Ever wanted to hug a tiger? I can now check this one off the old bucket list. While staying in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, Jeff and I decided to take the risk and play one-on-one with real tigers. I was really nervous, but didn’t want to let Jeff brag that he had done it and I had not. Every tuk-tuk driver in Chiang Mai will take you to the Tiger Kingdom which is about a 30 minute drive from the heart of the town. We made a deal and paid a tuk-tuk driver 200 baht round trip, which is about $6 USD and he even waited the 2 hours we were there playing with tigers to take us back.
Once we got there we were starving so we paid 200 baht each to eat at the buffet; such amazing Thai food and ironically french fries. After we were fed, and hoping the tigers had been as well, we decided to pay to play with the baby tigers, middle sized tigers, and the largest tigers.
We started with the babies (3 months old) figuring that they were the least likely to rip our faces off and I thought it would help me build some courage to move up to the older tigers. Before we could go in and hug away, we had to wash our hands and wear specific shoes and of course read all the safety information (mind you we had already signed our lives away). They told us to not approach them from the front and not to touch their faces so they didn’t see us coming towards them as a threat. The “trainers” let us lay, pet and cuddle with them as long as we wanted. I was very nervous at first, but all the baby tigers were very sleepy, so it made me more comfortable sitting and cuddling with them. This was so amazing! Tiger cubs are by far the cutest animals ever. (Scroll down to see a video of Jeff playing with a tiger cub!)
Soon we found ourselves stepping into the area with the largest tigers who were only about 24 months old, and boy are they huge! The trainers kept trying to get us to take photos together and while Jeff tried to get them to understand that our cameras don’t just take automatic photos, I noticed a massive tiger who had just awoke from a nap and was pacing back and forth behind us. Since the “trainer” was busy looking through a camera I became really nervous and couldn’t focus on the photo they were trying to take of us.
The whole experience was absolutely amazing! If anyone ever has this opportunity I would say take it and don’t think too much about it! I was really scared, but so happy that I did it and have some pretty cool photos to show for it. Also, they will be opening another Tiger Kingdom in Phuket soon so come visit us and play with tigers!
Next animal adventure… elephants!
Til next time, Marina
Note: Many people comment about the tigers being sedated or drugged. This is not the case at all. The tigers are raised in captivity and are used to human interaction. The tigers are treated extremely well and cycled out of the “interaction” zones when they need to get energy out and play with other tigers. So while many may be sleepy in the middle of the day, we assure you they are still alert, wild animals who have simply grown used to human interaction.
For more information on Tiger Kindgom visit: http://www.tigerkingdom.com/
Total Cost: $33US per person to play with all age groups
$6 Huge Buffet lunch
$6 Tuk-Tuk for the day, there and back
As a maturing women, Marina has dedicated her life to travel and new experiences. After working a 9-5 cubical lifestyle, Marina sold everything she owned, left her job and begun a new life with her boyfriend and travel companion, Jeff Johns. Together they relocated to Phuket, Thailand and founded Latitude 34 in which they seek to share their alternative lifestyle with the world.
Marina is a Visual Journalism graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography where she studied photography, videography and ultimately caught the travel bug. Through creating several international documentaries, Marina realized there was more to the world than work and wanted something more.