Chiang Mai, Thailand: Tiger Kingdom

A tiger is not the animal at the top of my list when it comes to answering the question, “What animal would you like to interact with?” While traveling in Thailand with a friend, the opportunity to do just that, interact with a tiger, came up. I may not have done a lot of research about it but lucky for me I was with the queen of research and Q&A, my bestie Alana!

IMG_0822A lot of people believe these tigers are just there as a tourist attraction and are drugged 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can assure you these tigers are NOT drugged. These animals would not have interacted with each other the way they did or have as much energy as they did if they were drugged. These tigers were very reminiscent of domesticated house cats that were playing with each other, except they weren’t small house cats. Both Alana and I were very adamant about going to a location that did not drug their tigers even if that meant only observing them and not being given the opportunity to physically interact with them.

Tiger Kingdom is a facility that is regulated by the government. Should a tiger be born, it must be reported. If a tiger dies, it must be reported. The government also conducts check ups at least every three months to ensure every tiger is accounted for and in good health. We were even able to witness the facility’s care first hand while we were there. Towards the back in one of the enclosures they was a tiger being observed by employees and seemed to be isolated from others. Upon talking to the employees, the people interacting and observing the tiger were veterinarians and handlers. This tiger was constipated and they were making sure nothing was wrong. Instead of using sedation or anything that could be harmful they used ethical techniques and the trained veterinarians administered the medicine in the cat’s rectum. While we were there they were playing the waiting game to see when the constipation would pass. Had this place been just another tourist trap, they would have just sedated the tiger and done what they needed to to get this tiger back in front of the cameras.

TIMG_0724hese large jungle cats also do not appear to be abused as some people claim. They are trained with vocal queues to keep those visitors sharing their environment safe. The trainers also have bamboo sticks that they use as a distraction.
The reason why these facilities are open and are important for these tigers are because tigers don’t roam around freely in Thailand. They are hunted by poachers and with Thailand’s urban population expanding at a rapid rate and there is not enough free untouched wild environment left for tigers to live freely. If these tigers were roaming free and found itself in a civilian environment it would most likely be killed to protect us humans.

This was definitely an experience I will always remember!

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Chiang Mai, Thailand: Dumbo Elephant Spa

IMG_0576Elephants!! After a visit to the Dumbo Elephant Spa, my new favorite animal has to be an elephant. These amazing creatures are so loving and caring and I feel so blessed to have been able to spend some time with them.

Before my trip to Thailand it was on my bucket list to interact and possibly ride an elephant. Lots of research went into the different options I had to check this off my list. Upon gathering my information, I decided to go against riding an elephant. Elephants aren’t meant to carry heavy things on their backs due to the way their spines are shaped. I wanted to find a place where I could interact with one (fingers crossed one of those elephants could possibly be a baby). This is where Dumbo Elephant Spa comes in!IMG_0107

This wildlife sanctuary was brought to my attention through a friend who discovered this location
through a fellow world traveler on Instagram.  This location invited guests to “Join our fun day with elephants in our remote village near Chiang Mai. Mud-bathing, Elephant showering in the river, feeding and playing with them.” They are true to their word. I had the opportunity to give an elephant a mud bath, shower an elephant in the river, feed an elephant, and play with an elephant.

One of the trainers picked us up from our hotel and drove us up the mountain to their sanctuary. The drive was about 90 mins from where we were and we did have a little pit stop to get some snacks. Once we arrived, we put our belongings down under a covered area and went over to feed the elephants some bananas, bamboo, and papayas. There were four elephants we got to interact with. Two mother elephants and two baby elephants. One baby elephant was 10 months old while the littlest one was just 2 months old. The littlest one loved to cuddle. If you bent down/squatted to eye level he would try to push you over so he could cuddle. The other baby loved to eat. He found one of the crates of food and just made himself at home looking for every bit of fruit and bamboo.

IMG_0061After feeding them we played for a bit. A trainer had a soccer ball and the 10 month old elephant jumped right in and kicked the ball around with us. Once play time was done, we had some lunch and a quick nap. The nap was perfect because there was more fun to be had soon after that. Once we woke up from our naps we changed into our bathing suits and went to have some fun in the mud with the elephants. After our mud baths we had water baths in the river followed by more feeding and play time before leaving.

Speaking with the trainers these elephants were once used to transport materials to the villages. Now that there are vehicles these elephants are no longer needed. These elephants are in some degree domesticated but not like the dogs and cats we are accustomed to at home. They can’t roam free like they use to because of the growth of the civilized population in the country. The Dumbo Elephant Spa does not believe in training these elephants to be ridden as a tourist attract. They contribute to the rehabilitation of these elephants and help to educate their visitors who want to connect with the local wildlife and nature.

I highly recommend Dumbo Elephant Spa to anyone planning a visit to the Chiang Mai area! I will definitely go back for another visit the next time I find myself in Thailand!