I can never miss the chance to interact with my primate brothers so you can imagine my excitement about arriving in Ubud and visiting a place named the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
Now depending on whose blog you read, you will find mixed reviews about the Ubud Monkey Forest.
Some people (like me) enjoy it while others recommend avoiding it for their own reasons, more on that later. By the end of this post, you will know all you need to make up your own mind about whether to visit and how to do it safely.
Visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Coming up in this post:
- How to get to there
- I try to answer all the questions you may have, including about rabies
- Loads of tips from other travel bloggers who have visited the forest
- My experience of an aggressive monkey and what I learnt
Basically, by the end of this article you will know what you need to know about the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud, so if you are looking for helpful advice, strap in.
For my visit, I was staying in Ubud, but it does make a great day trip with the distance from Kuta to Ubud monkey forest being a little under 40kms. So if you are looking to break free of the beach and explore a few other adventures in Bali, keep reading.
*Please note: the product and hotel links supplied in this article are affiliate links. If you make a purchase by following one of the links in this post, I will make a small commission at no cost to yourself and you make a lifelong friend.
Where is the Ubud Monkey Forest?
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is in the village of Padangtegal, just south of the main Ubud tourist area.
Getting to the monkey forest if you are staying in Ubud
If you are staying in Ubud for a few days (and why wouldn’t you?) it’s easy. 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. Just click on the map below to open directions.
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.
If yo u are staying in the larger resorts out of the centre, you’ll probably need to grab a taxi. You can either speak to your accommodation team staff who will be able to help you.
From outside of Ubud
If you are not staying in Ubud, a day trip to Ubud Monkey and the Forest Sanctuary is highly recommended. The easiest way is to visit as part of an organised day tour. There are loads of options that include the forest as well as stunning views of Bali rice terraces and visits to coffee plantations.
Another option would be to rent a moped and drive yourselves there. A day riding through the Bali countryside can be one of the most enjoyable experiences of your visit to the island. It would take about 1 hour and a half to get to the monkey forest from Kuta.
If you are thinking of doing this, I’d recommend reading my piece on renting a scooter in Bali with safety advice as you may run into trouble. And yes, you do need an International Driving Permit.
Ubud Monkey Forest FAQs
So now you know where it is, let’s cut straight to the chase and answer some of the questions you may have about the monkey forest Ubud.
How much does entrance to the Monkey Forest Ubud cost?
The price to enter the forest is 50000 IDR, (about $3.50 at the time of writing). Each entrance to the forest has a small hut where you pay for your entry.
What are the monkey forest opening times?
The Monkey Forest is open every day from 8.30am – 6pm.
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 in the Ubud Monkey Forest?
The probability of visiting the Ubud monkey forest and rabies being an issue is next to nothing.
Although I’m not going to definitively say no, 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.
If you have 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?
Are the monkeys aggressive?
Haha, well that’s the golden question. Yes and no. During my visit I did witness aggressive behaviour from the monkeys towards humans, however, normally those humans are doing something to provoke them. With a little common sense, you should not have any problems with the Balinese Macaque monkies that inhabit the forest.
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).
Can you feed the monkeys in the Ubud Monkey Forest?
Yes . . . but don’t, it’s one of the things people do and then wonder why monkeys attack them. As much as you think you may be able to hold a banana out and the monkey just take it, it won’t The monkey will see all the other bananas you have and take all of them. If you try to stop it, good luck!
So to stay on the safe side of not getting attacked, I would highly recommend not feeding the monkeys.
Also, don’t feed yourself. Even when you think you are safe to eat a biscuit, there is a monkey watching. I can confirm this from experience, but more on that in a bit.
Is there a real temple in the Sacred Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary?
Yes. In fact, there are three. The Temple complex is made up of the Pura Dalem Agung, Pura Beji, Pura Prajapati and they are believed to date from the 14th century.
Is there a dress code?
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 as I found out much to my embarrassment. 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).
Is the Monkey Forest Bali safe for kids?
There is so much to do in Bali with kids, and I would certainly say the monkey forest is one of them if you are careful and keep them close (the kids that is). However, not everyone would recommend it. As long as your kids are respectful and don’t provoke the monkeys, there is no reason that there should be any problems.
Be sure to keep reading as I have included some great tips on just this subject from other bloggers further on in this post.
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
My experience of the Bali Monkey 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.
The monkey 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 in forest sanctuary!
More about my visit in a bit and what happened to my biscuits. But first, let me share some advice from some fellow travel bloggers.
Staying safe in Ubud Monkey Forest
Advice from other bloggers
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.
Can you visit the Ubud Monkey Forest with kids?
So what about your own little monkeys?
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 meeting the monkeys 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 a 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 though, 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”
That’s actually the complete opposite of my experience I guess it’s all down to the monkey you meet on the day. I found the monkeys in Lopburi, Thailand docile in comparison.
Full day tours of the Monkey Forest and Campuhan Ridge
Check out more Ubud Monkey Forest tour options
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!”
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