On the morning we decided to visit Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai we woke up early, jumped on our scooter and got there just after opening (opening times are 9am to 6pm) in an attempt to experience these wonderful creatures before the crowds arrive. What we quickly realised was that wanting to see the tigers and actually seeing them were completely different fantasies.
Any songthaew or tuk-tuk driver will take you to Tiger Kingdom and wait for you for a reasonable cost. We hired a scooter so we don’t know how much this is but looking at other travel blogs a cab will probably cost about anywhere between 50 to a few hundred Baht per person depending on how many of you there are. It’s cheaper if there are more of you.
If you’re making your own way there then head North from the Old Town at Chang Phueak Gate towards Mae Rim and stay on this road for roughly 20 minutes. You will eventually see signs to turn off and it’s pretty much on the left just back from the main road.
Entering the Tiger Kingdom
As we walked into the entrance it was bedlam. People were all over the place! There were no signs telling you where to go and it wasn’t immediately obvious what we had to do as there were several desks with crowds of people around. Clearly we looked lost because an exasperated Thai lady (with a fantastic American accent) shoved a leaflet in our faces and said “here are prices, pick what you want”… Thanks.
Eventually we chose to see the small tiger which is about 5-10 months old for 520 Baht per person. Some others have said that this is expensive but to be honest I don’t think around £10 is too bad.
Once we chose what we wanted to do we were told to join another queue to get our “queue ticket”. This is a number you’re given so you know when it’s your turn to see the tigers. Imagine the Argos experience where you get a number and are called to a desk, it’s just like this and there are screens everywhere.
After getting our queue ticket we were shoved to yet another desk where we had to pay. During all of this we were being shouted at and herded all over the place. Much like a bunch of sheep. A dude then shouts for everyone with a ticket to follow him and were let through a gate into the park where the tigers are kept.
As soon as we were let in it was immediately obvious that something didn’t feel right. Before we even did anything we both wanted to leave. There was something about the place that felt off. However we were there and decided to do what we came to do.
The whole place consists of pretty much one path with several enclosures. You can’t get lost, it takes about 2 minutes to walk from one end to another.
You’re free to look into the enclosures at the different tigers and the Argos screens were always there letting you know when it was your turn.
As we headed towards the small tiger enclosure a lady asked for our ticket and even though we weren’t due to see the tigers yet she led us to the gate where a keeper was ready to let us in.
Playing with the tigers
Having paid for a ticket to spend time with a small tiger we were pleasantly surprised to walk into an enclosure with 5 of them! The keeper let us take a few photos from a distance and then took us over to sit with them.
Tiger cubs playing around with each other
We got to stroke two different tigers and the keeper pulled out a large stick with leaves tied to the end that the cubs loved to chase. They’re just like cats we get at home except they’re massive and potentially deadly!
Tiger selfies could be the next big thing!
During the time in the enclosure all the visitors were regularly being told off for getting in the way or accidentally being in someone else’s camera shot. When I was taking photos a man got a prompt scolding from a keeper for standing sort of near us. We really didn’t mind but apparently it’s bad etiquette.
Looking at the other enclosures with people getting into silly positions with the “big” tigers was interesting to watch. These cats were huge and people were laying on them! I’m good outside thanks!
Massive tiger! Man for scale
Not too much attention being paid to us
Apparently you’re only allowed to get close to tigers up to 30 months old because their behaviour becomes too unpredictable after that age.
Would we go again?
I’ll admit that being in the enclosure with the small tigers was a special opportunity and at that age they seemed happy to let people hang around with them. We got some great photos and, well, stroked tigers! However that “not right” feeling stuck with us and we were glad to leave.
There are some stunning white tigers there and one of them was in a small enclosure pacing back and forth. The smallest (0-3 month) old tigers were surrounded by people and looked quite scared. The older tigers looked lost and unhappy.
This fellow just kept walking back and forth
The staff were all rude apart from the keeper we had who was actually genuinely nice and seemed to love the tigers and they all kept going up to him for cuddles. The rest of the staff seemed to have extensive training in barking orders.
- You get to actually touch and spend a decent amount of time with tigers ranging from tiny cubs to 30 months old
- The tigers look like they’re in good condition and healthy
- The enclosures are all clean and free from any mess
- Rude staff
- You can’t help feeling guilty being there
- The older tigers seem unhappy and distant
There are many accusations and concerns about the tigers being drugged/sedated. I don’t know for sure but I’m pretty satisfied that they’re not drugged.
Should you go?
Not much else to do but stare…
We’re not going to tell you what to do and believe everyone should draw their own conclusions.
If you want to check it out for yourself then go for it. Spending time with the tigers is actually quite amazing and you shouldn’t boycott the place if you’re curious about it.
On the other hand if you have objections and are concerned you won’t like it then maybe Tiger Kingdom is not for you.
P.S. What’s up with the parrots that look like they’ve been through the wars?
Who decided it was a good idea to put a bird cage next to big cats?
Have you been to Tiger Kingdom before? What was your experience like?