A lot of monkey business goes on at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud, Bali.
The shady forest is a 30-minute walk downhill from the town center cross-roads. It’s the jungle home to three 11th-century holy temples and over 550 cheeky long-tailed macaque monkeys.
Monkeys are important in Balinese culture, portrayed in the “Ramayana” Hindu-based dance epic, the “Kecak” dance, carvings and other art. And the Monkey Forest isn’t just a popular tourist attraction – it’s actually a sacred site.
It was nice to see that the monkeys, which have the run of the place, are well looked after in the reserve.
Temple attendants ensure you aren’t too bothered when the monkeys jump on you, which they do. Every now and then, we’d hear screams (then gales of laughter) from hapless tourists when a monkey would clamber up on them or pull at their skirts.
We removed our watches and jewelry before visiting – we were warned the monkeys try to pull off your earrings or other jewelry, thinking it’s food or something fun to play with.
But the little green hand sanitizer bottle hanging from Janice’s backpack was like catnip (monkeynip?) for them. They kept trying to yank it off, and would climb up Janice’s pants leg and hang on to her backpack to grab it.
It was difficult sometimes to shoo them off!
The grounds themselves are a cool respite from the sweltering heat – a dark shady forest with huge banyan trees and stone temples.
The Holy Spring Temple is down a long flight of steps next to a stream in the jungle forest. To reach it, you walk across a moss-covered stone bridge high across the stream; long banyan vines hang down above you and below.
We almost felt like we were on the movie set of a Raiders of the Lost Ark remake.
Veer off down some slippery steps and you also see two large Komodo dragon statues there.
Monkeys in the Ubud Monkey Forest
But the monkeys are the star attraction. We spent a whole morning watching them. One monkey kept rattling a coke can with a pebble inside, another rolled a marble on the ground with a leaf, and a third had grabbed someone’s camera lens cap and was playing with it.
Particularly adorable were the scrawny and hairless black babies clinging to their moms and suckling.
People from around the world – Japanese, European, Indonesian, a few North Americans – were visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest. Ubud has definitely been discovered! And like us, all were enthralled by the monkeys.
All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase