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Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai – Making Friends With Tigers in Thailand

I was nervously excited before our visit to Tiger Kingdom. Who doesn’t want to cuddle a tiger? We jumped in a Tuk Tuk and headed out of the old walled city of Chiang Mai towards the giant kitties.

I was also nervous about the morals of visiting them. I had heard positive things about this particular place (more below). Tiger Kingdom is a popular attraction in Chaing Mai that allows visitors to see tigers up close, pet them and have their photo taken with them.

We had a choice to make; which Tigers did we want to see? Each set was around $15 – $20 each or you could see 3 sets for about $35. We didn’t want to have to choose between the babies and the beasts so we went with a nice set: Small, Medium, Big.

baby tiger at tiger kingdom, chiang mai
Adorable, pretty cute tiger too

We started with the babies, the handlers get you familiar with a set of rules and stay with you throughout for obvious safety reasons. They interact with the tigers in an obviously playful and loving way. The little ones seemed to enjoy getting stroked but like all kids were easily distracted.

Tiger at tiger kingdom
Poser….

We had to be a little more careful with the medium sized tigers, they were still young and active but still big enough to do damage if over stimulated. They were friendly and obviously used to human interaction. By this point any nerves I had were pretty much gone. Yes they are big scary wild animals, but these guys had little interest in eating a fat tourist.

tiger kindom tiger belly rub
Kelly giving a happy tiger a nice belly rub

The biggest ones were simply beautiful. They were only around 2 years old but absolutely huge. One of them was splashing around in the water a few sat around looking sleepy.  I love the picture above with both Kelly and the Tiger enjoying themselves so much, it really topped a really wonderful overall experience.

How are the Tigers Treated? Are the Tigers Drugged? - Click to Open

How are the Tigers Treated? Are the Tigers Drugged? - Click to Open

TripAdvisor is full of debate as to why many of the tigers are so sleepy. Tiger Kingdom explains that there are a few reasons why the Tigers can be safely interacted with without the use of drugs.

  • They were brought up with humans and trained from a young age.
  • They are well fed
  • They are nocturnal it is not unusual for them to find a shady spot and sleep during the day

They go into a lot more detail in this document written by a former volunteer from Britain who had worked there. After our short experience I choose to believe them for one simple reason; a lot of them were pretty damn active, some of them were asleep while others had play fights or took a swim to cool down.

I am obviously not an expert but it seems if the Tigers were sedated they would not be so bloody active. Overall I thought the guys treated the Tigers very well. I have seen handlers treat animals badly and its not pretty. These guys and girls remained friendly, professional and genuinely affectionate throughout our short time there.

We have heard different reports from Tiger Temple near Bangkok, many say the Tigers are chained up and not treated very well. As we have not been there we cannot judge. Make sure you do a little research before deciding whether you want to visit.

Further Reading

Official Website – Tiger Kingdoms Website
TripAdvisor – Reviews of Tiger Kingdom

What do you Think About Tiger Kingdom?

Have you been to Tiger Kingdom? What are your memories of the beautiful beasts? Leave your view in the comments below.

About Lee Carter

Born and raised in Accrington, UK, Lee has ventured far beyond his hometown, traveling throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, North America and New Zealand. He is the co-founder of Global Goose and as well as writing the occasional rant he can be found tweaking the code and taking photos of amazing things around the world. Lee and Kelly are currently backpacking around Southeast Asia and they have no plans to stop their “Gap Decade” anytime soon.

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