Monkey Forest: Exploring Ubud’s Sanctuary

Two monkeys preening in Ubud Sanctuary Bali

I arrived at the Monkey Forest in Ubud after a lot of talk about how it was an essential to visit. I had been travelling with family and we all had agreed to meet at 4:30 outside the entrance so we could explore together. A group of us had spent the morning exploring Ubud by Quadbike as well as a coffee tasting session on a plantation that morning. But still full of energy we were keen to get out on our feet and see the Monkeys.

The last entrance for the Monkey Forest is 5pm. By 5:15 the remaining two of our party had still not arrived. By 5:30 they eventually turned up but the Sanctuary had closed. So I wouldn’t be visiting the Forest, well at least not today anyway. I had one more full day left in Ubud which had been heavily planned, but our ride to Seminyak wasn’t until 12:30 on the day I left. So we decided to go early in the morning and be one of the first to arrive. 

Monkey and Baby in Ubud Bali sanctuary

(Actually) Visiting the Monkey Sanctuary

So my final day in Ubud arrives, and after breakfast at the Villa we all grab a taxi and this time arrive at the Monkey Forest together. I went straight to the counter to buy my ticket, this time nothing would stop me from getting in. Entrance tickets are 80k IDR (approx GBP at time of writing) with the main counters surrounded by beautiful ponds teaming with fish. When everyone had their ticket we started to make our way through. 

We came in through the temple, seeing monkeys over the entrance door like something from an Indiana Jones movie. Just before of which is a big sign reminding you of the rules of the forest:

  1. Don’t look them in the eye.

Doing this is considered an act of aggression by the monkey. 

  1. Do not bring in any plastic or paper bags.

This is to avoid litter in the park. But also because Monkeys will play and spread it about the forest or could potentially hurt themselves on it.

  1. Don’t feed the Monkeys

Monkeys aren’t used to our food. They have their own diets and dedicated feeders, so leave it to them.

  1. Do not touch the Monkeys

The Monkeys may touch you but don’t ever touch them. They may be small but it can be dangerous and they are wild animals at the end of the day. There are opportunities to get closer to the monkeys safely including a selfie and I’ll go into this more later.

  1. Keep extra distance from baby monkeys

They may be small and cute, and it’s not them you have to worry about. If a mother sees you getting too close to their child they will get defensive as any good mother would. 

  1. Dress politely 

You may be here to see the monkeys, but this is a sanctuary and there are temples within. You must dress appropriately to show respect as you tour the premises.

Monkey Selfie

At the other end of the temple was our opportunity to get close to the monkeys and have a selfie with them. Now I wasn’t sure about the Monkey selfie, for two reasons. Ethically I wasn’t sure how it was for the monkeys, and secondly I am terrified of them. Well terrified is a bit of an exaggeration but we’ve all heard the stories of what they can be like. Just because they are smaller that doesn’t mean I trust them any more. The first problem was easily fixed though by speaking to one of the guides.

At the Monkey Forest, the guides make sure they choose a monkey that is well practised in the art of selfies, so they are comfortable. They keep the monkey happy by ensuring its well fed. For your selfie you are made to take a seat on the wall, and the monkey sits on your lap. It does this of its own free will although with a little encouragement by the trainer with treats. The monkey then keeps its eyes on the trainer as it knows he’s holding more treats, and the trainer will happily supply them with more.

Each time the monkey reaches for it’s snack the guide takes a snap so it appears the monkey is taking the photo. I was reassured to see that the monkey is free to leave at any time it chooses. It’s not on a leash nor tied in place, it’s there by choice and with the temptation of more snacks. Now I was content there was no harm to having one. I sat down and grabbed a few photos myself. It’s worth reiterating that this is a temple and sanctuary, the monkeys are treated with the utmost respect here.

Monkey Selfie in the Monkey Forest Ubud Bali

Exploring the Sanctuary

Bali’s Monkey Forest consists of various different pathways for you to walk through. There are ramps, but a lot of times I found stairs with no other alternative. It won’t be the easiest to navigate in a wheelchair or a pram. But we managed to do it with my Niece although we did have to carry it up and down the stairs.

Deeper into the park, I was walking down a staircase when there was a commotion. A monkey shot past me and scapered up a neaby tree. I could see a woman pointing at the monkey that had just passed and was now sitting up on a branch with something in his hands. “He’s nicked my Airpods” was the only thing I could translate from her ranting and raving. And sure enough I could make out an Airpod case in its tiny hands. You have to be careful in the sanctuary, if they can nick it they will.

This gave us a great game for our walk though, trying to think of songs that would be on the monkeys playlist. Of course there’s the broader genre of Jungle music. But then we have “Welcome to the Jungle” as well as “In the Jungle” and finally “I wan’na be like you” from the Jungle Book.

Feeding time

We were lucky enough to see some of the monkeys being fed when we reached the stage area. This area is usually used to show traditional Balinese dances. But they were on later in the day and we didn’t have the time to wait around. I kept my distance here, some of the monkeys were getting a tad aggressive here in an attempt to get food (they never seem to understand there’s enough to go around). And there were a few baby monkeys as well. Remembering the warnings I made sure to use my camera’s zoom rather than risk getting too close and upsetting the mother.

No personal space

Further along the path we came to a more open area with what looked like fixed swings as seating. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to take it in though as suddenly there was a monkey on my back. As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest rules is you do not touch the Monkeys. However they are allowed to touch you. Monkey’s don’t care about rules and if they want to climb on you they damn sure will. And of course Monkey see Monkey do. As quickly as one had climbed on my back, a second and then third of his mates joined. 

I’m glad I had remembered to close my bag up properly as they were struggling with the straps to get inside. There was no food inside but they didn’t care, they wanted in. As we learnt with the Airpod incident earlier they will take whatever they can get their hands on. So I made sure the only thing I was carrying during my walk was my camera, and even that was held with a firm grip and a wrist strap. 

We had a laugh and got a few photos of the monkeys climbing over me. After a minute when they wouldn’t climb off it was funny. After two minutes it was uncomfortable. And after five I was starting to think they would never leave. I didn’t want to antagonise them but they simply wouldn’t climb down. I slowly walked about until something else demanded their attention and they sprinted off.

Unfortunately this announced the end of my time at the Monkey Sanctuary. It was 11am and we had to arrange transport back to the villa so we could meet our ride to Seminyak. That meant I didn’t get the time to appreciate the temples that are within the Sanctuary. But that gives me another reason to return to Ubud and see more. It was definitely one of my top stays and there’s still so much for me to do. 

Monkey Forest FAQ’s

How do I visit the Monkey Forest?

The easiest way to book a tour is with Get Your Guide. I have used them on many of my trips and the process is always so easy. They have plenty of options to choose from. I have set up a widget below so you can check availability, I always select the prices in the local currency when I can. Or you can click here and check out more tours. By booking through my widget or link you won’t be charged any extra but I may receive a small commission which helps support the blog.

What are the opening hours?

The Forest is open between 9am and 6pm, with last entry at 5pm.

Are the monkeys free to leave?

Yes they are not caged and can easily leave the Monkey Forest. When walking in the town outside you may even see a few on their own excursion.

Are the monkeys free to leave?

Currently there are over 600 monkeys who call the forest its home

What should I do if a monkey jumps on me?

If you ignored the signs and bought in food, drop it and walk away slowly. They will quickly climb down.

What Temples are inside the Monkey Forest?

There are 3 temples inside. Pura Dalem to worship Lord Shiva, Holy Water Temple and Cremation Temple.

What species of monkey live here?

The Monkey Forest is home to the Macaca fascicularis, also known as the Balinese long-tailed macaque.

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