It is no wonder that Bali is often called the ‘island of gods’. Every corner of it abounds with temples, beautiful beaches, ancient customs and some lip-smacking food. At the center of all this is Ubud, which was relatively unknown until Elizabeth Gilbert decided to find true love there.
While Ubud is nowadays a haven for vegans, yogis and other spiritual creatures, there is also another group of primates which have called Ubud their home much before them. Oh yeah, even before Elizabeth Gilbert got here after India.
The crab-eating macaques of the sacred monkey forest. Or as they are called locally, the Balinese long-tailed monkeys.
In Ubud, with the monkeys
I was in Ubud to celebrate the Balinese festival of Galungan, and had already had a good start for the day by doing the sunrise walk to the Campuhan ridge. From Campuhan, I rode my rented scooter in the early hours of the morning towards the village of Padangtegal which housed a popular forest/sanctuary called the Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana, which would open at 8.30 AM.
Oh, Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana in Balinese can be translated to ‘Sacred Monkey forest Sanctuary’.
Or as it is commonly called, the Ubud Monkey Forest.
Maintained by the village of Padangtegal itself, this park covers nearly 27 acres of land and nearly 115 different types of species of trees. Located right in the bustling center of Ubud, it even has a deep ravine that runs through it. But what made it most interesting for me was that all of these sights were to be enjoyed in the company of more than 600 Balinese long-tailed monkeys, which called this sanctuary their home.
At 8.30 AM, the ticket counter opened, and me and an another traveller friend got our tickets at 30,000 IDR each, roughly $3 back then. (Its around 50,000 IDR right now). We were probably the first ones to get the tickets today, I think. Talk about over-eagerness!
Further Reading: One of the many times that I have visited Bali, was to take part in Asia’s first Toughmudder obstacle run.
Face to face with the long-tailed macaques.
I didn’t even have to enter the forest sanctuary to start seeing the long-tailed macaques. A few of them were already outside on the road leading into the forest sanctuary, some even in the parking lot. But once I entered into the forest, there were entire groups of macaques all over the place!
I was in their world now.
The paths were laid out clearly in the monkey forest, with trails leading down nutmeg trees. Nutmegs and bananas were strewn all over the ground, most of them eaten. No need of guessing who was responsible for dropping all the nutmegs to the ground, but surprisingly, I did not see any of the monkeys eat the nutmegs themselves. Most of them were busy gorging on bananas – fed by the tourists.
I had already noticed it outside the monkey forest that the only food items for sale were bananas. And many of the tourists had brought bananas with them to feed the monkeys. The Park went to every effort to put up boards everywhere that visitors are prohibited from feeding the monkeys with peanuts, cookies and other stuff. But it did look like bananas were not prohibited. Although the act of giving bananas to the monkeys have made some of them a little obese, I could tell.
The monkey forest is much more than just monkeys
But monkeys are not the only thing that makes this place such a charm to visit. The paved pathways will lead you to 3 ancient temples spread out in the forest sanctuary: the Pura Dalem Agung, the Pura Beji and the Pura Prajapati. Well, just to make your mood a little better, Pura Dalem Agung means ‘Temple of Death’ in Balinese 😉
Another interesting thing around the forest is the presence of guardian statues everywhere. This being a monkey sanctuary, there were obviously plenty of monkey statues around. But there were also some other ones, like the interesting statue of a Komodo dragon. I have no idea how Bali got it’s reference for a Komodo dragon, but that is something that I would have to do some figuring out in the future.
Most of these statues were under a thick foliage of abundant Banyan tree roots, some of them under exotic stairways and bridges. And almost all of them were crowded with Instagrammers.
Because nothing gets more exotic than a photo inside Bali’s favorite monkey forest.
Further Reading: Another amazing photography opportunity in Bali, is watching a Kecak show in Uluwatu.
Location: Jalan Monkey Forest, Padangtegal, Ubud, Bali
Opening hours: 8.30 AM to 6 PM
Ticket cost: 40,000 IDR
Tips for interacting with the monkeys:
- Do not try to touch them or get aggressive with the monkeys. Oh, they can be much more aggressive than you will ever be.
- Avoid the feeding. Just because everyone is feeding bananas, doesn’t mean you have to as well. Their daily food requirements are already taken care by the forest authorities
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