Visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud was nothing short of magical for this Southern girl! It’s so different from any place I’ve ever seen in the U.S.
To begin my adventure, I meandered down one of the shop-lined streets of Ubud until I hit a dead end at the gateway to the monkey forest.
It was easy to tell when I was approaching the sanctuary, because I spotted numerous monkeys near the storefronts and they appeared to be doing their best to annoy the storeowners. Unlike U.S. zoos or wildlife ranches, the monkey forest is not completely enclosed. I found it interesting that the monkeys could dart in and out of the entrance if they chose to do so. And boy, did they! They’re playful little creatures, constantly seeking food and a bit of mischief. The storeowners seemed to have a love/hate relationship with them and would playfully shoo them back into the forest.
Entry fees to the sanctuary are similar to the cost of a typical zoo visit in the U.S. For approximately $20 in U.S. currency, you should be able to obtain a couple of entry tickets and purchase bananas to feed the monkeys. There are currency exchange shops located near the entryway so you can swap out your dollars for rupiah (the local currency).
There are two major points to note prior to entering the forest. Trust me on both of these!
Point #1: Hide your jewelry (and anything else of value).
Monkeys are mischievous, and they are drawn to sparkly objects. The forest guides will warn you, and there are signs clearly posted, but some people ignore those alerts (Of course I would never do that. Ha!).
If you prefer not to be pick-pocketed by a distractingly cute little monkey and witness your precious wedding ring/passport/wallet/sunglasses, etc. disappear off into the canopy of the forest, then you should tuck those items deep inside your clothing or zip them away.
The forest guides can entertain you with funny stories of having to track down items innocently “stolen” from guests by the monkeys. They’ll also point out that it’s a safety issue for the monkeys—and for the guides who have to retrieve the items—so please be kind and safely stow anything that could be of interest to the little critters.
Point #2: Make sure the person holding the bananas is the bravest person in your group.
Are you OK with monkeys climbing all over you…and potentially feeling you up? If the answer is no, then hand the bananas to someone else. 🙂 As soon as you enter the forest, there's a good chance the monkeys will climb on you. They’ll hone in on the bananas no matter where you hide them on your body (See #4 below):
Not all of the monkeys are tiny and cute – some are pretty big and powerful! They’re everywhere, so they may come up from behind you or land on you from a nearby tree – which can be a bit startling. If you’re traveling with kids, I’d suggest having mom or dad hold the bananas at first. Once the monkeys have settled a bit, you can hand a banana or two over to the kiddos and let them share with the monkeys.
Aren't their eyes mesmerizing? The adults were protective of the little ones, but still allowed them to take food directly from my hand.
The monkeys don’t seem to be so aggressive throughout the entire sanctuary; they appear conditioned to expect food closer to the entryway. They may tug on you deeper into the forest in search of sustenance, but if you don’t have anything (and they don’t smell bananas on you), they will scoot away. Some people may consider the monkeys aggressive, others may say they’re just exceedingly friendly; I’d say it just depends on your comfort level with wild animals. I found them very friendly and likable!
The monkeys can–and do–bite or scratch tourists frequently. Don't believe me? Try searching “Monkey Attacks in Ubud” (or similar terms) on YouTube. However, please don't let that scare you away from visiting this majestical sanctuary. Just use common sense to avoid having issues!
The monkey forest sanctuary is considered a nature reserve, and is also home to three Hindu temples. Locals refer to the monkeys as the Balinese long-tailed monkey or long-tailed macaques. The scientific term is Macaca fascicularis, or crab-eating macaques. I could go into extreme detail about them, as well as the temples, but I see no point in repeating the excellent information located on the sanctuary’s official website. Instead, I want to share a few of my favorite photos from my visit:
A baby long-tailed macaque locates a snack of his own while the adults watch nearby.
Look at those tiny little fingers! So precious. Oh, and the mohawk!
My favorite shot from the entire trip! I loved seeing how snuggly they were with each other.
There are detailed statues throughout the forest (I like the monkey peeking out from the leg on the statue in the foreground and the snake belt on the one in the background). These statues stood guard at the entry gate to one of the Hindu temples.
The Monkey Forest Sanctuary is #1 on my list of The Top 5 Things To Do In Ubud, Bali. If you're planning a trip to the area, I highly recommend including it on your itinerary! If you have any questions, please comment below and I'll do my best to answer them.
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