Getting up close and personal with tiger cubs - definitely one of our highlights in Chiangmai. You don't often get a chance to touch these predators but we jumped at it and visited Tiger Kingdom.
Tiger Kingdom of Chiangmai
The facility looked a little like a mini zoo with enclosures set in a landscaped area.
It offered visitors a chance to spend fifteen minutes at a time with different aged tiger cubs as well as lion cubs, although with the latter, there was only one older cub there (i.e. no new born lion cubs).
Tiger Kingdom had different aged tigers as they apparently breed them for zoos around the world. To see the tigers, we actually booked a little tour, meaning we negotiated a car and driver to take us to several places for half a day. We did this with one of the tour operators along Loi Khro Road (near both our hotel and the Night Bazaar).
The cost of the whole "tour" included seeing the older (twenty month) tiger cubs, but we had to pay extra to see the two month old cubs as well.
New Born Tiger Cubs at Two Months Old
We first saw a pair of new born tiger cubs which were around two months old. For our fifteen minute session, we went into the small block housing the two tiger cubs which each had a keeper looking after them. We had to take our shoes off and leave our bags outside. We also went in with another (child) visitor, so that we spent most of our time with one cub.
To say they're cute is a slight understatement, although spending just fifteen minutes with these small animals, we still got a sense of the danger they'd pose when they grew up.
Their fur is actually a little coarse, and we were advised not to put our hands in front of their faces or touch their paws, in case they'd assume we were playing and then start to bite and claw.
LInh sat next to the tiger cub first and she kept climbing over her.
When the little furball attempted to bite Linh's clothes, the keeper would move her head and then bear his teeth to stop her.
With our tiger cub session over too soon, we took our tickets along to another enclosure in the grounds to see the larger tiger cubs.
Large Tiger Cubs at Twenty Months Old
These cubs look pretty full-grown and fearsome, but we were told that Tiger Kingdom allowed visitors to see tigers only up to twenty months before they became adults at twenty four months and then should no longer be in physical contact with humans.
Stepping into the large enclosure was instantly an unsettling move, but there was a keeper each for three large tiger cubs inside.
It was definitely not a *cute* place to be, but we spent a little time with each one of the three and they were all pretty docile with a keeper introducing us to them in turn. The keeper shows us the teeth on this "baby".
These tigers were physically large to stand, crouch or sit next to, and we could stroke their fur which was understandably coarser than the fur of the new born cubs. The keeper also told us to slap down hard on their bodies as they enjoyed it, but I just did a cautious little slap.
There were some other tiger cubs around in separate enclosures and the keepers told us they were still young, but their temperament wasn't right for human contact (i.e. they were aggressive and fought the other cubs).