Over the last two and a half years, we’ve been lucky enough to meet sloths in Costa Rica, swim with sharks in Maui, hike restricted jungle in search of a baby jaguar (that may or may not have existed, to be fair), and eat conch in the Caribbean.
When in Bali, however, it’s all about the monkeys.
Visiting Bali’s Sacred Monkey Forest
Located in central Ubud off of Monkey Forest Road (where else?!), the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is based on the Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, which emphasizes conservation through a harmonious relationship between humans, the environment, and the Supreme God. Rituals are held in the three temples within the Sanctuary, all built around the mid 14th century, to honor the animals as well as bring peace and harmony to its visitors.
Interestingly enough, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is also home to a graveyard (a Balinese man we met there showed us where his wife was buried), and holds a mass cremation ceremony once every three to five years, called Ngaben, which celebrates the Balinese Hindu cycle of life and allows the soul to travel to its next destination through reincarnation. Take some time to walk the grounds of the Sanctuary and you’ll be treated with new appreciation for Balinese culture.
With between 400 and 600 long-tailed macaque monkeys living in five areas of the Sanctuary, spotting these monkeys is about as easy as spotting a vegetarian at a yoga retreat (no offense, vegetarians).
Baby monkeys are seen clinging to their mothers, as well as other female monkeys, and are scientifically the absolute cutest. With a lifespan of 20 years for females and 15 years for males, it’s safe to say that generations of monkeys have been born and bred within the Sanctuary, and you can hardly blame ’em for staying. The grounds are lush and expansive, they get fed pretty much all day everyday, and there are countless places to climb, swim, nap, play and poop, which are pretty much the most important aspects of your day as a monkey.
Though their diet is a mixture of sweet potatoes, bananas, papaya leaves, coconuts, corn, cucumbers and various other fruits, you’ll soon find they don’t really discriminate in the food department.
Tips for Visitors:
Like just about any tourist activity in any part of the world, it’s not for everyone.
Many former visitors have found it terrifying and disgusting, and cases of rabies from monkey bites have occurred. However, after experiencing it for myself, I can only think that either a) those people must have done something to provoke the monkeys, or b) had an unfortunate case of Shit Outta Luck. Decide what’s best for you, but I really don’t think this place warrants fear with the right knowledge of what not to do (or bring).
- Don’t Wear Jewelry – Take off any long earrings, necklaces, dangly bracelets, etc., as you’ll likely prefer them not to be worn by a stylish yet thieving monkey after your visit.
- Hide your Sunglasses – Stick them in your purse or backpack, or leave them at home.
- Don’t Bring Food – This is the most important point! The monkeys can smell food, and will gladly reach into your backpack, purse, or pocket to get to it. If you happen to forget this point, just let them have your delicious snack and walk away.
- Don’t Bring Paper or Plastic Bags – Yet another thing monkeys apparently like to play with, and also one more thing to make Bali’s trash problem that much worse.
- Don’t Touch the Monkeys – They might absolutely touch you, as they seemed to have no problem using humans as momentary stepping stools or afternoon snack tables, but don’t chase, grab or pick them up. This especially includes the adorable baby ones, since Mama Monkey will assuredly not be a fan.
- Don’t Look them Directly in the Eyeballs – Much like a guy I once went on a terrible date with, monkeys also take direct eye contact as a sign of aggression.
- Calm your Shit Down – Should any of the monkeys jump on you, don’t freak out and start screaming, and definitely don’t sprint away in the opposite direction. Stay calm, let them do their thing (unless doing their thing is biting you and giving you rabies), and back off slowly and calmly.
- Think Twice about Buying Bananas – There are a ton of people selling bananas in the Sanctuary, and it’s the quickest way to ensure a monkey climbs directly up your body (which, in turn, causes people to lose their shit, both mentally and possession-wise). If you’re cool with that and really need to impress your social media followers, have at it. Otherwise, move along and watch the middle aged lady from Iceland handle that nonsense.
- Have a Camera Strap – While many people successfully snapped photos with their phones, I chose not to take mine out of my bag for fear of it being snatched. If you own a nice camera, however, absolutely make sure you have it secured to your person, as we did see monkeys grabbing for them, as well as sandals, hats, and just about anything that could be grabbed, basically.
- Wash your Hands – ‘Cause it’s necessary.
Monkey Forest Basics:
- Entrance Fees – Adult: 40,000 IDR, Child: 30,000 IDR
- Hours – Open daily from 8:30am to 6pm, except for Nyepi Day (March)
- Contact Info – Phone: +62 361 971304, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Excellent photos by boyfriend Peter Rimkus of Two Tank Photo.
There are several monkey puns I could use at this moment, but I’ll save you a sigh and simply thank you for reading. Thanks.