What’s best about Tiger Trail at San Diego Safari Park? When to see it. What to do there. And why you should thank Batman for this Sumatran Tiger exhibit! So why’s it worth the trip?
Tull Tiger Trail’s worth the uphill walk, even if you’ve seen tigers before. It’s one of the best-designed tiger enclosures in the world with many good photo spots, big viewing windows, and shaded tables. Buy tiger souvenirs. Discover the Batman connection. And maybe even play with a tiger!
Below you’ll find all 11 factoids about this wonderful place. Read on for how to make the most of your visit.
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1) Almost 1% of All Sumatran Tigers Live Here
Seven Sumatran tigers call Tull Tiger Trail home. This is a sad/glad fact. There are only about 400+ Panthera tigris sumatrae left in their native habitat. Sad.
But there are 200-250 safe from poachers in captivity. The luckiest ones are here in the San Diego Safari Park cat spa having kittens. And with your help (buy LOTS of stuff at the park!) San Diego Zoo Global is helping to expand the wild population again. GLAD!!!
2) You Can Take Good Tiger Pictures!
You can snap industrial-strength awesome tiger photos without an expensive camera. Thanks to tempered glass, you and your kids can safely come nose to nose with these magnificent predators.
No flash photography, please. No one likes being blinded by a sudden bright light. The tiger can’t attack you. But it will probably walk off in disgust and find a dark, quiet spot to rest peacefully in the bushes. You probably won’t get any more photos. You’ll definitely get dirty looks from your fellow visitors for wrecking their shots too.
These 6 Spots Are The Best Places for Pictures at Tiger Trail:
- In the Pondok. This is a shack structure similar to those found in rural Indonesian markets where illegal tiger products are sold. Fortunately, this one only has conservation information and a glassed in pool. The cats like to sit with their feet hanging over the rock ledge over the pool and sometimes go for a swim.
- For the best shots of tigers lounging by the water, go inside the Pondok to the right and as far back as you can go. You’ll be wedged between the wall of the shack and the glass. It’s awkward, but you won’t see light from behind you reflecting off of the glass in your pictures. And because it’s a little out of the way the glass is unlikely to be smudged.
- It’s also a perfect position to catch reflections of a tiger in the water should they decide to come for a drink.
- Photograph swimming tigers. The deep pool in Tiger Trail allows them to show off their ability while visitors can see the cats both above and below the water.
- Logwalk window. Don’t let the kids have all the fun. Climb down the uneven log steps for great views of the first enclosure. The tigers lie up against the glass in the heat because it’s cool and in the shade.
- At Macan Market, The big flat rock in front of the main window is a favorite spot for sleepy felines.
- The Waterfall – when the weather’s hot, look at the stream below the waterfall. Sumatran tigers like cooling off in the stream and spray.
- Rock Outcropping overlooking the waterfall. Walk past the waterfall and look to the right. The tigers sometimes like to sit there and view the waterfall and stream below.
- The Watering Pool near the end of the enclosure closest to the walkway to Condor Ridge. The keepers sometimes place a large ball containing treats in the water. The tigers love splashing around chasing and biting it.
3) It’s Kid Friendly
Here are five areas and activities that your kids will love:
- Tiger Trail Play Area. Let your little monkeys blow off some energy here. There are rope webs to climb, big tree trunks, a slide and plenty of room to run around in a simulated logging camp. Take a photo of your kids riding a tiger (bronze statue) and hugging her cubs (another sculpture).
- Logwalk. Your youngsters can scramble over cut ‘logs’ through the bushes to a large tiger viewing window. Probably not for children under 3 years old without an adult. Your teenagers may also enjoy this small challenge. And the view is worth the uneven footing.
- Prey Vision Simulator These glasses replicate how most prey animals see their world. Your kids look into the glasses and they see what’s on either side of them. It’s a great demonstration of how eye placement can indicate what an animal eats. “Eyes on the side run and hide. Eyes in front, go hunt!”
- Play “Spot the Tiger Tracks” Have your younger kids count the tiger tracks in the cement of the walkways. Have them compare their hand size to a tiger’s paw.
- The Waterfall. Mom, your kids won’t get soaking wet, just be cooled off by a little spray.
4) Tiger Keeper Talks
At 11:45am the keepers do a training/enrichment session with the cat in the enclosure on the west side of the Sambutan Longhouse. Look for the Tiger Keeper Talk sign.
The talks are beneficial for both visitors like you and the tigers. The tigers get a quick physical visual examination by their caretakers, a break in their routine and plenty of treats. You’ll get to know more about the species and how to help them. And you’ll be gobsmacked at how TALL they are when they stretch up to their full extension. Big kitties!
5) Tiger Tug O’ War
If you’re very lucky you’ll get to see a tiger tug of war (rope pulling contest) in front of Macan Market in the Sambutan Longhouse. A large rope is put through a hole that leads into the cat enclosure. The keeper (or some lucky, usually very overconfident visitors) grab the inside end with their hands. The tiger grabs the other end with their teeth.
Even though the Sumatran is the smallest of the tiger species, they’ll still get your attention when they yank on the rope. It’s difficult to hang on for long when a 6 to 8-foot cat weighing up to 300 pounds wants what you’ve got!
6) Eat & Drink with Tigers
At Macon Market, you can buy a light lunch, snacks or a brew. Then sit down and watch tigers while you eat. There are plenty of tables and chairs in the shade of the Sambutan Longhouse’s vaulted wood ceilings. During the heat of summer, there are also misters to help cool you off from the uphill walk.
If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial to eat, check out this page on the best places to eat at Safari Park.
You can also eat lunch while watching tigers at the San Diego Zoo. Check this page to find the best food at the Zoo for where to pick up your chow.
Take some time to look around you at the architecture and art hanging on the walls. Sumatran folk art is highly patterned and stylized with jungle motifs. It’s something that you typically won’t see in your local big box furniture store. And if you like it, buy it! They’re all for sale. All the proceeds go towards the non-profit San Diego Zoo Global organization, the upkeep of the zoo and their worldwide conservation projects.
Look at the hanging lamps. They’re not Sumatran artifacts, although they look like it. They’re really old fashioned lamp post lights from the US that have been hung upside down.
7) Anytime is a Good Time to See Tigers
They’re cats. They’re unpredictable. And they sleep a LOT. But you can up the odds of catching them doing something besides taking an apex predator nap by:
- Make Tiger Trail your first stop (after breakfast). The big kitties know that there are special treats and new objects in their environment first thing in the morning. They’ll be active during this time ‘hunting’ the items that their keepers have left for them.
- Attend the 11:45am Tiger Keeper Talk. Arrive at the tiger exhibit at least 15 minutes early to get the best view.
- Make Tiger Trail your last stop. Tigers are mostly nocturnal. So they’ll be more active at twilight.
8) Tiger Trail is on the way to Australian Walkabout & Condors
Why not take a side trip on the way up or back from the big birds, kangaroos, and platypus. Even if you’ve seen tigers before and you’re in a rush, just walkthrough. You’ve never been as immersed in their environment as you can be at the Safari Park Tull Tiger Trail.
9) Buy Tiger Gear
You’ll find t-shirts, toys and a range of other Panthera tigris sumatrae merchandise at the Macon Market. Get the perfect gift for a feline-loving friend or treat yourself.
And don’t forget the Sumatran folk art statues and carvings in the Longhouse. It’s all for sale. Talk about a unique vacation souvenir!
10) Breakfast With Tigers
Start your day by dining with the tigers…without being on their menu.
Breakfast With Tigers usually takes place twice a year. Plan months ahead, they always sell out. The first one is generally around Valentines’ Day and the second is just before Thanksgiving Day. Check the dates and book online at https://www.sdzsafaripark.org/dining-events. Or phone 619-718-3000.
Enjoy a hearty American-style hot breakfast buffet. Your table’s in the shade. On hot mornings there are misters to keep you cool. There’s great views into two of the tiger enclosures from your table. While you’re eating, the tigers are exploring their space looking for treats and other enrichment that has been left for them by the keepers.
There’s also a Keeper Presentation where they explain and demonstrate the finer points of tiger care.
The cost is a little more than $50 for each person, plus additional tax and parking. Non-members must add Safari Park admission. hciluycnan. Check-in for breakfast is at 7:45am so you get to go into the park before any other guests.
11) Batman Helped Build Tiger Trail
Without Batman Tiger Trail Probably Wouldn’t Exist
Thomas Tull founded Legendary Pictures. That company financed/produced the blockbuster Dark Knight trilogy starting in 2005 with “Batman Begins.” And Tull made a well-deserved pile of money on those movies. He served on the foundation board of the Zoological Society of San Diego for a while. He and his wife contributed $9 million toward the exhibit’s $19 million total cost.
So Batman did make building San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tull Family Tiger Trail possible. Thank you Caped Crusader!
I hope that I’ve persuaded you that a visit to San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tiger Trail is worth the effort. For more information on all the other activities, animal exhibits, shows, and safari tours check out my page on what you need to see and do at Safari Park. And maybe I’ll see you at Tiger Trail soon!