SACRED MONKEY FOREST BALI
Want to spend the day hanging out with Monkeys in Indonesia?
TEXT BY JACKSON GROVES // IMAGES BY JACKSON GROVES
Sacred Monkey Forest Bali Sanctuary
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in bali is more commonly known as Monkey Forest Temple is an amazing day trip into the hip region of Ubud. Unlike many tourist activities in Bali this one will only cost you $3USD per person and it really is an unbelievable experience.
The scenery is unearthly with giant roots bending around bridges, huge stone carvings of Komodo Dragons sticking out from the sides of river banks and beautiful temples… all home to a huge gang of macaques/Balinese Long-tailed monkeys.
The Sacred Monkey Forest of Bali is definitely not a zoo!
The monkeys had an entire jungle playground to explore and were actually not enclosed at all. Some monkeys roamed the nearby streets in Ubud and they really were free to leave the temples.
The entire area is a nature reserve and hindu temple complex and lies within the village of Padangtegal. The reserve is an important educational, spiritual and economic center for the village.
115 different species of trees create a playground for the cheeky little monkeys that seem to pop out from behind every branch.
There are three Hindu temples on the nature reserve that were built around 1350. This alone blew my mind and I struggled to imagine this time period. Growing up in Australia nothing is older than a hundred years or so.
- Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal
This is the main temple and is used for worshipping the god Hyang Widhi in personification of Shiva.
- Pura Beji
This temple is used for worshipping Hyang Widhi in personification of the goddess Gangga. It is a “Holy Spring” bathing temple and is used before religious ceremonies to conduct purification and physical cleansing.
- Pura Prajapati
This temple is used to worship Hyang Widhi in personification of Prajapati.
While most of the monkey forest is open to the public several areas and sections of the temples are off-limits to the public as they are considered extremely sacred and only used for praying.
There are five different groups of monkeys within the sanctuary that each lay claim to a different region of the reserve. The monkeys are fed sweet potato three times a day, which is their staple diet but they also fed bananas and other fruits by tourists.
Having heard from others and been told at the gate to be careful with sunglasses, hats, jewelry and keys I was on high alert. However, we never had a single problem having put all of our belongings inside our bags.
I had envisioned the monkeys being hard to interact with but many monkeys came up to us, several jumped on us and for a brief moment I even held the hand of a juvenile monkey as we sat on the stone wall.
Vendors sell bunches of small bananas that you can hold above your head attracting the monkeys who perform the smash, grab and run manoeuvre without too much concern other for than their lunch.
We bought one bunch of bananas but many people had monkeys climbing on them even when they didn’t hold food. I was interacting with the monkeys a lot as I tried to capture them from different angles and watched them use different facial expressions. None of them tried to grab my camera or lash out at me.
Is it dangerous?
The monkeys have been known to get aggressive and bite people if they think you have food or retracted an offer for food as any hungry person would. They can carry viruses such as Herpes B, which can be deadly to humans. I didn’t feel at risk while in the sanctuary but accidents happen and it something to be aware of before you enter.
For a photographer this is an amazing location and opportunity to interact with an exotic animal with a vibrant personality in an open area. All of the elements add up to some unique shots.
One of the most interesting scenes involved a baby monkey who was being handled by it’s protective parents as it tried desperately to reach for a banana. Several monkeys had found or stolen objects such as water bottles and soda cans, which made for interesting photos but this was one part of the Monkey Forest Temple that concerned me a little bit. The monkeys are crafty thieves so I am not sure how to avoid them getting their hands on such objects.