Is Tiger tourism ethical? I get asked this question a lot and people often criticize my decision early on in my travels to visit the Tiger Kingdom in Phuket. After reading all about situations where tiger tourism has stopped when they discovered unethical conditions in other places like the Tiger Temple, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go. But then I did more research and found places like Tiger Kingdom in Phuket, Thailand where they raise the cats just as we would a pet I decided to check it out. When I visited in 2015, these cats acted just like big housecats and it was great fun to pet them. Trainers played with them much the same way that you would play with your pet cat. We watched them running and jumping after balls and other toys. If you want to pet a tiger in Thailand than Phuket’s Tiger Kingdom is where you want to go!
Do you want to see tigers in the wild? Then you need to go to Bardia National Park in Nepal!
Most of the tigers were born at Tiger Kingdom and while it is nowhere near the size of their natural habitat. It’s nowhere near an ideal situation for the tigers but I’d rather have them treated well as pets than see them poached by hunters. Conservationists cannot reintroduce these animals into the wild for a variety of factors which means the best place for them is in the Tiger Kingdom.
Is visiting a tiger safe?
The tigers in Tiger Kingdom are more like big house cats than wild animals. YES they have hurt people in the past and I’d recommend getting travel insurance if you want to do this BUT they have a feline temperament and are well treated. They are generally safe but the most important thing is to listen to the trainers because these animals are not drugged.
The tigers in Tiger Kingdom are NOT Drugged
You’ll find warning signs stating that the tigers are not drugged and giving you explicit safety instructions. This volunteer at Tiger Kingdom explains her experience and goes into more detail about the safety and truth behind the treatment of these animals.
For now I’m going to leave you with my original journal and photos from Tiger Kingdom. I hope you enjoy!
If you’re heading that way be sure to check out these recommendations for where to stay on Phuket?
My trip to Tiger Kingdom, Phuket
‘Roar” said some kid.
“ROAR!” said the tiger.
Traveling in Thailand comes with its fair share of risks no matter what you do. I HIGHLY recommend getting travel insurance before coming to Phuket. Thankfully I didn’t need it while I was there but World Nomads gave me peace and mind in case anything did happen.
The tiger’s roar sounded like a combination purr and bark. They are by definition “Big Cats” but when I rested my head and rubbed Mak’s belly I couldn’t help but think of lying with my family dog. Maybe it was all in my head but imagination aside Tiger Kingdom in Phuket, Thailand was an outstanding adventure!
For roughly $30 you get admission & can spend some time with the striped beasts. They have other packages and prices go up the younger the tigers get. Brian and I were content with the biggest of the bunch and spent the preceding hour wandering among the cages. Tiger Kingdom has a few dozen animals but only uses about 10 or so per day leaving the rest for us to watch behind a thin fence.
Before entering the pen the trainers review some serious safety precautions. Sure they are trained. Signs everywhere warn that they are “NOT DRUGGED” so follow all the rules. The trainers were playing with very active tigers getting them to chase toys exactly like your friend plays with his cat. Well, except that they are much bigger than you and freaking tigers!
Finally it was our turn! We were told “be sure to pet heavily rather than lightly” & “stay behind them; NEVER go near their head.” We spent about 10 minutes with the first tiger (big boy I’m laying on in the first picture.) Brian and I took turns photographing and playing in what was certainly the most exciting few minutes of our lives!
Since we behaved ourselves and followed the rules with our new friend they brought us over to a second tiger! He was roughly the same size and our trainer pulled a few tricks with him. First grabbing a stick and poking him in the ear then playing with his whiskers. Why am I even telling you just watch the gif & check out these amazing photos!