Planning a vacation to Branson this summer? If you’re hoping to plan a wide variety of activities for your family, why not make a visit to the National Tiger Sanctuary? Just a 10 minute drive north of Branson, the National Tiger Sanctuary is a nonprofit environmental, educational center open to the public and serves as a safe, stress-free environment and forever home for all the animals that live there.
When I visited the sanctuary, I was surprised by the size of it. All of my previous experiences with tigers took place in huge city zoos but this place was different. Neatly nestled in the calm Ozark hills, this was smaller, more homey and less congested with visitors.
The sanctuary provided several different tours: an awareness tour, a feeding tour, a behind the scenes tour and a you feed tour where you can actually help feed the tigers.
Before leaving the main building where I got my ticket, the tour guide sat everyone down to first explain what we could expect from our experience there. Without further delay, she led us outside behind the building where the animals’ habitats were set up. The first cat I came into contact with was an adorable and friendly striped housecat taking a nap on a nearby bench. She looked very content in her home, surrounded by other cats five times her size and provided me with a nice welcome to the sanctuary. Although cute, that little housecat still couldn’t prepare me for the wild cats I was about to encounter next.
Our tour guide led us through the sanctuary gate and stopped at the first habitat on the right where a very large, black tiger stood up and stared curiously right at our group. She began telling us about Midnight, the melanistic tiger whose unique black coat was lacking the traditional tiger stripes due to inbreeding. As the guide continued to talk about more of Midnight’s history and coloration, I very quickly realized that this would not be like any other trip I’d taken to the zoo.
A trip to the National Tiger Sanctuary is much more about being introduced to several very special cats, each of which have an individual life story and a distinctive personality. Because of the small number of tigers that live there, staff members are able to spend more time with each animal, allowing for a consistent relationship to form as well as a deeper understanding of each individual cat and its quirks.
It’s clear that the animals here are very happy and it makes animal lovers like myself glad to know that while many tigers in the wild face extinction, these tigers have a permanent, life home that is safe, healthy and happy.
The tour lasted about an hour and a half and the staff allowed us to take as many pictures as we wanted, which was fantastic because these tigers like to have their photos taken. Just about every one came to the front of the habitat to get its photo taken and interact with the crowd. And let me tell you, it’s one thing to see a picture of a tiger but an entirely different thing to encounter one in real life.
I have no doubt that Branson visitors of all ages will love vising the National Tiger Sanctuary and are guaranteed to leave with both a newfound knowledge and environmental awareness of the lives of tigers.
In addition to being a home for tigers, you’ll also get to meet a variety of domestic cats and dogs that have been rescued and adopted by the sanctuary!
So if you’re in Branson this summer, you and your family might just consider stopping by. You won’t regret it!
The National Tiger Sanctuary is located at 518 State Hwy. BB in Chestnutridge/Saddlebrooke, MO, just 10 minutes north of Branson and 20 minutes south of Springfield.
Hours are Wednesday-Saturday with tours at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
For tickets or more information, visit http://www.bransonshows.com/activity/buyNationalTigerSanctuaryinBransonMOTickets.cfm.