Monkey Mayhem at Sacred Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali

Anyone who has ever researched what to do in Ubud, Bali, will surely be familiar with The Sacred Monkey Forest. It came up in all my online searches, I found several blogs about it floating around and when I finally went, I could have sworn that I even recognised some of the monkeys. Perhaps a sharp, observant eye on my part; perhaps a touch of monkey delusion.

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Hastily, I initially dismissed the prospect of visiting myself though, querying whether it fell definitively within the parameters of gimmicky tourist trap and wary of how quickly the monkeys would prey on anyone or anything with even a whiff of food-related odour.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary Ubud Bali
A pensive moment of reflection

Monkey Memories

You see, as a child visiting relatives in India, I became rather accustomed to monkeys perching on all kinds of unexpected surfaces – city centres, family window sills, it was really no more noteworthy than spotting a black cab in London. But then there was the cookie incident…

Ubud Bali tourist sights
A face to face stare-off

A few years ago, I undertook my one and only solo travel adventure, travelling alone to Southern India to spend 8 weeks doing my medical elective in Bangalore. I made some great friends along the way but towards the end of the trip, I remember how homesick I felt. I missed the catharsis of familiar voices, the raspy crunch of autumnal leaves underfoot and the guilty taste of my favourite sugar picks.

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Snoozing in the sunshine

And so, even as a budget-conscious student, I forked out a cheeky sum of money on a posh cookie from one of Bangalore’s famous malls. Its price was comparable to England yet unfathomable by Indian standards but it was worth it to sample the buttery soft, just-baked dough that I loved to make at home – or at least, it should have been.

Ubud Bali travel blog
Drawing out every last morsel of flavour

A friend and I had planned to go walking in the Nandi Hills near Bangalore that same day and I saved my precious cookie for the stroll. As we ascended to a panoramic viewpoint, I took out the cookie-containing plastic bag and dug into my first bite of the melting chocolate chips. And then, in the blink of an eye, my startled eyes saw a monkey leap out from nowhere, grab the bag out of my hand and jump back into hiding in an instant, dropping just a few sorry crumbs on the soil beneath me, as if to rub my hungry nose right in it. It seems the old children’s song is true:

“The monkey see. The monkey do. The monkey does the same as you.”

best tourist attractions activities Ubud Bali

The Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud

As you can imagine, that monkey’s quick speed and close proximity shaved a few years off my life and that was why, when Pumpkin persuaded me we must visit the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, I was more than happy to follow the guidance we had read to respect the natural habits of the monkeys by not feeding them human snacks like bread (even though I had come to learn of their cookie inclination!)

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary Ubud
The King of the Monkey Forest takes a seat on his throne

Banana vendors are present within the grounds of the monkey forest for those of you who are happy to get a up close and personal with these intelligent creatures but before you buy a bunch, make sure you are content with the potential for monkeys to be latching eagerly on your arms or sitting on your shoulder, as we saw them doing with many a tourist.

bananas monkeys Ubud Bali
Seems these monkeys eat the same breakfast I do..

There are rangers wandering around the grounds if you do run into any monkey-related troubles but from my observations, if you generally either let them roam without bothering them or let them eat their bananas in peace, they were mostly very nonplussed about the presence of tourists and showed no signs of being camera-shy.

Hindu temples Sacred Monkey Forest

Monkey Faces at The Sacred Monkey Forest

More fascinating were the faces, expressions and postures of the monkeys. Each monkey seemed to carry its own unique character with a maternal, nurturing one, innocent, hungry babies and an authoritative, high and mighty one, lazing around with the kind of self-confident assertion that reminded us that we were guests on their patch and not the other way round.

monkey photos Sacred Monkey Forest Bali
Drawing parallels with my own grumpy Pumpkin

It was only after returning to the UK that I discovered that the Sacred Monkey Forest is actually owned by the village of Padangtegal and it is their local villagers who are responsible for governing decisions about the Monkey Forest.

baby monkey with mum Ubud Bali
A Fiercely Protective Mother with her Baby

And the word sacred in the title is a literal rather than generous adjective with the monkey forest, serving as a space of spirituality, founded on Hindu principles and philosophies with three beautiful temples within the grounds.

spiritual religious Sacred Monkey Forest

Even as a child, I remember my parents showing me children’s books about ancient fables of the Hinduism with animations of monkeys depicted in stories, these animals playing an important role in the Hindu religion. The Sacred Monkey Forest was an exemplary portrayal of this concept that I had first gained insight into so many years ago.

sculptures Ubud Bali Monkey Forest

The monkeys have free reign around the forest and for those of you who find the prospect of this unnerving, you would be best advised to find an alternative activity. For the rest of you though, once you’ve drained your smart phone battery with monkey face shots taken from every angle, take some time to explore the various walking trails and appreciate the lush fauna.

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Where in the world have you come across cheeky monkeys like these?

And if these fuzzy Simian faces haven’t persuaded you into visiting Bali, perhaps I can convince you with the Jimbaran Bay sunsets, an insight into a traditional Balinese family compound or for a touch of luxury, a truly spectacular private pool villa.

21 thoughts on “Monkey Mayhem at Sacred Monkey Forest Ubud, Bali

  1. OMG what a cheeky monkey to have stolen your cookie! Although looking back, I’m sure that the sight was worth it? Hoping to make a trip to Bali next year, the Sacred Monkey Forest is definitely going on my list of things to do 🙂 xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 2, 2015 — 9:47 pm

      Hehe, Yeh I could forgive the cheeky monkey for pinching my cookie because the views at Nandi Hills were so pretty! I absolutely loved Bali – incredibly lush island with such warm-hearted people so do visit next year if you can! ☺

  2. ladies what travel November 28, 2015 — 1:13 pm

    Great (but sad for you!) story Shikha! I’ve also got my own ‘beware of monkeys’ story and mine’s based in Bali! Not at the forest (although I did visit) but on another day trip along the coast we had a cheeky monkey steal our camera! it ran down a cliff and our camera was never seen again. Really sad ‘cos it was towards the end of our holiday, so we lost all our pictures! 😦

    So, I love all animals – even monkey’s still – but guys take care of your belongings when you’re wandering around here – they’ll grab anything inviting that’s easy to get to!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 2, 2015 — 9:55 pm

      No way Keri!! Here’s me moaning about a silly cookie and one of them pinched your camera! 😦 I do feel for you though because losing photos is so upsetting isn’t it, for anyone and especially for those of us so passionate about travelling and travel writing! I don’t know if insurance companies would even cover for monkey theft! :mrgreen:

  3. This place sounds crazy Shikha, but I do have a healthy caution around monkeys too! They’re so mischievous!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 2, 2015 — 9:58 pm

      Hehe, I see what you mean Katie, it is a funny place but it’s certainly not intimidating or chaotic as the monkeys generally just chill out and eat and are quite used to people but I definitely felt safer not carrying bananas! :mrgreen:

  4. We spent more than half a day at the Monkey Forest in Ubud! They were so irresistible. The scrawny babies, in particular, were adorable. We too heeded the warnings not to bring in any food, nor wear any jewelry (e.g., earrings) that they might want to snatch. So glad we did that! It was quite hilarious to watch the poor visitors who dared to buy bananas for the monkeys – as the monkeys would climb up their pants legs and hang on to them as they tried to get at the bananas.

    Now, if you don’t mind us doing a little of our own monkeying around – here’s the link to our Monkey Forest post 🙂 ~

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 2, 2015 — 10:07 pm

      Yes, feel free to monkey away! I remember reading your post a while back and really enjoying it! The scrawny babies really were so sweet I agree and it was so nice seeing how maternal some of the monkeys were. People buying large banana bunches were a lot braver than I am!

  5. ‘I could have sworn that I even recognised some of the monkeys.’ — Oh, I laughed WAY too hard at this bit! And at the cookie incident! I’m not sure how I would have reacted if a monkey had stolen my precious treat…

    I’ve seen many a monkey in my day, but they’ve always been in zoos or sanctuaries – so, unfortunately, (or fortunately?) I don’t have any monkey anecdotes of my own. Although a pony once ate my mum’s dress (while she was still wearing it) in the middle of a horse sanctuary once. Always a good story to recount :’) x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 2, 2015 — 10:18 pm

      Hehe, you laugh but some of the monkeys have such individual faces!! And no flipping way?! You couldn’t even make that up Emily! Your poor Mum, that must have been a bit embarrassing if anyone else was around! ☺

  6. Oh so cute! There are lots of cheeky monkeys in Gibraltar one of which stole my nan’s entire bag once before just to grab her pack of nuts out! And we visited the monkey temple in Jaipur in India where the monkeys went crazy over the food they were given. It’s safe to say that I will never go near monkeys with food again! They might look cute but they are cheeky little sods!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 2, 2015 — 10:20 pm

      Oh gosh, did your Nan’s bag remain intact after that ordeal then Ayla?! They must have amazing sense of smell! I agree completely – a lot of cheekiness behind their sweet little faces :mrgreen:

      1. Yep, they just took the nuts out and left everything else! Knew exactly what they wanted!

  7. We popped here during our honeymoon and were entertained and scared in equal measures! I wouldn’t want to mess with one of them!

    Poor you re your cookie. I would have been devastated!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 2, 2015 — 10:23 pm

      Haha, I know, I tell you at the time, I was so unimpressed with the cookie episode. It was a costly cookie for a student to lose to a monkey :mrgreen:

  8. They’re little terrors when it comes to food – as you found out! I’m happy to watch them from a distance but wouldn’t want to get too close. You’ve caught some wonderful expressions on their faces 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 7, 2015 — 6:45 pm

      Thank you Suzanne! They have SUCH expressive faces that were keeping us entertained for hours! I’m the same, no issue with seeing them from a distance but certainly no burning desire to have one of these guys perched on my shoulders! 😀

  9. ive come across similar monkeys here there and other places in Asia. I’ve got to be honest – I can’t STAND them!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 7, 2015 — 6:52 pm

      Hehe, I can understand that Andy! They can be cheeky little things and I myself am happier to admire them from a distance!

  10. These monkeys are evil!! I’m staying away from them now ever since getting bitten by one in Thailand! Ok who am I kidding… I’d probably still creep up on them taking pictures :).

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 21, 2015 — 1:31 pm

      Oh no! You got bitten by one?! Was it provoked do you think – or just mean?! Whenever I see animals or even stray dogs when I’m abroad, that’s always one of the things I worry about happening!

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