I initially had some reservations about doing this excursion. I mean, how are you able to get so close to tigers without them being aggressive? You have to wonder if they being drugging? I figured I would check it out and make my “yay” or “nay” judgment upon completion of the tour.
On our way to Tiger Kingdom, our guide informed us that it is illegal to drug the tigers. He believed the tigers were fed a ton of food in the morning so the tigers would be full and somewhat lethargic during the day. He chuckled and told us to take note of how fat they all were. He was right and I couldn’t help but wonder how many humans they had to consume to become that large.
We arrived at lunch time & decided to eat there before checking out the tigers. They have an a la carte menu and buffet option which includes international and Thai food (approx. $6.25/pp). The food selection was impressive but like any buffet, there may have been a couple of gems surrounded by mainly mediocre options. It was nice that you could view the tigers and compose your own memorial as you dined.
Tiger Kingdom separates the tigers into different areas. The areas and pricing for each (as of August 2014) is as follows (USD):
Smallest Tigers - $19.50
Small Tigers – $16.30
Medium Tigers - $13.15
Large Tigers - $13.15
Additionally, you can hire a photographer for approximately $9.40 per area. We did opt for this since I was having visions of being attacked by tigers & figured I may need both hands free to protect myself. There is special packages/pricing available if you want to get a real good feel for Tiger Kingdom by visiting multiple sized tigers.
The trainers always had us approach the tigers from behind. As it turns out, the tigers may interpret your intention as aggressive if you approach them face to face. You are not supposed to be or even act afraid. Sure, easier said than done. You have to wash the greasy hamburger smell off your hands before entering (makes sense to me). Also, you are never to touch the tigers lightly as this will tickle them and could prompt them to “play” with you. You better believe anytime I touched them I was putting everything I had into it. It may have been a little too much as a couple of tigers looked back at me with questioning eyes. Better safe than sorry; that’s my motto!
With the instructions known, we entered our first area (smallest tigers) with our photographer and the trainer and his stick. Yes, the only thing standing between my life and my death was a thin, little stick which is used to distract the tigers if they get a little too frisky. With the small guys, I was thinking this is a piece of cake. However, as we made our way to the larger tigers, the greater my concern became. I kept internally repeating the mantra “I am not afraid”. However, there were a few instances I recall leaning on a tiger, smiling and saying “just take the picture” lowly through my teeth.
During the high season, I have been told it is not uncommon to have a two hour wait to go into the baby tiger area. Thank goodness we were there during the low season! We were able to zip through the different areas with no wait longer than 5-10 minutes.
In the end, I would have to give Tiger Kingdom a “yay”. Be aware this is purely a photo taking opportunity versus an educational tour. The lack of information about the tigers from the trainers or within the kingdom was a disappointment but where else can you experience the thrill (and terror) of being so close to these magnificent animals? You know what they say; YOLO! Unless, of course, you are Hindu. In that case YOLT (you only live twice or three times, or twelve, or whatever)!
To view more photo’s, click here.