How to See Lions, Tigers and Ligers in Harbin, China
As our lumbering bus passed through the ridiculous tiger-themed gate at the Siberian Tiger Park, the theme to Jurassic Park was stuck in my head. There’s no doubt that this is something of a tourist trap. Fortunately, despite one particular tiger, it’s a lot less dangerous than that infamous dinosaur park.
The entrance area this tourist attraction in Harbin, China is so tacky – complete with cutesy anthropomorphic sculptures of animals and a soundtrack blaring upbeat Chinese songs.
That’s the first impression, but things quickly improve once the pseudo-safari gets underway. First, we had to pay an admission fee of 90 RMB (about $15) for the admission fee. It’s an extra 10 RMB ($1.5) for the safari ride and this is essential. If you don’t opt for this extra, all you can do is walk around and see the animals in small-ish cages. This takes about 20 minutes and isn’t that impressive.
In the bus, at least, you can see the tigers in wide-open areas. Most of them are just lounging around, but some of them are fairly active. A few of them got right up to the bus, much to the enjoyment of the tourists armed with cameras. Personally, I’ve only seen tigers in zoos of varying quality, so it was great seeing them in a much larger environment. Apparently, there are about 500 tigers here, with 100 of them available to be seen in public.
There are gates between each of the sections, and at one point a tiger followed us into the buffer area between the zones. We drove quickly around in circles and herded the sassy tiger back into its zone. It was good fun.
The ride was at least 30 minutes or so, and at the end we were dropped off into the more zoo-like area. On foot, we saw lions, white tigers, panthers, and other big felines. China isn’t exactly renowned for the humane conditions of its zoos. This didn’t appear particularly bad, but it wasn’t world class either. If you’re up for it, you can buy live animals to feed to the tigers in this section. There’s even a chute to shove a chicken down to the tigers. Nobody opted for this.
Is the Siberian Tiger Park worth the visit? Probably only if you choose to ride around instead of just walking through the small zoo section. My brother and I had a decent time and didn’t regret it, but it certainly isn’t something we’d go to again. I suppose it was a nice diversion from the Harbin Ice Festival.
How to Get There
The Siberian Tiger Park is about 15 kilometers from downtown Harbin and the easiest way to get there is by taxi, which should run about $5-$7. There’s a tourist bus that makes its way out there, but service seems to be irregular. Getting back from the park is a bit of a hassle since just a handful of taxi drivers demand a high price (even if you’re haggling in Chinese, as my brother was doing).
I'm an American freelance writer who spent a couple years living in Cambodia. Now I'm on the move again and traveling all over the place. I'm willing to try any bizarre liquor that's presented to me. Any recommendations?