Friday, February 1, 2013

Tiger Kingdom

Tiger Kingdom is a popular stop on the tourist destination map, and it is easy to see why. With tigers in the wild now listed as critically endangered being able to see these magnificent animals up close and personal is a rare treat. Navigating the front entrance is a challenge. On arrival at the entrance to the car park you are given a queue number, then at the reception area you must decide which tiger visiting option you prefer. Smallest, small, medium, large or just about any combination - for an extra fee. You then show your queue number, state you selection, get issued an additional ticket, decide whether you want the photographers package and then proceed to the cashier. Once you have paid for your package you then go to a lounge area and wait until the next visitor intake, approximately 5 - 10 minutes depending on how busy things are. This is all before you get inside the door to the tiger area. Our selection for the day was to see the smallest tigers only. With the idea being that you actually enter into the enclosure with the tigers, Frank didn't like the risk factor which seemed to increase in increments equal to the increase in size of the tigers. These are wild animals and I guess it is sensible to respect them as such. Even the little ones we were not allowed to pick up, or pat their heads or front paws. Apparently this type of "play" behaviour kicks in quite quickly to being over boisterous, and as such is not encouraged. In addition you are not allowed to let the cubs lick you, as licking is in initial indicator for how something tastes. Before entry to the enclosure you must wash your hands to minimise the risk of transfer of germs, and must take your shoes off and put on flip flops similar to those provided at the temple. Standard issue for Thailand by the look of it. We made the decision to book the photographer which in retrospect was the best thing we could have possibly done. Although we are both keen photographers, having the supplied photographer allowed us more leeway interacting with the tiger cubs. Being late morning they were all rather sleepy and snoozing quietly. Having you photo taken with a sleeping cub is just not as exciting as when these little striped bundles are up and about.
There was one exception to the rule, and he seemed to take a liking for Frank, coming over to us from the other side of the enclosure, while my guy slept on. After crawling over his sleeping litter mate he decided more fun was to be had with Frank, so climbed across his lap and there he stayed. Looking happily around and watching things happen around him. Perfect photo opportunity for us which would have been unattainable without the photographer who allowed the cub to stay with us. The cubs were two and a half months old, starting to develop personalities, fully striped and with their ear splotches clearly visible already. It was incredible to be so close to these animals, knowing what they would develop into. The cub was quite happy for me to sprawl on Frank as well, so hopefully some of the photos will be good. We have them on a disc but are not yet able to view them. There were also a couple of cubs only two months old. The developmental difference was marked....although oh so cute! One was hissing quietly from his corner every time someone went near him, not that it would deter anyone, but his attitude was happening. If you choose you can also see the adult tigers and enter into the enclosure with them. Many people chose to do this. The theory is that as nocturnal animals tigers are more sedate in daylight hours, but don't be fooled. They are still balls of muscle fully capable of creating havoc if they choose. Once your enclosure visit finishes you are able to walk around the rest of the park, looking at and photographing the tigers for as long as you like. All things considered it was well worth a visit. 31.1.2013

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