Even if you’ve been around wild monkeys before and are aware of their cheeky ways the sheer amount of monkeys at the Ubud Monkey Forest can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. If you’re planning on a visit (which is a definite must if you’re in Bali) you might also be put off by the many horror stories floating around the internet… in fact by the time I entered the Monkey Forest I was extremely wary of being bitten by a rabid monkey or having my camera stolen, which probably diminished my enjoyment of the whole experience slightly.
The truth is that there is no need to be terrified and the majority of people who run into trouble do so because they do not take the proper precautions, if you follow the steps below on the whole you’ll escape unscathed and have an enjoyable experience.
Keep your distance
Remember the monkeys are wild animals
Trying to pet or get a selfie with the monkeys is a recipe for disaster. These monkeys are wild and definitely not scared of humans, they will often approach you if they see something they want from you (food or something to steal or play with). This makes it very easy to attract interactions with the monkeys without even meaning to, which is where people run into trouble.
Just ensure you have nothing monkey-baiting on you (see below) and they will generally leave you alone… especially as you will see there are so many other people around inviting their attention by offering food and trying to get photos. They will not bother you if they’re more likely to have success elsewhere.
Conceal any food at all times
Better still, do not bring any
One of the most obvious pieces of advice and something anyone who has been around monkeys before will know, don’t suddenly unzip your backpack and tuck into your lunch in the middle of the Ubud Monkey Forest. The main aim of the monkeys is to find food and they aren’t fussy about what it is… in fact they’d probably rather have your food than any of the bananas people are feeding them as there is such an abundance of them.
As soon as you enter the Ubud Monkey Forest you’ll notice local people selling fruit for you to buy to feed the monkeys near the gates. Now if you do want to interact with the monkeys this is one of the ways to go about it, but remember this isn’t like feeding the goats at a city farm, these guys are far less polite. They will run all over you, sit on your head, snatch food from your hands and even sometimes fight each other. They can get quite aggressive and this can be quite scary… I saw it happening a few times.
Also a big rule if you decide to feed the monkeys, make sure you actually give them the food, don’t just tease it. This will just make them angry and increase your likelihood of being bitten tenfold!
Hold on to your possessions
Keep them out of sight or attach them to you
Have we all seen that video of the monkey stealing a tourist’s go pro at Ubud Monkey Forest? Maybe don’t google it if you’re going there, you can imagine. I had seen it and clutched my camera for dear life whilst going around. I didn’t want to not take photos so I kept it in my hands and also with the strap around my neck and was perfectly fine, in fact the monkeys were not at all interested in it (probably because everybody had cameras).
Naturally common sense will tell you not to set up your camera on a timer or put it down somewhere next to you where little hands can snatch it – like the GoPro man.
Wear appropriate clothing
Keep accessories to a minimum
One thing I did not think through too thoroughly before I went to the Ubud Monkey Forest was what I chose to wear. As Bali is incredibly humid most people choose cool clothing and I was similarly dressed in shorts and a t-shirt… however I had also brought a knee-length kimono to protect my shoulders from the sun and also as I was not sure what level you had to cover up to enter (as it is a sacred temple after all).
The next thing I knew I felt a weight on end of my kimono and a baby monkey was swinging from it, having obviously seen it hanging down it made the perfect opportunity for play-time. Whilst this was fine and delighted many other tourists the mum monkey was not happy and bared her teeth at me from afar, prompting me to try to shake the baby monkey off as best as I could. The monkeys are extremely protective so do not get in between the parents and babies (another tip!)
While I was very aware not to wear too many accessories… things like necklaces, bracelets or anything that dangles as well as sunglasses propped on your head are asking to be played with, I did not think about floaty cover-ups, skirts and dresses, so it is definitely something to bear in mind before your visit.
Share your cheeky monkey stories with me in the comments!