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Monkey business: Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.

January 30, 2011

“Please let me like those rude, rowdy and wild animals again!”

Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

Yes, after a visit to the monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud (Bali) you know how rude they can be! I guess they are famous for that. When you travel with your family to Ubud, should you visit the Forest or not? Could it be that you are a little bit afraid?

We were! We were made scared by warnings about visiting the Monkey Forest like:

  • Monkeys are aggressive!
  • Keep a close watch on children!
  • Feeding can be very dangerous!
  • Don’t carry any loose items!
  • Stay on paved paths!
  • Don’t let your children play near the river!
  • Do not stare at the monkeys directly!
  • Do not tease them!
  • If you are bitten or scratched, seek help immediately! Monkeys can carry diseases like Hepatitis C and rabies!

Well thank you…still feel like enjoying a lovely day-out in the Monkey Forest? With your children?

Human disturbance of habitat has important consequences for the demography, the morbidity, the behavior, and ultimately the survival of non-human primates.
Measures of human influence in habitats of South Asian monkeys

You know what you can expect if humans disturbe the normal habitat of monkeys. Can you imagine what happens if monkeys are disturbed and challenged, day by day? That’s what happens in the Monkey Forest. But does that mean you should avoid the place when you are in Ubud? Might there be something you and your children can learn?

Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

We spent almost a week in Ubud, but intentionally wanted to skip the Monkey Forest (Sacred or not). Really, we didn’t want to get rabies. I didn’t want my glasses stolen, hiding the rest of my travel behind a blurry window of nearsightedness. We didn’t want some monkey climbing up our legs, swinging our hairs, stealing bananas and then laugh (in that typical monkey style grimace). No way!

But you know what happened. We arrived in Bali, walked the streets of Ubud and felt less afraid. Really, if I can give one piece of advice here it would be that all kinds of travel fear silently floats away quickly after your arrival. Including fear of monkeys…

So there we were, in front of the Monkey Forest. You could already see some of the animals sitting on the front gate, waiting for us to come. Staring. Grinning. The Monkey Forest is also used for scientific research, so the website mentions.

“Dad, let’s go inside and watch those cute monkeys!”.

Dian Fossey felt more comfortable with gorillas than people. She even could anticipate what a gorilla was going to do. I admire here. Although these Ubud monkeys were anything but gorillas, we decided to enter the Forest. And this is how the animals showed us their way of life:

Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

For families traveling to Ubud I have 2 major points of advice about visiting the Monkey Forest:

  1. Don’t carry any food for the animals. They are smart, they know when you have bananas (even if you hide them). Don’t stimulate rude behavior. Just walk the Forest and watch the animals, nothing more, nothing less.
  2. Go at the end of the day, when the sun starts to set. It creates the best light for some amazing pictures! All the pictures in this post I took between 4 and 5pm.

So don’t be afraid, have fun. How they behave is not the monkeys fault. It is us humans disturbing their habitat. All over the world we are trying to dominate the animals by taking over or diminishing their habitat. You can decide not to visit the Monkey Forest, but if you do, just observe and learn. Learn that we humans are the reason for their rude behavior.

Close to the monkeys in the Monkey Forest

Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

Monkeys at Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali

From → Asia

  1. LOVE this post! You are so spot on Emiel. I find food brings out the worst animal behavior in all of us….

  2. Well said! I agree with you, it was never the animals’ fault!
    Whatever they do, is just a response towards what we did.

    • Dear Tien, I am glad you liked the post. They are indeed responding and having people around them all day long, it’s just too much stimulus.

  3. Emiel, I can’t believe you quoted me up top! I do like them. They were rowdy and loud and far too many everywhere and yet, your photos – your amazing photos – make me want to like them again, although I am crazy about gorillas.
    What camera did you use? These are amazing photographs. You captured the essence of monkeys and I think that was your goal here. Well-done. Thank you for taking me back to Ubud for a few minutes.
    PS: Beautiful girl she is! 🙂

    • Thanks Farnoosh, they look adorable don’t they??
      We love our camera, it’s the Panasonic DMC-TZ6. It’s a small one, but with outstanding results!

  4. maryrichardson permalink

    Rabies, stolen food, harassment, whatever– I’d brave it all for a chance to watch the monkeys. I’m a little obsessed with them. I’m glad you experienced it!

    • Mary, you dare to take on all these risks, you are a brave girl! Don’t you have monkeys on Okinawa?

  5. Wonderful photos and reflections. You trip to monkey church reminded me of when I went to monkey rehab in the Amazon. Whether they are sacred or suffering, monkey business is altogether similar. The same, it may be added, to human monkey business–only slightly more obvious.


    • Thanks Mark. I can imagine the Amazon must have some great monkey business. It’s a rehab you say, so they probably felt victim to humans destroying the rain forest…terrible. Human monkey business..

      • Oh homo-sapien business is far worse. The monkey sure put on a show when the banana-man comes. Glorious creatures!

  6. northwestshift permalink

    Those photos are gorgeous! Now I have to add Ubud to my list of future travels 🙂

    • OK Erika, now ‘Let’s be practical’: you really have to go and visit Bali! Thanks for the compliment.

  7. Great post, and I’m so glad you decided to travel into Sacred Monkey Forest after all! 🙂

    The monkeys in Tikal, Guatemala also make for a wonderful monkey experience and more, should you ever decide to travel back to that tropical side of the world! 🙂

    • Hi Michi!
      Guatemala, yes, that part of the world is still on our list of future travels…

  8. Hello Emiel,

    Love your pictures and your warning has kind of scared me away from visiting. I’d probably want to pet them, they they’d bite me. : ) Now onto how I found your site.

    I am looking for some images to accompany an article for an Indonesian magazine. They are looking for pictures at Monkey Forest. I saw some of your photos and they may be what they’re looking for.

    If they are the right file size, how much would you charge to license an image for use in their magazine? it would be 1/4 page, not a very large size at all for a magazine. Probably a very modest print run too, not sure of its exact size. But I can get you the details if you want them.


  9. thanks for sharing your experiences. Wildlife is always amazing.

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