Tigers can swim?! I was flabbergasted to find out as I sat on an amphitheater with my mouth agape, staring at an unbelievably huge tiger making its way across water.
We were at the Chiang Mai Night Safari and we were watching an animal show even though it wasn’t even dark yet.
It was drizzling on and off the whole day, but after alighting at the main hall of the Chiang Mai Night Safari, the sky finally lightened up.
Situated ten kilometers from the city center, it is a sprawling park at 819 acres large. That’s twice the size of the more popular Singapore Night Safari. This zoo currently holds the titles as being the largest of its kind in the world.
Being in Chiang Mai, I expected to see a lot of elephant motifs all over it and I wasn’t wrong in my assumption. Everywhere I looked there’d be elephants; atop the pavilions, over rotundas, inside the lobby. There was even a live one near the stage area with guests feeding it.
Besides that live elephant, we also played and posed with a white raccoon, a porcupine and an iguana along the lobby of the complex before something much more interesting arrived; lady boys!
I’ve seen a few of them in Phuket’s Bangla Road, but I was totally clueless why they were here. Turns out a part of the daily Chiang Mai Night Safari show includes these gals, prancing and dancing along the open show area to the chagrin of the crowd. Lol.
After that colorful show, we were ushered to an amphitheater to witness the Night Predators Show. For the next half hour, porcupines and adorable bearcats walked openly just a few feet before us. We also saw more dangerous animals like lions, wild boars, hyenas and tigers in close proximity, although with Plexiglas in between us, of course.
It wasn’t your usual animal show where the creatures just sit in one place and visitors gaze. Here we saw these guys climb trees, run around the simulated jungle and even swim on the man-made lagoon, all on their own volition. The show was done quite creatively and if you don’t stop and think about it, you’d think they were all so well-behaved that their trainers were actually able to direct them to do the things they did.
As the afternoon wore on and twilight started to creep in, our group was ushered to the Wari Kun Shorn hall. The graceful structure is used for private functions and meetings. But we weren’t here for any meetings at all; what we were here for was food. Three cheers for an early buffet dinner!
We were treated to grilled favorites; prawns, chicken, pork and veggies. Everything was really good, but my favorite was the chicken khao soi noodles; a popular dish in northern Thailand. My seatmates were all gushing over it, and although they said it’s quite spicy, I was able to down two bowls haha.
With dinner out of the way, it was finally time for the night safari. Boarding a fifty-person open tram, we slowly traversed the zoo’s massive night trail. A guide cheerfully took up the mic and told us the do’s and don’t of the safari. We were told that photography is allowed, as long as we don’t use any flash.
The Chiang Mai Night Safari grounds are divided into two parts, the Savanna Safari Zone and the Predator Prowl Zone. The two tours combined last about an hour long and loops through four kilometers of extremely dark trail. Spotting the animals through the darkness didn’t pose a problem though, as our guide usually trains a spotlight on them as we pause and pass them by.
Our group did the Predator Prowl Zone first and saw lions, pumas, wolves, jackals, black bears, hyenas and hippopotamuses. Although visually, you won’t be seeing any fences, I think (and hope haha) that the zoo has most surely placed pits or what-nots between these creatures and us.
I was more relaxed with the Savanna Safari Zone, I know these guys don’t see us as part of their basic food groups. We were, however, told not to extend our hands from the tram, especially on the zebra area. These guys can easily bite off your finger, along with the carrot you’re holding, our guide relayed to us.
With that thought running in my head, I was filled with a mix of exhilaration and nervousness as full-grown zebras and antelopes went walking just a few inches from my arm. I literally froze.
While it was really exciting to be this close to these creatures, they were just too darn close for comfort. I have no plans on losing a finger while in Chiang Mai. Lol.
The Savanna Safari Zone done, we went to another place filled with colorful animals, albeit unmoving ones. Hello souvenir shop! Finally, animals we can pet all we want before shooting them down our bags. These guys definitely don’t bite fingers, but they do bite into our travel funds.
Before calling it a night, we went back to the main lagoon for the final show of the night.
Lights suddenly blinked in the middle of the water and colorful fountains sprouted forth. Chiang Mai Night Safari’s Musical Fountain soothed our excited nerves, a perfect way to cap our day off.
Chiang Mai Night Safari
Address: 33 Moo 12, Tambon Nongkwaii
Hangdong District, Changmai, Thailand
Contact Number: +66 (53) 999 000
Open Hours: Daily 11:00am to 10:00pm
Facebook: Click Here
GPS Coordinates Map: 18°44'32.5"N 98°55'02.0"E