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So far, my interactions with monkeys have mostly been on the lawless side of things. I watched them rip bags of popcorn out of little girls hands in zoos, in Tanzania, I saw them stealing from vehicles and in South Africa, I heard about them ransacking whole neighbourhoods. In the Caribbean, they got drunk on stolen beverages, in Uluwatu, one tried to bite me and in Ubud, one finally succeeded. And often, I just saw them plotting their next heist with their gangs in the distance.
At the sacred monkey forest sanctuary in Ubud, around 25km from Denpasar, they keep the crafty thieves docile with lots of banana bribery. Visitors can purchase whole bundles of the yellow fruits at the entrance and then throw them to the over 600 long-tailed macaques, a species found throughout Southeast Asia. Some decide to hold them up high, in hopes a monkey will climb their legs trying to get its treat. Accordingly, the ground is littered with banana peels and I caught myself slipping Mario Kart style more than once.
Unlike the ones in Uluwatu, the monkeys in Ubud are fairly friendly and are accustomed to people. They spend their days hanging out by the pathways, grooming each other and getting fat on bananas. While most of the time, life in the monkey forest seems serene, there are four troops of macaques in the forest competing over the area and the males frequently get into violent clashes to assert their territory. Meanwhile, the little baby monkeys look like tiny, adorable and derpy old people. They bounce around on tree branches or cling to their mothers, all the while gripping an exploded banana.
Monkeys, in Balinese Hinduism, embody negative, as well as positive forces, therefore the monkeys living on temple sites are revered and are thought to be able to guard the area from evil spirits in the form of Barongs. These demons representing the spirits of animals, are said to inhabit the area to protect the sacred monkey forest from malevolent forces and their statues can be found throughout the forest. It’s fun to try and find all the beautiful overgrown sculptures and the temples and shrines within the forest are definitely worth a visit as well.
I could have spent all day at the sacred monkey forest sanctuary, the entrance fee is only 20’000 Rupiah (about 2$), and you get a lot of fun out of it. The monkeys are adorable and their antics hilarious. And: I only got bitten once and I think it just wanted to play.
I’ve tried my hardest to select just a few of my best photos from the monkey forest, but in the end, I just had to give up and upload them all. So here’s a big dose of monkey cuteness: