Everybody loves monkeys. Those funny furry faces with those large eyes full of curiosity are hard not to like. But monkeys are wild animals, not meant to spend their lives in a confined space for humans to observe. The people of Bali seem to have the same view, except instead of leaving the monkeys alone, the island's holy forest has been turned into a well known tourist attraction.
Home to over 600 long-tailed macaques, the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal, Ubud is a place of significance in Balinese Hinduism. The forest is mostly left untouches except for a few feeding areas and a largely adorned temple. Tourists of all ages and nationalities flock to the site, often unprepared for the clever little creatures. They buy bananas to feed the critters then are surprised to see monkeys get aggressive when they run out of fruits.
Preparing for the worst...
Fortunately, we did plenty of research before finally making it over to the Monkey Forest. After reading stories about horrendous rabies scares, teethy growls and bloody bites, and stolen items, we wanted to be prepared for the worst.
#1 / Dresscode: Empty your pockets before you go. These little guys are smarter than you think. Their muscles are well developed and their thinking skills are geared towards thinking humans come here with food and interesting collectibles. If you have candy in your pocket, they will notice. They will use their instincts to get what they want.
- Don't bring candy or snacks!
#2 / Gear: Monkeys love to pickpocket. That means your purse, backpack, camera case, and fanny pack are all places of potential places of unwanted attention. In the photo above you can clearly see how one clueless tourist was taken advantage of by this curious fellow who stole her bottle of water. We watched him (or her?) open the cap and try to drink the water by tipping the bottle over the step.
- Our advice? Leave your backpack at home.
- If a macaque tries to take something from you, let it to avoid an aggressive altercation.
#3 / Photography: Keep a distance from the monkeys. Use zoom instead of getting up close and personal. Just like people, these little guys don't like to have a hundred camera lenses poking at their face all day. If you want to avoid getting bitten, keep your camera lens at a safe distance of at least 2-3 feet away.
#4 / Monkey basics: Like I said, these are wild animals. If you believe in being better safe than sorry do not skip these bullet points:
- Balinese people both love and hate monkeys. The root of these feelings lay in the stories of Balinese Hinduism. Read more about it here.
- Prolonged eye contact or slow movement can be perceived as threat.
- These monkeys are known for carrying Hepatitis C as well as fleas. There are even rare cases of rabies from monkey bites. Come prepared or be sure to get vaccinated immediately after being bitten.
- Feeding peanuts, chips, or candy is strictly forbidden as these foods are harmful for a macaque's health.
- For more info about macaques, click here.
#5 / Stay on the path: This doesn't need much explanation I think. Like many wild animals, macaques are territorial creatures. In this forest alone there are over some 30 tribes. Try not to wear out your welcome.
#6 / Be respectful: This is religious attraction. In order to enter the temple in the center of the forest you must wear a saroong. If you are bleeding or menstruating you will not be permitted to enter the temple. If you are on your period, I strongly suggest you wait to visit the monkey forest. Macaques have a strong sense of smell and will notice if you're in the fertility phase.