from, and these can be purchased individually or as a package. We decided to go with a package and chose to touch the large, Small and smallest tigers.
I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about this experience. I feel terrible going to establishments where animals are kept in cages just so that humans can touch them. But after hearing that none of the tigers are drugged/ sedated and the cages are very large, where they have plenty of room to move and trees to climb, I felt a little better. There is even an area with a pool for the tigers to swim in. The Tiger Kingdom is a much better establishment than the others that you might find in Thailand, and that is mainly because they have modern amenities, trainers that obviously care for them, and they are well taken care of. Yes, it does cost more, but paying extra to insure animal welfare is worth it and I’m sure that it is not cheap to take care of so many tigers! They only allow small quantities of people in the tiger’s area at any time and you are always escorted by your own personal trainer. With the smaller tigers you get to watch them play and are encouraged to play with them with branches from trees. Justin actually took home the stick we used when playing with our baby tigers — a little something to help us remember our baby tiger experience.
At Tiger Kingdom you can take in your own camera and take your own photos. The trainers won’t take photos for you as their job is to watch the tiger and keep you safe. You can take as many photos as you like, but seeing as Justin and I wanted to be in photos together with the tigers, we opted to pay for a photographer (300 Baht – $10). We were quite disappointed with the lack of professionalism in this regard, so if you have a good camera, we suggest that you just take your own photos! Many of the photos that we took ourselves came out better than the ones that we had paid for.
Visiting Tigers in Thailand is a topic of much debate. Many say that they are mistreated and drugged, and because of this we shouldn’t visit for the good of the tigers. The same is said about elephants in Thailand. Unfortunately we can never really know what is happening behind the scenes at institutions like this. We spent a lot of time talking to one of the trainers and we really felt like they care for the tigers at Tiger Kingdom. It was a wonderful experience to get so close to these magnificent big cats, and we hope that they are being treated as well as it seemed that they were!