Ever since, I was dreaming of encountering a tiger live – I don’t know what pulls me, but seeing this majestic animal makes me have goose bumps every time!
Living in Chiang Mai, I was keen on visiting the Tiger Kingdom any time soon. Finally, two occasions approached us and reasons enough to go – our wedding anniversary and my birthday!
Being excited on the one hand, I was thinking in the back of my mind about plenty of posts from fellow travel bloggers and on Trip Advisor that these tigers are getting drugged! Tigers getting drugged?
Well, curiosity finally won and we decided to make our own picture.
We rented a motorbike for 100 Baht a day and arrived around 14:30 after taking a few wrong exits and circled around Mae Rim for 1.5 hours (it would take actually not more than 30-40 minutes from the Old Town of Chiang Mai).
Entering the Tiger Kingdom, we got automatically directed towards the first counter to choose our experience. Between the four given options, it was clear for us to visit the biggest ones. 420 Baht per person later (around 10 Euros) we were told that we would need to wait about 30 minutes more, a TV would show us our turn (the ticket is marked with a number which will be displayed on the screen).
So, what options do you have for thirty minutes? You can grab a drink at the waiting area near the counter or like we did – have a snack at the restaurant. The lower outside area is overlooking the bigger tigers, while the upper outside area overlooks the smaller –and medium sized ones. I ate Pad Thai while Sri took a Club Sandwich. To my surprise I was quite satisfied with the food quality, while Sri’s sandwich was simpler in flavour and ingredients, speaking not a “real” Club Sandwich. Two snacks, water and a Coke for 240 Baht is reasonable for such a tourist hub.
Finally the moment has come – a guide picked us and three others from the waiting area and escorted us to the compound. Aside that until now we were impressed with the cleanliness of the whole area, it felt good and showed responsibility that access was granted only to a limited number of people at a time.
Packed with excitement and a bit of fear (or better, respect?) we went inside the compound. It was incredible to see these beautiful creatures so close. We spent nearly 30 minutes inside the compound, speaking plenty of time to speak with the trainers and to take pictures.
Note: It’s actually a timeframe of 15 minutes per visitor inside the compound, perhaps they had a low day, we asked too many questions or the guides/trainers are simply not too particular with the time. At no point we had the feeling to get rushed. But it doesn’t mean that it applies for everyone.
What most people think –us included- is that after 15 minutes you have to leave the place. That’s wrong. After we finished with the encounter we were still strolling around the area and watched tigers playing inside another compound, saw white tigers and the smaller ones. Yes, even we did not purchase multiple-access tickets for the other sizes, we were happy to still see the rest.
A final word:
The tigers looked all healthy, the entire area was well maintained and the trainers seemed to know their job very well. I can’t prove that they are not getting drugged, but I also can’t say they get drugged.
For those sitting only in the restaurant and think they have seen everything – please wake up! Go inside, make your own picture. Any evidence to share with the rest? Awesome, make it happen! But please, retain from showing your “heart for animals” by putting negative blog posts (need more visitors?), comments and whatsoever without any further research (and proven evidence) into the world. Oh yes, after posting their opinion, I don’t think those folks would do anything proactive for the protection of tigers. Ask yourself the question: is it ethical to keep a tiger in a zoo somewhere in cold Europe? A circus? Shows?
To make it a bit clearer, let’s talk in numbers: it is estimated, that there are only 3200 tigers in the wild, half of it in China. And tiger fur and teeth are big bucks in good ol’ China. Only a century ago, it were 100.000 worldwide . Wow. Whose fault? Humans. Why do only a few people really care? Probably due to the fact that we see pictures of tigers every day in magazines, books, internet, TV, commercials, etc., hence it gives us the opinion that there are still lots of tigers around. Who can protect them now from extinction? Humans. How? Through zoos and conversation places.
: National Geographic