I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have heard of The Tiger Temple in Thailand, but there’s somewhat of a hidden gem up north in Chiang Mai if you’re looking for the ultimate tiger experience!

It’s called The Tiger Kingdom and it’s just outside of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. This place is out of this world. Basically it’s a restaurant/tiger sanctuary. So you could stop by for some lunch or dinner and watch the tigers play or you can pay  about $10 to go in to the pens and have your own one on one time with these big kitties.

They usually have tigers from 2-9 months old ($15 for 15 minutes), 6-9 months ($10 for 15 minutes), and 10-20 months ($10 for 15 minutes). They have combo packages too which are a bit more. When I was there they even had 2 lion cubs! I’m sure they are too big now to get close to, or they may have transfered them to a zoo or more appropriate location.

A Truly Unique Tiger Experience

What’s unique about this place is that the tigers aren’t chained up. They are free to walk about their pen even when you’re in there with them. The tigers have been trained from an early age that play with humans is forbidden. There is no use of electric shock devices or drugs to keep them in line, nor do they remove their claws.

The trainers here use a nose tapping method. They use small wooden sticks about 10 inches long to tap their nose if they start to show aggressive behavior like eye contact or licking.

The whole time I spent with the tigers, which was about a half hour, I never saw a trainer once have to tap a nose (except with the 3 month old cats, and in their case they would just tap them with their hand). They would just knock the stick on something near by like a log or the fence and the tiger would relax.

Is It Really Safe?

The trainers spend all day everyday with these cats, they know their personalities and they know their triggers. This is what makes it’s reasonably safe to have such intimate encounters with these animals. Now I say reasonably because that’s the truth, it’s not entirely safe. You would have to be pretty thick to think that stepping into a pen full of tigers doesn’t come without risk . They still are wild cats, even though they’ve been raised with constant human contact. And they are big and strong and if they really wanted to they could kill you, plain and simple.

From the Tiger Temple to the Tiger Kingdom

The Tiger Kingdom-Chiang Mai, Thailand

When I went to The Tiger Kingdom I was a little bit nervous. I had already been to the Tiger Temple so I thought it’d be a cakewalk, but this was different, they were not tied down to anything. If they wanted to rip off my face, they could, and I knew it.

I looked for reassurance at the ticket counter while I signed my waver, asking “it’s safe right? I mean, nothing bad is gonna happen right?”

They just smiled at me and said “ah miss, they wild cat, they big cat, big cat never safe”. I continued, “But, nobody usually gets bitten or hurt do they?” to which they replied “big cat have claws, they like sometime bite and scratch, only small injury. Nobody die, now sign paper.”

These were not the reassuring words I was looking for. But I gotta give it to them for being honest.

Keeping Their Track Record Clean

There has not actually been any major injuries to anyone visiting The Tiger Kingdom to date, and I’m sure they are diligent in keeping it that way. Feeding your customers to the tigers wouldn’t really be good PR if you know what i mean. I must note that the trainers are very good with the people, they make sure you’re in a good place in your mind when you go in the pen and don’t push you to get too close if you don’t want to.

The staff at the Tiger Kingdom are happy having you just stand with them and observe. They also think it’s a nice break for the tigers when people don’t want to take a hundred pictures while they’re in the pen with them.

If you are nervous about going I would suggest to go in the middle of the day, it is the time when the tigers are most relaxed. The trainers encourage play between the tigers and they really start to get active around 5pm. They are anticipating play and feeding time and can start to display more signs of aggression which is not so good for a nervous tourist.

I went just as they were closing and could only see a select group of cats because others were starting to get a bit too frisky. I’d say if you are just going out there to grab some food from the restaurant dinner is the time to visit. You can eat dinner while watching the tigers run around playing with each other. It really is quite impressive to see their speed and power as they run after, and pounce on each other when all the humans are safely out of their way.

The Tiger Kingdom is truly and amazing place to visit. If you are in the Chiang Mai area, this is one place you do not want to miss.