Bali’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary: How I Tamed my Fears

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I gotta be honest. Monkeys scare the hell out of me. Why? Well, they’re like a wild and unpredictable family member… you just never know what you’re going to get.

Mother and infant monkeys in Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali
Photo courtesy of Darcie Connell.

So when I visited the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud – an inland village on the island of Bali, Indonesia – I was apprehensive, to say the least…

As I entered the forest’s concrete path, I admired the impressive stonework on the countless moss-covered Balinese Hinduism statues. Their tongues dangled from their mouths and eyes bulged as if to warn me of danger. But I pursued forward.

Related Reading: The Redheaded Primates of the Lower Kinabatangan

Monkey in Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali
Photo courtesy of Darcie Connell.

The Long-Tailed Macaques

Then without warning, I noticed several long-tailed macaques seated comfortably on the path as if waiting to greet me. I stopped and stared at their white whiskers, pointed ears, long tails, sharp canine teeth, and piercing eyes. Oddly enough they weren’t attacking me so I shuffled by them to continue on the trail. Shortly thereafter, I found myself surrounded by monkeys. It felt like the entire monkey population (estimate 500 in 2009) was around me – in front, beside and even behind me. And it’s no surprise.

Mothers and babies in Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali
Photo courtesy of Darcie Connell.

Monkey Business

Accompanying the monkeys were hordes of tourists passing out bananas. I watched countless monkeys carefully guarding and eating their bananas, while others tugged eagerly on the pant legs of tourists asking for more. While I didn’t feed the monkeys myself, it was fun to watch the other tourists get overwhelmed with monkey attention.

Related Reading: The Cutest Monkey Pictures You Just Have To See

Mother bathing infant in Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali
Photo courtesy of Darcie Connell.

There were families of monkeys – or “troops” as they call them – everywhere. There were females, males, juveniles and infants who held tight to mom as males fought for bananas, juveniles played in the forest branches and others groomed and picked one another’s hair.

Macaques grooming each other in Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali
Photo courtesy of Darcie Connell.

Despite my nervousness, I slowly began to appreciate and enjoy observing the macaques.

I realized that if I didn’t bother them and gave them their space, they would do the same for me as long as I didn’t have food to tempt them.

So I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully overcome my fear of these wild and unpredictable animals, but the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary taught me to respect them and even like them a little.

About the author: Darcie Connell is the founder of Trekity.com – a daily email for women who love travel – and Travel Blogger Academy. She toured South East Asia (including Bali) for nine months in 2009 and has been itching to go back ever since. Follow her travels on Twitter.

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