Bali, Indonesia has been one high on my “must travel” list for as long as I can remember. When my sister and I finally booked roundtrips flights to Thailand in late 2016, we decided to add another country. I immediately suggested Bali. Luckily, I spend a lot of time researching destinations so without hesitation my sister trusted my judgement and agreed to go. We planned on visiting two places and as the cultural hub in Bali, Ubud was an obvious choice. First on our Bali agenda was the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest.
Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
Okay, quick break down of the forest. The forest is a sanctuary complete with holy monkeys and trees. About 700 macaques inhabit the area. Three temples built in the mid 1300’s are located inside and available for worship. Residents view the Monkey Forest as an important spiritual, educational and conservation centre. At some point, this sacred forest became a tourist attraction. For a small fee, visitors can see and interact with monkeys.
My Experience at the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
On our first full day in Bali, my sister and I started it by wandering aimlessly, getting lost and then eventually stumbling upon our destination – Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest. Hundreds of Balinese macaques inhabit the sanctuary. When we went in February of 2017 the cost was IDR 40,000/ 30,000 for adult/child or 4$CDN/ 3$CDN. However, online says it has increased by IDR 10,000 for both adult and child.
Although the main entrance of the forest is next to a fairly populated area, the monkeys still make their way to the road. Keeping a close eye on passerby’s. As we had just left Thailand and encountered Thai monkeys, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. Instantly, before even entering the forest, a monkey grabbed my grocery bag.
At this point, my sister and I have very different accounts as to how I reacted. But rest assured, she is wrong and I was cool, calm and collected the whole time. Thinking I could just tug the bag and the monkey would let loose I tried it out. But that little bugger was determined to have my things. My bag started ripping and he was not letting go. After some very polite requests for the monkey to drop my bag, it eventually ripped completely in favour of him and he had a peak through my belongings. Luckily, the only thing of interest to him was my food wrapper. With the help of a laughing ‘monkey guard’ I retrieved my items. This little monkey thief scenario was completely unexpected as the Thai monkeys weren’t really interested in who you were or what you had. Thankfully, I only experienced one more traumatic event on the Scared Monkey Forest premises (although my sister may tell you otherwise, again she is wrong).
Once inside the forest, guests are forbidden from feeding monkeys. If one steals a treat from your bag (which we witnessed) the guard will try to retrieve it as our food may harm them. If you so brave, there is at least one food stand you can purchase bananas at if you want to feed them and get great photos of one sitting on your shoulder. Having just experienced a monkey robbery you couldn’t pay me to do it. However I probably would have if I didn’t just cross paths with that monkey on the road.
Throughout the forest there are guards making sure people are abiding to the rules and deescalating any monkey-human encounters which I appreciated. There are signs everywhere reminding visitors to avoid eye contact and showing teeth as it’s deemed a sign of aggression. If a monkey jumped or climbed on you it was best to stay calm. Typically, after 15-20 seconds he would lose interest and jump off. It’s important that you don’t have anything dangling (a camera strap around your wrist, long necklaces or earrings) and best not to wear sunglasses as it screams easy target. We actually witnessed a monkey steal a woman’s sunglasses off her face. The guard tried to get the monkey to drop them (using a slingshot) when he scurried in the trees. During our time in that part of the Forest, he didn’t have any luck in his sunglasses retrieval mission.
We also saw a monkey bite a woman completely unprovoked. He was curiously climbing her and something set him off. After a couple seconds of shock the woman brushed it off and informed the guard she was okay.
You may feel comfort in knowing that the monkeys are monitored for their health by the Primate Research Center of Udayana University. If a monkey dies seemingly without cause he will be taken to the Bali Animal Disease Investigation Centre for a rabies test. All rabies test conducted between 2013 -2015 have come back as rabies negative. There is no data for 2016 and 2017 as no monkeys have died without a clear reason during those years. If you do get bit or scratched by a monkey there is an onsite first aid clinic with a nurse who can provide treatment depending on your case. Typically all you need to do is wash the wound with flowing water and antiseptic soap. I actually didn’t know this before going but I can only imagine there would be less dramatic yelling when a monkey gently grazed my leg if I had.
We spent 2 hours in the forest and despite my fear + anxiety the entire time I would highly recommend it! It is such a unique experience and very affordable. If the next time I go to Bali it is with someone who wants to visit Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest, it wouldn’t take much convincing me.
Have you ever been to Bali? Let me know!
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