I can never miss the chance to interact with my primitive brothers so you can imagine my excitement about arriving in Ubud and visiting a place named the Ubud Monkey Forest.
Now depending whose blog you read you will find mixed reviews about this place. Some people (like me) enjoy it while others recommend avoiding it for their own reasons (I’ll have more on that later).
In this post, I’ll tell you all about my visit where a young Spanish girl found herself being held hostage by a, particularly grumpy monkey. How I lost my biscuits and I have also included tips from other bloggers about the do’s and do not’s of the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud.
Aside from the monkey forest, there is information about Ubud and the stunning rice fields and a little some information about getting to Ubud.
But, first off, you probably have a lot of questions that need answering, so grab you’re popcorn, strap in and let’s address those right away.
Ubud Monkey Forest FAQs
Where is the Ubud Monkey Forest
From the main tourist area, it is probably about a 20-minute walk south, located at the end of the conveniently named Monkey Forest Road. If you get tired there are plenty of bars and restaurants you can stop for a drink along the way which all have amazing views across the paddy fields behind.
What is the entrance fee and when is it open?
The Monkey Forest is open every day from 8.30am-6pm and the entry price is 50000 IDR, (about $3.50 at the time of writing). There is a small hut at the entrance to the forest.
What’s the best time to visit?
Early in the morning tends to be better, more for the reason that it’s not too hot rather than anything else.
Can I catch rabies from the monkeys in Ubud?
Well, I’m not going to definitively say no, however, on the official Ubud Monkey Forest website where they explain that they work with the Primate Research Center of Udayana University to ensure that monkeys in the forest are disease-free.
They also mention during 14 years of research, by Dr Agustin Fuentes from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame in USA, no case of rabies in any monkey in Bali has ever been found.
Have you been bitten by a monkey? Read this: NHS Rabies Advice
But . . . let’s be honest here, if you are travelling South East Asia for an extended period of time, I’d still say it’s worth getting a rabies vaccination before you go anyway as there is a great chance you could encounter other monkeys or different disease-carrying animals. Better safe than sorry, ey?
Is there a real temple in the monkey forest?
Yes. In fact, there are three; Pura Dalem Agung, Pura Beji, Pura Prajapati and they are believed to date from the 14th century.
Is there a dress code for the Ubud Monkey Forest?
Technically no. The temples are only for people actively praying, so tourists are not allowed to enter. But it is still a sacred site so consider that and maybe leave the hot pants at home. Also, I would advise covering any skin as a layer of protection in case a monkey does confuse your arm with a banana and gives you a little nip. A little protection is better than none.
Safety tip – wear good footwear. Some of the walks in the monkey forest get a bit slippery underfoot, especially to ones down by the river. Now I don’t mean you have to go all hiking boots, but something with straps is recommended, stay away from the flip-flops (thongs for the Aussie readers).
Are the monkeys aggressive?
Haha, well that’s the golden question. Yes and no. During my visit I witness aggressive behaviour from the monkeys towards humans, however, normally those humans are doing something that, with a little common sense, you wouldn’t do.
REMEMBER THIS: although the forest monkeys are familiar with people and may often seem friendly, they are wild animals and only really want your food (or anything else you happen to be carrying really).
Is the Ubud monkey forest safe for kids?
I would say yes, if you are careful and keep them close (the kids that is). However, not everyone would recommend it. Be sure to read the tips from other bloggers further on in this post.
Can you feed the monkeys?
Yes . . . but don’t, it’s one of the things people do and then wonder why monkeys attack them.
If you have any other questions or doubts about the monkeys or temples, there is actually an official Ubud monkey forest website, it seems to be kept up to date and has some more FAQs you may find interesting.
Fun Monkey Forest Facts Infograpic
The hostage crisis in Ubud Monkey Forest
Now the serious bit is done, keep on reading to discover much more about wonderful Ubud and the rice fields, my experience in the forest and some fantastic tips from other bloggers who have also visited.
Estimated read time 4-5 minutes
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Arriving in Ubud
When there are so many tourist attractions in Ubud, you have to expect that it will be a little bit mad and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in that respect.
Countless markets complete with pushy sellers (you know the ones – the “you touch you buy” type), as well as groups of men on every corner make strange clicky noise and incessantly shout “Taxi . . . Taxi”.
Throw into the mix the many travellers buzzing about, trying their best to look at the market goods without making eye contact with any of the vendors, and you have quite a place.
However, even through all of the madness, I fall in love with the town almost immediately. Away from the hectic main roads I discover a maze of side roads flanked by intricately carved, mysterious doorways that give no clue as to what’s behind them. It could easily be a humble homestay or one of Ubud’s many beautiful temples.
The other beauty of the town, again what it is famous for, is the countless array of rice fields surrounding Ubud which offer an amazing setting for peaceful walks, especially at sunset.
Getting to Ubud
There are many ways you can arrive on the Island of Bali, but for most it will be via flying which means you will more than likely be arriving in Bali airport, known as Ngurah Rai International Airport or also Denpasar International Airport.
Got to love a city where the same airport has two names, always a nice way to create a bit of confusion when planning a trip.
Depending on when you arrive, you may want to consider spending a night or two near the airport, this is what I did after a rather long flight from the UK, and I recommend it as a great way to start the trip.
For this Bali visit I stay in a small homestay less than a 10-minute drive from the airport; the owner picks me up at the airport (always a good thing to have) also helps me immensely with planning the rest of my trip.
Day one I just spend relaxing on Jimberan Beach. While not the best in Bali, it does have something unique – the airport’s runway stretching out into the ocean. Now I’m no plane geek, but it is quite cool to watch that airborne activity while beaching.
Jimberan beach is also home to many restaurants with delicious seafood.
Something to read
I always love reading about a place I’m visiting while I’m there. Here is some Bali inspired reading and great guidebooks to the region.
The second day I book a tour through my homestay, but how I do it is a little different. One of the great things about Bali’s tours is that often they are very flexible. The tour I book includes a couple of temples, the iconic Bali rice fields and a visit to a Kopi Luwak coffee plantation.
You know that coffee . . . the one where the berries are eaten by local animals, digested, pooped out and then made into the most expensive best coffee in the world.
On reflection, this part is probably the saddest in my Bali trip, although it’s great to learn more about it and see some of the amazing plantations, including a chocolate plant (yes, in my world chocolate is now officially a vegetable and counts as one of my 5 a day), but the way they keep the civet cats that poop coffee is sad.
The civet is not like your standard domestic cat, rather more like the size of a badger, and they are kept in these horrible little cages and fed, fed and fed. It’s one of those scenarios that humans rely on the animals to make money so exploit it as much as they can.
I’m sure there are some decent ones, but maybe do some research as to which plantation to visit. Here is a great piece if you wanted to know more about Kopi Luwak production – Ethics in a coffee cup.
So, before I got a little distracted I was talking about my Bali tour. Aside from the plantation, I visit the Tannah Lot Temple and the Taman Ayun Temple but the nice part about the tour is that having started in Jimberan, I end it in Ubud so removing the need to get any other form of transport and building the change of base into a day’s itinerary.
While private hire taxis tend to be the most popular way of getting around Bali, there are also various public and private bus operators.
Finding the best places to stay in Ubud
Before I arrive in the town I haven’t actually lined up any accommodation, which turns out to be a blessing in disguise. I spend about half a day nosing around various places to stay, deciding which one I would call home for my stay and enjoy every minute of it.
Most guesthouses hide behind imposing stone gateways that face on to the narrow streets. As well as being a great way to find amazing places to stay, it is also an ideal opportunity to get to know the town and a cheap way to spend the day exploring the wonderful tropical gardens and talking to locals about what to do during your stay.
Need a little more inspiration? Check out 10 photos to inspire a visit to Bali
I finally settle on a place called Gusti’s Garden 2 Guest House. It is about a 6-7 minute walk from the centre of the town which means it is close enough that I don’t have to worry about how I will be getting around in Ubud, or have to use one of the ‘taxi taxi’ men, but far enough out that it feels peaceful. Another plus point is that it’s only a few minutes stroll from the famous Ubud rice field walk.
Book accommodation in Ubud before you go
If you’re short on time, it’s advisable to book something before you go. There is a wide selection of accommodation available for all budgets on booking.com – a go-to platform when looking for places to stay.
One of the best bits for me, about using booking.com, is the freedom usually to cancel up to 24 hours or so before any stay with no fee, we all know plans change on the road!
The rice fields of Ubud
The chances are if you are reading this, you’re either interested in visiting Ubud or need to know more about the probability of catching rabies in the Ubud monkey forest. However, before we come to that, I can’t write about the town without mentioning the many rice paddy walks that surround Ubud.
There are many trips you can take to enjoy the iconic Bali rice fields – possibly the most famous is the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, about a 20-minute drive to the north of the town. Did I mention there are plenty of men on corners incessantly shouting ‘taxi taxi’ at you? Getting to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace won’t be a problem.
However, the joy of Ubud is you don’t even have to go that far. About a 10-minute walk, west from the town centre, is the start of the Campuhan Ridge Walk, an easy route that offers some lovely hilltop views.
Alternatively, just to the north of the main part of the tourist area are wonderful little footpaths that wind their way through the Ubud paddy fields and, aside from the monkeys, this is my stand-out memory of Ubud.
I time my walk so I go through the rice paddies at sunset and I can truly recommend this. As the orange sun dips below the palm trees, the light reflects off the flooded fields and fills the air with colour.
Then I am bitten by a mosquito which snaps me back to reality, but after reapplying my DEET, I refocus on capturing pictures and simply enjoy the moment. Note the subtle advice there, take mosquito repellent or go with someone that tastes sweeter than you do.
But what about the monkeys?
My experience of the forest
So once I pay and enter, I don’t have to wait for long to find my first monkeys. I follow the footpath for about 200 metres where I come across a small stone fountain which acts as an anchor point for various loops that start and end there. It also acts as a great cooling off point for the monkeys.
They are diving in and out of the water, swimming and fighting for control of the water on such a hot day. Watching this alone could keep me amused for hours.
Within the forest are various walks to explore further, none of which I’d say are difficult. As I wander, I discover stunning moss-covered stone statues and small pagodas dotted around as well as a small river.
To be honest, I think a lot of the statues may have been imported to satisfy the tourists rather than having any significant history to them, but they are still pleasant to look at.
And then the attack
“Arggghh shooo, go away, shooo, Heeeelp meeeeee, help . . . ”
A young tourist (I’d guess early 20’s) notices a cute baby monkey and decides it would be a good idea to give it a small snack . . . Bad idea number one.
What she doesn’t realise is that mama monkey is watching and promptly snatches the food from her little one and drags it away. In the process, mama drops the snack and our poor traveller walks into mistake number two.
Whether mama drops it deliberately (I like to think so) or not, the girl senses an opportunity to pick it up and give it back to the baby. But it is a trap. No sooner does she touch the food, that mama is back on the scene and plants a ninja kick to the girl’s face, throws an uppercut and goes for a bite on the shoulder.
Screaming as loud as anyone would when under attack from a ninja monkey the girl runs away – sadly the wrong way and now she gets herself cornered!
She has her back to a building with the only way out next to the wall that mama monkey now guards.
This is when mama starts to tease her. She sits there with her back to the girl pretending to be uninterested, but every movement the girl makes mama spins around and hisses at her.
Meanwhile, baby monkey just sits there, looking forlornly at his little monkey paws that only a minute ago had a delicious morsel of food, now nothing.
“Heeeeeelp meeeeee . . .” she cried once more, nearly in tears.
Luckily some of the crowd thinks it best to get help and they track down a park attendant who arrives with a big stick to negotiate the release of the hostage.
Given ninja monkey’s previous moves I think a stick would not pose much of a problem and I fear for the guard. However, he must know his stuff, or mama knows that sticks hurt, as after a couple of swings she flees bringing the Ubud monkey hostage crisis to an end.
And that’s why you do not feed the monkeys!
Staying safe in Ubud Monkey Forest, what the bloggers say
It’s due to this potential for confrontation that you’ll find some bloggers recommending that you stay away from the place as the monkeys can be highly aggressive. I decided to reach out to some fellow travel bloggers and ask them to share a few bits of advice that they learnt during their visit.
The first piece of advice comes from Linda who runs here blog As We Saw It:
“Be sure that you don’t have anything edible in your bag. No mints, no chewing gum, NOTHING. Those monkeys have an incredible sense of smell and will use every muscle in their powerful bodies to get to it. Then they will go through everything else in the bag to ensure they have found it all.”
100% true, remember, monkeys are clever and a bag or a zip won’t stop them. I visited Lopburi Monkey Temple in Thailand before this forest, and while the monkeys there will jump on you, it is more about them being nosey, they’ll happily sit on your shoulder and give your hair a little groom, but here they are different. Whether they have met more tourists so know their weakness, they will sniff out anything you’re hiding.
Ellie from Grad Gone Global added to this and takes it a step further, she recommends leaving everything behind:
“Do not to take anything with you in your hands” Ellie warns, “ideally nothing at all. When I was there a monkey jumped on my head and went after my water bottle. All I had with me was my camera and bottle (the advice I’d heard was all about not taking food in) but they are so smart and cheeky they will go for anything if they’re given half a chance.”
Following on nicely from Ellie was Michelle, from Maps and Muses, Michelle added:
“Make sure to leave the jewellery and sunglasses at home. We learned that they are attracted to anything and everything shiny when one of the monkeys literally stole my friend’s sunglasses right off her head.”
I’m sure hundreds of pairs of sunglasses go missing in the forest every week. Maybe that’s why there are so many sunglass sellers in the markets?
But what causes the aggression? Roobens from Been Around the Globe advises avoiding eye contact at all costs. He says:
“Do not look at the monkeys in the eyes, they think you’re being aggressive towards them, and they might bite you.”
As I have mentioned before, they are wild animals and will act accordingly, if they see you as a threat, there is a good chance they will get aggressive towards you. But remember, if one takes you on and you win, you could become the new alpha and run your own little monkey community, order them to snatch sunglasses and jewellery and start a business. Hold on, it’s all coming together now. ?
But in all seriousness, don’t fight with the monkeys, you will lose.
Guided tours of Ubud rice fields and the Monkey Forest
If you don’t fancy doing it by yourself, you can always book a tour to Ubud and The Monkey Forest starting from most places in Bali
What about your own little monkeys? Can you visit the Ubud Monkey Forest with kids?
Kate from Rolling Along With Kids reiterates the point about not taking things in with you, but not to forget about your kids’ things too:
“I visited the Ubud Monkey Forest with my 2 yr old daughter and took all the necessary steps of taking our hats and any other loose items off. The one thing I did forget was my daughters’ milkshake in a takeaway cup, a monkey jumped up and grabbed it out of her hands!”
That sounds quite calm compared to the experience Sharon. from Melbourne Family, had:
“I can advise not to go with young kids. OMG, I felt like I was in a horror movie. They would not stop attacking my then 4yo redhead and it was honestly terrifying trying to get out. I felt so lucky she didn’t get bit as they were trying (and we were right in the middle of the forest when they started attacking her)”.
If you do visit and are getting attacked, the advice is to stay calm. The official site says to stay calm, walk away slowly and find a member of staff who can help. In theory, I think it’s great advice, however . . . realistically . . . the situation is unlikely to go down that way.
But if you do go in, maybe Nina from West Australian Explorer accidentally found a way to get revenge with her advice:
“Don’t change your child’s nappy in front of the monkeys. After changing my 1 year-olds old’s nappy, one of the monkeys came charging down from a tree, stole the dirty nappy and bolted back off. I can only imagine how disappointed the little thief would have been when he discovered the contents of the little plastic bag.” ??
If that makes you nervous, you could always try a drive-by
Here’s a fun safety tip for visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest, and it comes from Marie who runs her blog Temples and Treehouses, perfect if you want to see the monkey forest and maybe a monkey or two, but not actually risk an face to face interaction:
“I was in Bali with a friend who was nervous about going into the monkey forest but wanted to get a taste of the experience. So we approached two motorbike taxi drivers and explained we wanted to go to Ubud Palace, but we wanted to go through the monkey forest along the way. There’s a bumpy road that passes right alongside and into the monkey forest that’s too narrow for cars, but locals regularly use as a shortcut. So we zoomed quickly and safely through the forest, seeing lots of monkeys on the way!”
Interestingly Marie also added “I actually really enjoyed the Monkey Forest and would go again – the monkeys there are way less aggressive than the ones at the monkey temple in Lopburi”
Completely the opposite to my experience, I guess it’s all down to the monkey you meet on the day.
So, is the Ubud Monkey Forest Ethical?
My final piece of advice comes from Lola, who runs her blog Miss Filatelista. Lola simply advises staying away, discouraging travellers from visiting places that promote unnatural behaviour in wild animals. “The inhabitants of Monkey Forest are used to humans feeding them so they won’t shy away from you, this isn’t natural and this sort of behaviour should not be encouraged.”
I cannot argue with this sentiment, but based on the fact there has been a temple of this site for nearly 700 years, it seems that humans and monkeys were always going to come together and have to learn to live with each other. Also, I like the fact the forest works closely with universities and as such it is an important spot for research and conservation programmes.
However, Lola does make an amazing point and as travellers, we need to take more responsibility for the wildlife interactions we choose to take part in. Check out Lola’s post on responsible wildlife travel to read some suggestions.
Why I am writing this too late
Back to my visit. Now that the hostage crisis is over, I wander a bit further and feel a little peckish so look for a quiet spot to enjoy a biscuit.
I am in an alleyway, no monkeys in front, none behind, an 11-foot wall to the left and long building to the right; I am as secure as I can possibly be and feel confident enough to open my oatcakes.
Within seconds of the unwrapping . . . BOOM . . . I receive a killer blow as a monkey from nowhere lands on my head.
No sooner does he touch down than another launches himself at me . . . 360 degrees flips in midair, cartwheels over my head and snatches the biscuits clean out of my hands. I have just been mugged.
Then, to rub it in, he just sits there staring at me, munching on my biscuits, eyes saying to me: “Come and take these delicious oatcakes back . . . I dare you.”
Luckily the torment doesn’t last long as seconds later a group of four more monkeys swoop down, steal the biscuits off him and scarper . . . Karma!
If only I’d read this blog before visiting the Monkey Forest in Ubud. I would have known not to get my food out, no matter how safe I thought I was, they are watching, they are always watching, you can’t see them, but trust me, they see you!
Defeated and hungry I leave the Monkey Forest to find some late lunch. Sitting at one of the many restaurants overlooking Ubud’s rice fields, I crack a beer, watch another amazing sunset and chuckle to myself wondering if the young hostage will ever go near a monkey again.
Footnote: While collecting responses from bloggers, I had one from Colin, who runs his site Parenting, Passports and Profits. He raised a good point that although I have focussed on the monkey forest, all of the advice is as relevant to any area where you are likely to encounter wild monkeys in Bali.
Colin said; “We’ve been in Bali since January and leave next month. Although we haven’t specifically been to Monkey Forest, we feel it’s monkeys as a whole tourists have to be aware of. Elly and I climbed Mount Batur for the sunrise and on the way back down there were more than one monkey meeting areas that we were guided through. I wasn’t the only to forget I had food in my backpack and the monkeys didn’t need my permission to help themselves!
“Of course, it can come as a shock to have an animal jump on you plus you then realize they are spreading your litter. My tip, carefully zip and lock your bag and wear it on your front while surrounded by monkeys. At Uluwatu, they tried to take my four-year-olds shoe off while she was wearing it!”
So what do you think now? Would you risk a visit? If you have any other safety advice for the readers, add it in the comments
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