“Let’s go pet the babies! They’re so cute & sweet!” we thought. Even though we were intimidated by the thought of petting the adult tigers at the Tiger Kingdom, our group was excited to see the cubs. What we didn’t think about, however, was that the adults were trained – cubs aren’t!
When we walked into the enclosure, three cubs were sleeping. Cute. Two others were awake and wrestling, with little squeaks and roars (sort-of) as they tried to pounce and pin each other. Epi-cute. Suddenly, one of them noticed us and decided he wanted a better challenge. With a tiny growl, he started stalking towards us. The trainer shooed him off and distracted him easily, but it was a little unnerving. They are still wild, after all.
We went to hold one of the cubs that was sleeping, and he didn’t seem to mind too much, besides a few big yawns. He had huge paws for such a tiny critter, and I was surprised to feel how coarse his fur was. I expected tiger cubs to be soft! The little guy was pretty well-behaved, except for when he decided to get a taste of my friend’s shirt and started licking him. That’s a big no-no here, as the trainers don’t want the tigers to develop a taste for people. So we had to distract the cub and get him to stop licking. Pretty soon, he joined the other cubs in the wrestling match, and our group moved on to see the bigger cats. That was a different experience than I expected, but still fun!
When were you surprised by an experience that wasn’t exactly what you expected?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 7.1 • 1/50 sec
(Note: I don’t recommend using ISO 1600 outdoors – I just forgot to change settings before this opportunity came up)
By far the scariest experience I tried in Thailand was going to the Tiger Kingdom, where you can pay to pet Bengal tigers. Before we left our hotel, the owners took the liberty of telling us all about a friend who had been bitten in the tiger cages. Um, thanks! 😕 We told her we were only going to visit the cubs. By the time we arrived at the zoo, we had challenged each other to “go big or go home!” We spent some time with the cubs and then headed toward the adult tiger cages.
On the way, we stopped to take pictures of some other tigers. Some acted like big house cats, purring and rubbing on the fences. Another one lunged at a girl in our group, drenching her with water from its pool. So much for our nerves! But we continued on. The trainers allowed us to come into the tiger cage in pairs. On my turn, another girl and I went in while giving each other looks saying, “Are we really doing this?”
There were three tigers and five trainers in the cage with us. These tigers seemed pretty lazy and barely noticed our presence (though the employees swore they were not drugged). The trainers instructed us to approach the tigers from behind to avoid challenging them and to pet them firmly (so we wouldn’t be mistaken for flies). For the most part the tigers ignored us, but one got up to roll over while I was sitting next to him. I was on my feet in a split second! He just rolled over on his back for a belly rub. Typical cat. 😉
When our time was up, we left the cage feeling very proud of ourselves for taking on a new challenge and making it out safely. I came away with vivid memories of Thailand. After all, what’s travel without experiencing something you would never do elsewhere?
What is was your most extreme travel experience? When have you faced fear and tried something new?