I’ve always loved big cats and today was a first of many – a first time I played with tiger cubs like I play with my dog (well, maybe not so literally but it was close), a first time I got to pet a tiger (many times!) and the first time I sat so close to a tribe of these great cats!
Located near the Thai-Burmese border, the Tiger Temple Thailand is a 2.5 hour drive from the city of Bangkok. I got a driver, a good car and off we went. Since the whole journey takes about 5 or so hours back and forth, it is quite important that you get a decent ride.
With volunteers of many different nationalities (most of whom are college students), you don’t have to worry about any language barrier when you’re at this monastery cum animal sanctuary. Wild boars, deers, horses, peacocks run free here but the main attraction are the big cats; both young and adult.
The tiger cubs are the stars of the sanctuary. They roam around and play freely; with watchful supervision, of course. And when they get hungry, they get fed milk with a baby bottle! Everyone was clamming and cooing over these playful, fun, energetic furballs and all wanted some time with them.
They were so adorable and friendly that I wanted one for myself – imagine taking this out for a walk! When my irrationality has subsided, I took a walk around the complex and found 2 lions and a black bear. I wanted to pet the lions but they were enclosed and I didn’t think that would go down every well with the monks.
The monastery got its reputation as a wildlife sanctuary when an injured jungle fowl was given to the monks. Peacocks soon came attracted by the calls of the growing colony of fowls. The first wild boar came stumbling into the monastery injured and the monks nursed him back to health until he could roam free on his own again. The next day, he came back with ten of his family! And so the story goes.
The temple is situated adjacent to Burma and the Western Forest Complex that stretches along the border is the largest protected area in Asia and believed to be the home of the largest surviving tiger population in the region.
With tigers come poachers and the first tigers in the monastery were cubs rescued from these poachers and time passed and they started breeding and the rest is history!
This tiger actually rolled over so I could give her a belly rub! Before my trip, I had imagined a tiger’s coat of fur to be soft and fluffy but in reality, it was stiff and coarse – sort of like the green side of the 3M scrub you use on your sink and your dishes but all natural.
If you’re in Thailand, this is one place to check out. It is not everyday that you can say you had a tiger lay its head on your lap! It really was worth the 5 hour car ride. It is open daily from 8:30am – 4pm.
For more information, check out the website.