Bali: Monkeys

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In the Monkey Forest Sanctuary – monkeys in the trees and on the ground. rr photo

Filtered sunlight makes its way through the tall canopy, the stone statues of snakes and monkeys, the ornate temples, and the calls of monkeys create an eerie, spirit-filled setting.  Visitors follow trails; a deep ravine runs through the park grounds, at the bottom flows a rocky stream. The heavily forested and hilly Ubud Monkey Forest covers about 27 acres (10 hectares) containing at least 115 different species of trees and over 600 crab-eating  macaques (Balinese long-tailed macaques).

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Crab-eating Macaque and her baby. rr photo

The monkeys roam freely – doing all their monkey business – in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud. Although these macaques are called “crab-eating,”  they often eat fruits and many other things; they are native to Southeast Asia and often used in research.  Since they  are most active during the day, visitors can observe their activities – caring for their young, mating, fighting, and grooming  – at close range.

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Monkeys hang out on the walkway railing in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo

Five groups of monkeys inhabit the park, each occupying different territories.  In recent years here, the monkey population has become larger than a natural environment could support, so conflicts between the groups are unavoidable, but it also means that visitors can see more monkeys here than in the wild.

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Monkeys playing in the trees above. rr photo

Know that the monkeys are interested in any food you have.  So, don’t be casually walking along enjoying your fresh young coconut.  You are likely – actually guaranteed – to be jumped.  Likewise, monkeys can smell food in your backpack; don’t count on just hiding your food.

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This monkey down by the stream is trying to open a coconut. rr photo

The Monkey Forest park staff feed the monkeys sweet potatoes and other vegetables three times a day, providing them with their main source of food in the park, and so, the monkeys here are usually not as super naughty as in some other places.

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Monkeys being fed corn-on-the cob. rr photo

In general, monkeys will not come up to you if you do not bring bananas or any other food.  But they are smart and curious, and they may think you have food in that bag you are carrying, and they know how to take a lid off a bottle in search of whatever delightful drink they think you might have there. We saw a female trying valiantly to crack open a coconut by hitting it repeatedly with the side of her hand.  She used a folded leaf to cushion the blow to her hand.

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Monkey working to unbutton this girl’s pocket. rr photo

Once as I was walking along Monkey Forest Road and not even in the sanctuary, a monkey, a  BIG monkey, climbed up my leg to check out the bottle I was carrying.  When he saw it was only a plastic bottle of water, he climbed back down.  Luckily – and surprisingly to me, I didn’t freak out.  I was very happy I was wearing pants.

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See the monkey on this girl’s back? It’s working on unzipping her backpack. rr photo.

Monkey Forest Sanctuary site recommendations include:

  • Leave any non-essential bags and bottles at the ticket counter.
  • Do not bring in food or drinks to the park.
  • Do not feed the monkeys peanuts, biscuits, bread, or any other human snacks because they are detrimental to monkey health.  Some of the monkeys are now obese 😦 from such feeding.  You may give the monkeys bananas that can be purchased at the entrance, but use care in giving the bananas.
  •   Never-
    • scream
    • pull at a monkey or
    • move suddenly.
  • Do hang on to, or better yet, hide –
    • caps,
    • earrings,
    • cameras,
    • phones,
    • pens,
    • glasses,
    • or whatever might be taken.  Don’t have anything shiny, money sticking out of your pocket, or your computer available in your open bag.
  • If you do feed the monkeys, always look out for the claws and teeth of the dominant male.  He should be given food first to avoid fighting or you getting bitten.
  • Don’t get close to the babies.  Especially don’t get between a mom and her baby.
  • When you smile, don’t show your teeth.  In monkey understanding, this is considered an aggressive gesture.  Monkey grimaces are indicators of inferiority while panting and open-mouthed threats are indicators of dominance.
  • If you have a child with you, be particularly careful.

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary staff in the green uniforms are throughout the park in case you need assistance.

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Some people hold bananas above their heads to encourage monkeys to climb up to their shoulders – in order to get a “cool” photo. That is really not a good idea. rr photo

Even if you are careful, it is possible to get scratched or bitten.  The monkeys are wild animals, and they are not afraid of humans.  I haven’t heard of monkeys having rabies here, but some dogs do.  Although dogs aren’t allowed in the sanctuary, I’ve seen a monkey and a young, rambunctious dog near the park entrance scraping over a bit of food.  So don’t take chances.  A puncture wound or even a scratch in a humid, hot climate such as Bali’s can quickly become infected.  Seek immediate medical attention even if your wound seems minor.

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Monkeys here, monkeys there, monkeys all around. rr photo

Even with all these cautions, I recommend that you go to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.  Except for that one curious, climbing-up-my-leg monkey, I haven’t had any others bother me.  They are fun to watch.  And it’s fun to watch tourists interact with the monkeys too.

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Tourists feeding monkeys at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. photo from MFS website.

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A monkey statue – and a real monkey in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo

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On a hot day, the monkeys like to cool off in their Monkey Forest Sanctuary pool. rr photo

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary  is not only a tourist attraction with about 10,000 visitors a  month but also an important site in the spiritual  life of the local community. The Monkey Forest grounds are home to three Hindu temples, all apparently constructed around 1350!

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Temple in Monkey Forest Sanctuary. rr photo

The Main Temple is used for worshiping a personification of Shiva, the transformer. The Pura Beji Temple is a “Holy Spring” bathing temple, a place of spiritual and physical cleansing and purification prior to religious ceremonies.

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Temple pool – holy water. rr photo

The Prajapati Temple is used to pray for procreation and the protection of life. A cemetery adjacent to this temple receives the bodies of the deceased for temporary burial while they await a mass cremation ceremony (because of the extremely high costs), held approximately every five years.

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Monkeys among the graves. rr photo

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. The Monkey Forest area is sanctified by the local community, and some sacred areas of the temples are closed to everyone except those willing to pray and to wear proper Balinese praying attire.

On-going research and conservation programs also happen here with researchers from  around the world  focusing particularly on the monkey social interaction and behavior with their surrounding environment.

So go to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary for the monkeys, the trees, the temples.  Especially if you are aware, you will have fun.

Selamat jalan, Renée

Information from:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubud_Monkey_Forest

“The Holy Monkey Forest of Sangeh” by Bill Dalton, Bali Advertiser, 26 Sept. – 12 Oct. 2016, p 26.

Text and photos from: http://monkeyforestubud.com/

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

4 responses to “Bali: Monkeys”

  1. Rosita says :

    Wha’ an interesting post! 😮 Do those monkeys have rabies, as some Balinese dogs do? Was yuh afraid of getting bitten by monkeys? 😬 Although I’m an animal lover, I’d be pretty afraid of them LOL 😂 and do Bali have hot springs outside Kintamani region? Are they suitable for bathing?
    Hope y’all are having plenties of fun,
    Rosita

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: I haven’t heard of any Bali monkeys having rabies now. However, dogs and monkeys mingle outside this sanctuary, so it could happen. I’m not afraid of the monkeys, but I am cautious around them. As for the springs, I know they are around Bali, but I haven’t gone to any. We have been having fun here. Hope everything is good for you. Aloha, Renée

  2. Rosita says :

    Great! Is life cost higher in Bali than it is in FL, USA? Do Bali have good schools/universities?
    Hope y’all are fine,
    R

    • reneeriley says :

      The cost of living (and being a tourist) is much lower in Bali than in the USA. We can get a good dinner for the two of us for the same amount as we would pay in tip in the U.S. Students here need to pay for their high school educations, so kids can’t go; public school through high school is free in the U.S. The colleges and universities in the U.S. overall are more famous. Aloha, Renée

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