Up close and personal with Thailand’s tigers

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iol travel june 8 tiger sanctuary AP Upon arrival guests are introduced to their tour guide and given a quick brief on how to act around the tigers.

Have you ever thought of stroking a real life tiger, feeding them or cuddling the cubs? Well in Thailand this dream can become a reality.

Tourists will get the chance to walk among these incredible creatures without having a fence in the way to spoil the experience

“Thailand’s first tiger sanctuary is situated in Sai Yok, which is about 40km north of the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi Township. The trip takes about two hours there and back, so we recommend that you book the whole day for this adventure, as it is quite far from the city of Bangkok,” explains Thamanoon Kuprasert, general manager of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa for Thai Airways International (THAI).

The story of the sanctuary goes back a few years, when a local farmer brought in a tiger cub to the monks in Sai Yok. The cub’s mother had been killed in a fight and the farmer asked the monks if they could give the cub sanctuary. Word soon spread and the temple was turned into a home for hurt animals or tigers that have been lead astray. Today the Tiger Sanctuary is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Kanchanaburi.

Upon arrival guests are introduced to their tour guide and given a quick brief on how to act around the tigers, the most important point to remember is not to scream or shout around the animals.

Guests are then brought out to a beautiful field where you will find the tigers sleeping or playing with one another. Visitors are allowed to pet and touch the animals and watch the guides feed them. If you are really lucky you might even get a chance to feed the beautiful animals yourself.

“However, there has been criticism that this sanctuary is cruel to the tigers, but the owners assure all tourists that the animals are only treated with love and care,” explains Kuprasert.

Guests are encouraged to have lunch at the restaurant, where only the best Thai food is on display, while taking in the rest of the sanctuary that also includes snakes and birds.

Saving the best for last, tourists will make their way up to the nursery where you will get to see the newest members of the family: The cubs.

The guides will allow each visitor to sit with and feed the baby cubs, the only condition here is to make sure your hands are clean and not to let the cubs lick or chew on them.

This is to prevent the cubs catching any virus. Other than that, tourists can enjoy cuddling and getting to know the little tigers.

“This sanctuary has grown so much over the years that they have also opened up a sanctuary in Chiang Mai, so tourists can not only experience the Northern culture and delicious food, but the experience of walking side-by-side with a real life tiger,” concludes Kuprasert.

Thai Airways travellers can purchase an air ticket for travelling to Thailand and Asia Pacific destinations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, China, Indo-China, Australia & New Zealand until 30th September 2012 with Thailand & Asia Pacific Delight Promotion. For more information, visit www.thaiair.co.za or phone (011) 268 2580.

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