Once settled, we walked to The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. It’s both a monkey forest and the location of a Hindu temple. The monkeys are known as the Balinese long-tailed monkey, scientifically called Macaca fascicularis. In English they’re called macaque. The forest in located in the middle of town. As we got closer, we saw a few monkeys scattered among the store fronts, sidewalks and parking lots. One was by himself and I wondered if he had been ostracized by his clan, and if so, what had he done to be a bad monkey?
Entering the sanctuary is like being transported to another world. At the entrance is the heart of Ubud with its shrill and never-ending motorized vehicle sounds. But stepping inside the sanctuary, it is peaceful, lush and beautiful. We can see large trees with thick vines being used by the monkeys to travel. We can hear the water from the waterfall and river just ahead. There’s a temple and cemetery off in the distance. I remembered someone telling me that a monkey had stolen his sunglasses and so I quickly stored everything I’m carrying in my purse and zipped it up.
There are about 600 monkeys living in this area. They are divided into 5 groups. They’re territorial and skirmishes develop when one group treads into another’s turf. At first, it’s exciting. There are monkeys everywhere and they’re adorable to watch. My inclination was to hold and pet them as if they are puppies. I walked up to a mama and her baby and she hissed at me with her lips pulled back for emphasis on impressive teeth. I then recalled a story about a woman in Connecticut who got her face ripped off by a pet chimpanzee. That was enough for me. Look, don’t touch, and as the pamphlet warned, don’t establish eye contact as they will consider it an act of aggression. I was once again astounded by all of the dangerous things you can do in Indonesia with little or no effort given toward safety.
Despite the setback in my wonder of this place, I bought small bananas inside the forest and was told to hide them in my purse. It was exciting and a little bit intimidating to see hundreds of monkeys wild and free within the park. I pulled out a banana to feed one and it climbed up my purse to get it. I reacted by throwing the banana away from my body. With the rest of my bananas, I quickly pulled out one at a time and threw them toward the monkeys so that they wouldn’t get close to me. I didn’t want another one climbing on me, even though I saw other people enjoying this.
As we walked on the trails, we came across a group of monkeys who were laying along the path. They were in the middle of the path, on the sides, and just everywhere. They were sunning, preening, nursing and seemingly enjoying themselves. We stopped in our tracks and turned back around. It strangely felt like we would be ambushed if we went deeper into their territory.
Later, another monkey jumped on my purse, grabbed my water bottle, which was in a side-pocket and jumped away. He unscrewed the top and drank the contents. We were shocked. I ran through my options and decided the safest thing to do was let him have the bottle. I felt bad about the litter, but hey, I wasn’t the one leaving it in the dirt. Someone called him a rude, cheeky monkey – which he was. I did, however, use other words to describe him and his ill-mannered ways. I was surprised to see such an aggressive animal have no boundaries in a public place. It was quite the experience and while memorable and I thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s unlikely I would do it again.