Although I spent just about all my time in Canggu while I was in Bali, I did spend a day exploring a few other places. One of them was the Monkey Forest in Ubud. It’s a pretty popular destination for when you’re in Bali. It makes sense; who wouldn’t want to see some monkeys running around? As any responsible traveller, I’ve done my research on the place after I visited it. What I found out was pretty interesting. Overall, the Monkey Forest is a good place.
The Ubud Monkey Forest Conservatory, as is its full name, follows the Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana. It translates to mean three ways to obtain physical and spiritual well-being. It aims to help people live harmoniously with other people, with nature and with god. That’s the three-way part of the philosophy. With that in mind, the Monkey Forest aims to create peace and harmony for its visitors, international and local alike. Among helping the monkeys and people, the forest conserves rare plants and other rare animals. They serve a purpose for local Hindu rituals. The Monkey Forest is also an education institution for local schools with emphasis on social interactions among the monkeys and with their environment.
The park itself is pretty small. It’s about 20 hectares. As you can imagine, the park is extremely lush with tropical plants and trees. It’s also pretty hilly too. There is even a ravine that is accessible to the visitors. Within the Monkey Forest, there are three different Hindu temples. There is evidence to suggest they were all built around 1350.
The Main Temple, called Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, aka Padangtegal Great Temple of Death, is used for worshiping Hyang Widhi in the personification of Shiva, the Recycler or Transformer. Next, there is Pura Beji temple which is used to worship of Hyang Widhi in the personification of the goddess Gangga. The temple is a bathing temple which is used for spiritual and physical cleaning, especially before partaking in a religious ceremony. Anyone is welcome to use the bath. Although a word of caution for women who are menstruating, it’s extremely frowned upon to be using a bath at that time. The last temple in the Monkey Forest is a place of worship of Hyang Widhi in the personification of Prajapati. Once every five years, the temple is used for a burial ceremony for bodies awaiting mass cremation. The temples are visible within the forest, you can walk around them but they are designated for Balinese traditions and prayers.
As of January 2017, there are over 700 monkeys living in the forest. I’d love to know how they keep track of them all. I also hope that all 700+ of them have names given to them by the workers. Locally, the monkeys are known as the Balinese long-tailed monkeys. The monkeys eat sweet potatoes provided by the staff three times a day. Additionally, the monkeys feed off bananas given to them by visitors. You can buy a small or a large bunch for a few dollars throughout the park. Visitors are not allowed to feed the monkeys anything else. It will easily get them sick.
The monkeys in the forest don’t fear humans. Although they might fear dogs which is why they are not allowed in the park. Anyway, monkeys are not shy around humans. They often jump on people in order to get bananas from them as well as steal things like hats or sunglasses, or anything within open bags, especially food. While at the forest, I didn’t end up buying bananas to feed the monkeys. I don’t know how I feel about them jumping all over people in order to entertain them and obtain the food. I’m sure the monkeys don’t mind, after all, it’s really not a big deal to them. But, for some reason, it seems like a strange circus trick and I’m not a big fan. On top of that, most of the people looked terrified with a monkey on them.
Actually, the forest has an obesity problem among the monkeys thanks to the amount of food the visitors provide them with.
A good piece of advice is to never fuck with a monkey. Don’t dangle the food, play around with it, or don’t take it away. These monkeys don’t kid around and will get frustrated. Think of them as spoiled little brats with tails. This type of behaviour on your part will agitate them and could evoke aggressive behaviour from the monkey. You do not want that. Although the monkeys are really cute and fun to observe. You really get up close and personal with them. But I’m certain no one wants to experience the wrath of a pissed off and hungry monkey up close and personal. Monkeys tend to bite visitors when they get aggressive especially since Herpes B virus is prevalent among the monkeys in the forest. For over 14 years that the Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame has been doing research on the monkeys have they come across a case of rabies. That’s a nice relief if you’ve been bitten by one them.
It’s not recommended to touch the monkeys, especially the children. By the look of what I’ve written, there are a lot more restrictions and advice on what not to do. Which makes sense, it’s a conservatory, it’s not a playground. As visitors, we are here to observe and learn from what the monkeys do. We are not here to use them as pets.
A fun thing I learned about the monkeys is that they are divided into 6 groups and have an almost turf war-like conflicts. Basically, they get angry at one another when one enters an area where it doesn’t belong. I bet it’s cute and terrifying to watch at the same time. The monkeys will venture outside of their turf for food, water, to mate or to overthrow their current monarch. I am serious about the last one, I found it on the company's website.
All in all, I had a great time walking around. We were caught under some heavy rain for a few minutes. We waited it out near one of the temples. I wouldn’t mind walking around while it rained but the rain makes the monkeys hide. I had fun watching little kids and some grown adults freak out over the monkeys getting too close. The forest itself is beautiful and lush. Combined with the rain, it made for a great scenery.
I am a freelance web designer who documents her travels with photos and words via Black Journal. Additionally, I work with small companies that want to re-brand their online businesses to create products that change lives of their customers all in the hopes of gaining more customers and retaining their current ones longer.