Playing with big cats all in a day's work for lucky Simon
IT'S a tough gig having one of the best jobs in the world.
For Simon Murray, that involves playing with tigers and cubs all day.
As supervisor of Tiger Island at the Gold Coast's Dreamworld, Simon has no qualms in admitting just how lucky he is to have a job many only dream about.
But it wasn't always what he imagined he would be doing.
"I definitely fell into it,” he said.
"I was working at Dreamworld as a rides and attractions supervisor when two guys came over from the states when Tiger Island opened in 1995 and wanted to train some staff to handle the cats.
"I was lucky enough to be one of those first people.”
Twenty-one years later, he's the head honcho.
So what is a day in the life of a tiger handler like?
Mornings are mostly spent cleaning, preparing food and taking the tigers out for customer experiences. Then it's back for an afternoon of interacting with the cats.
"It's more so conditioning than training, but it's all about routine and being consistent,” Simon said.
"When we are interacting with them we're not necessarily asking for a specific behaviour, but we have to be consistent; especially the cubs.”
The adult tigers have their daily feed in the evenings and put away up to 6kg of raw meat.
The cubs are fed in the mornings and evenings and eat about 2kg of raw meat a day.
Simon said while we couldn't forget the tigers were wild animals, they could be as cheeky as domestic cats.
"They've got no problems jumping on us. If you're not paying attention, they'll let you know,” he said.
"Every young tiger is super cheeky - always looking to push the boundaries of what's okay and what's not, but rarely in a malicious way. Then they'll quickly run away and hide so they don't get in trouble.”
But, he said one-year-old Kai took the crown for cheekiness.
"The way he greets you in the morning is he runs and jumps up on you to give you a big hug - he is 100kg. But he is always fun to be around,” Simon said.
Every day Tiger Island raises money for the Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation that distributes money to two groups working to save wild tigers in Russia and Sumatra including anti-poaching patrols and prosecuting those doing the wrong thing.
A newly renovated Tiger Island will be unveiled this month and you could be one of the first to see it.
We're giving one lucky family the opportunity to win four seven-day adult passes to Dreamworld, WhiteWater World and SkyPoint Observation Deck at the Q1, three nights accommodation in Surfers Paradise, flights to get you there and a rental car for the duration.
You'll also get to have your photos taken with the tigers and take home a Tiger Island merchandise pack.
There will be two major winners among the daily papers produced by ARM.
Note: the adult passes work for an adult or for a child of any age.
There are also two minor prizes up for grabs that could see you snare four seven-day adult passes to Dreamworld.
Click here to enter.