The Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud is one of the most visited Bali temples among tourists. More than just a sanctuary for hundreds of monkeys, the park is a beautiful ancient site with several temples and statues located in a well-preserved rainforest complete with old trees and a beautiful stream that runs along with the 12-hectare property.
If you’re planning to visit the Monkey Forest, here is a brief guide, as well as some do’s and don’ts.
About the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud
The Sacred Monkey Forest is located in Padangtegal, Ubud, Bali. The park houses about 600 Balinese long-tailed monkeys or scientifically called Macaca Fascicularis. It also features over 100 different species of trees.
Aside from being the natural habitat of the Balinese macaques, the forest is home to 3 Hindu temples, where locals continue to worship and visit.
The Monkey Forest’s philosophy is based on the Balinese traditional philosophy called “Tri Hita Karana,” which means “The three causes of well-being.” According to this philosophy, well-being is achieved when the individual lives in harmony with God, with other people, and with nature. And thus, when visiting the Forest, visitors are surrounded by the lush forest, the monkeys, and the temples.
The history of the Forest and the temples is unclear, no one knowing who exactly built the temples. But based on research analysis, the temples are dated to the 14th century, allegedly having been built in 1350. During that era, Ubud is said to have been an area where royal families lived in grand palaces, many of which are still standing today.
The Three Temples
The three Hindu temples inside the Monkey Forest are still being used by local worshipers today and are only open to the visitors if they wish to pray and worship, as well. However, proper attire is required and women who are on their periods are not allowed to step foot inside the temples. Some parts of the temples and surrounding grounds are also off limits to visitors.
1. The Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal or Padangtegal Great Temple of Death
Also known as the Main Temple, it is located in the southwestern part of the Forest and used for worshiping the Hindu god Shiva, also known as the Recycler/Transformer.
2. The Pura Beji or Beji Temple
Located in the northwestern part of the Forest, the temple is used for worshiping the Hindu goddess Ganga. A bathing temple, it is a place for spiritual and physical cleansing for worshipers before ceremonies.
3. The Pura Prajapati or Prajapati Temple
Located to the northeastern portion of the Forest, the temple is used for worshiping the Hindu god Prajapati and used to receive the deceased for temporary burial. The bodies lay here until they are cremated, which occurs every 5 years.
Do’s and Don’ts of the Sacred Monkey Temple
- Research about the Monkey Forest – Know everything you need to know about the Monkey Forest and the temples.
- Wear Covered Clothing – If you can, wear pants and long sleeved shirts to avoid possible scratches. The occurrence of monkeys climbing on visitors’ bodies are common, especially if you have food with you, and if you’re wearing sleeveless shirts or shorts, scratches can easily occur.
- Get a Pre-Rabies Vaccine – Although the monkeys are frequently checked for good health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. A bite from a monkey with rabies can cause severe infections or even death if not treated immediately.
- Do Not Bring Food – Don’t bring any food with you, not even candy. The monkeys have a keen sense of smell, and however, you cover and pack food inside your bag or pocket, they can smell it a mile away. When they can smell food on you, they can lunge at you, climb at you, rip open your pockets or bag to get food.
- Do Not Wear Hats or Anything That’s Hanging on Your Body – The monkeys are sneaky and can easily snatch any small object from your body in a split second. Do not wear hanging earrings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, or anything that’s shiny and sparkling – they will surely be attracted to it and aggressively grab it from you.
- Do Not Stare Into The Monkey’s Eyes – Staring into the monkey’s eyes is interpreted by these animals as a form of aggression, and they will react to you aggressively, by lunging at you, scratching you, or even biting you.
- Do Not Touch the Monkeys – They can look cute and cuddly with their fur and small features but remember that these are wild animals living in the wild. They are not tamed. If you attempt to touch them, they may see this as a form of aggression and react violently.
- Do Not Open Your Bag – If you’re bringing a bag or purse, do not open them in front of the monkeys as they will think you have food inside.
- Do Not Feed the Monkeys – Aside from the monkeys’ unpredictable behavior, feeding them will also ruin their diet. They are fed sweet potatoes three times a day, and this is enough to sustain them. Tourists sometimes feed them candy or chips or biscuits, and you will see that some monkeys are fatter than others, which can cause havoc on their diet, shortening their lives. Constant consumption of food other than sweet potatoes or bananas will also have them craving for other sources of food, making them more aggressive with visitors.
Monkey Forest Terror Stories
There have been many instances wherein, and you can find these stories online, from tourists being bitten to being chased, to having their belongings snatched and never getting them back (which includes iPhones and cameras).
A review on TripAdvisor from a woman from Austin, Texas stated that immediately after entering the forest, a monkey started to climb on her husband’s body ruffling through his pockets and when it was Shooed, the monkey bit on her husband’s knuckle. When the monkey ran away, it immediately ran back again and climbed on the husband’s arm, biting it again. It then lunged at the woman’s face and attempted to bite her in the face, but thankfully her husband pulled the monkey away. The pair were directed to the first aid station and had gotten rabies shots from a doctor that was sent to their hotel later in the day.
Another report by a blogger named Lauren of the blog, “Never Ending Footsteps,” reported that she was carrying a plastic bag with a bottle of Sprite inside when a monkey suddenly snatched it as she was walking inside the park. When she attempted to get it back, the monkey growled and when she attempted to run away, she stumbled and cut her knee.
Horror stories like these from visitors are aplenty, so it’s best that you keep your distance from the monkeys, avoid feeding them and try to not attract any attention on yourself for the whole duration of your visit.