Monkey Forest is one of the most popular things to do while visiting the Ubud neighborhood of Bali. The forest is beautiful in its own regard, but add in hundreds of cute little doe-eyed monkeys and three stunning Hindu temples and it turns magical.
What is Monkey Forest?
Monkey Forest is a large nature reserve and Hindu temple complex filled with wild monkeys and located in a beautiful forest in the Ubud region of Bali. Its official name is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The Ubud Monkey Forest is a popular tourist attraction and is visited by thousands of tourists each month.
The mission of Monkey Forest is conservation of the area within its boundaries according to the Hindu principle of Tri Hita Karana.
“Tri” meaning three, “Hita” meaning happiness, and “Karana” meaning the cause or manner.
Thus, Tri Hita Karana means “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being”, which is a key philosophy of Hinduism.
The “three ways” to this goal under the Tri Hata Karana doctrine are harmonious relationships between humans and humans, between humans and the natural environment, and between humans and The Supreme God.
Monkeys of Monkey Forest
The type of monkeys that live in the Monkey Forest are known as the Balinese long-tailed monkey. It is estimated there is about 600 monkeys living in the 27 acres of the sanctuary. The monkeys can range in weight anywhere between 5 lbs up to 17 lbs. Their diet consists mainly of sweet potatoes, bananas, papaya leaves, and other fruit local to the area.
The monkeys in Monkey Forest are considered sacred. They eat, breed, play and groom themselves freely throughout the forest. Residents of the village see Monkey Forest as an important spiritual and conservation center for the area. The monkeys are very active during the day, which makes for great entertainment to those who visit the sanctuary.
Temples of Monkey Forest
The Monkey Forest grounds are home to three Hindu temples. The temples play an important role in the spiritual life of the local community, and the monkey and its mythology are important in the Balinese art tradition (hence why the monkeys are considered “sacred”).
The Main Temple (Pura Dalem Agung) — located at the southwestern part of the forest
The Beji Temple (Pura Beji) — located in the northwest part of the forest
The Prajapati Temple (Pura Prajapati) — located in the northeastern part of the forest
Because Monkey Forest is sanctified by the local community, some parts of it are not open to view by the public. Sacred areas of the temples are closed to everyone except those willing to pray and wear the appropriate Balinese praying attire.
The dark side of Monkey Forest
Overall, I had a great experience in Monkey Forest, BUT there are definitely horror stories about visits to the forest gone wrong. Because Monkey Forest is such a popular tourist attraction, the monkeys who call this forest home have no fear of humans. I have read several accounts of people being attacked and bitten by monkeys. The monkeys are no doubt adorable and look harmless, but the situation can turn bad very quickly.
I, being the animal lover that I am, inched my way close to a few of the monkeys. One of them was completely friendly and harmless, but another quickly began crawling up me. It was cute and made for some great pictures, but shortly after these pictures were taken he tried to bite my chest. Thank goodness for padded bras, because he didn’t get to my skin and I quickly shook him off me and was on my way.
It is tempting to want to buy some bananas (usually for sale at the entrance of the forest) to feed to the monkeys, but resist the urge. I assure you, the monkeys are well-fed and cared for by the village that manages the forest, and often the monkeys turn aggressive when food is spotted.
The monkeys are also known to be little thieves. During my visit to the forest I saw monkeys steal water bottles, cameras, purses, and other bags. I’m telling you, there’s so many of them and their so stealthy, you won’t see it coming. By the time it happens it’s already too late to do anything about it.
If you go
- Monkey Forest is open daily from 8:30am – 6pm
- The cost of entrance into Monkey Forest is 40.000 IDR for adults and 30.000 IDR for children.
- USE CAUTION! As I mentioned above, Monkey Forest is an awesome experience, but these monkeys have no fear of people and can and will become aggressive, especially if food is present.
- Take off all jewelry. Similar to toddlers, monkeys can become interested in necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and other jewelry. I had long earrings on and one of the monkeys I got close to reached for them. Luckily, he missed and I took them off right away.
- Keep a firm hold on your bags and belongings. If you have a purse with a long strap keep it across your body, not just sitting on your shoulder.
- Don’t feed the monkeys, especially do not feed them people food. I recommend not feeding the monkeys at all, but if you are really set on it, stick to bananas. Feeding the monkeys other food like chips, cookies, or crackers, is not only against the rules and regulations of this sacred place, it is very unhealthy and dangerous for the monkeys.
- Be respectful. Keep in mind that while this is a tourist attraction, it is also a sacred and very special place to the people of the area. Obey any and all rules of the area, especially if you are making a visit to the temples in the forest.