Things to Know Before Visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest

We last left off our story involving the cheeky Ubud monkeys after Ciaran and I ventured over to the Mini Mart to get some snacks to bring back to our hotel. As we make our way over to the Monkey Forest, plastic bag full of snacks and beer inside, a monkey sprints toward Ciaran, trying to steal our food! It’s terrifying. A guard walks up to us, chasing the monkey away with a stick and informs us that there is no way we can walk through the Monkey Forest with any type of shiny, plastic bags.

“What are we to do then?” Ciaran asks him.

“Get rid of the bags, and give me your crisps.” Sneaky man, but we oblige, handing over our Pringles. We shove our Bintangs in my bag and hid the rest in our arms, praying that no monkeys would see them reflect in the light.

As we’re walking through the forest, my heart is racing, I am on the verge of a full on panic attack. Death by monkeys is all I can think about. Vespas quickly zoom by, honking their horns at us to get out of the way, only further adding to my stress. I keep looking every which way to make sure a monkey isn’t on the prowl about to pounce on my head.

We make it through the forest, until we get to an alleyway we are forced to go through in order to get back to our hotel. I stop. There are HUNDREDS of monkeys hanging out on the rooftop to my right and the alley wall to my left.

“I CAN’T go through there with these, Ciaran!” Envisioning hundreds of monkeys pouncing on us and killing us all for these stupid beers. In retrospect, I am being hugely dramatic, but at the time it was one of the scariest moments. There was no way around it. We either had to walk back through the entirety of the Monkey Forest and find another way to get to the hotel, or brave it and run a whole of 5 seconds through this treacherous, monkey-filled alleyway.

We wait until a vespa comes by and try to walk alongside it, but it moves too quickly and we’re left with all these little beady eyes looking down on us.

“AHH!” I scream as I shut my eyes and pray for the best.

“RUN!” Ciaran shouts at me as he grabs my hand and we make a mad dash for it, opening our eyes a few seconds later to find that we are safe, barely. Some monkeys trail behind us, probably because they are wondering why we’re sprinting away. We keep up the pace until we get back to the lobby of the hotel and explain our terrifying ordeal to the receptionist. She probably thinks I am insane, but I don’t care.

“Will you please walk us to our room, I am just petrified, I’m sorry.” I beg her and she does as she is laughing at me and assures me they don’t want to hurt us, they just want our food. She scares some monkeys off outside of our room by flicking a slingshot at them. Apparently this scares them. We ask if we can bring that with us into the monkey forest when we have to walk through it again the next day but we’re told there is no way. If we do that in their home, they will attack. Good to know.

Safe and sound back in the comfort of our colourful room at Bali Bohemia Huts, I crack open the beers immediately and down one to settle my nerves. I calm down after the madness and decide to take a shower before heading out for dinner.

In our bathroom, there is a round skylight and I am sure you can imagine what happens next. I’m washing my hair in the shower, and look up to find this huge monkey PEERING AT ME FROM THE SKYLIGHT!

“THERE IS A MONKEY STARING AT ME FROM THAT WINDOW IN THE CEILING!” I grab my towel and run into the bedroom screaming my head off at Ciaran. Mistake.

A little monkey is perched on top of our terrace and comes running over to the entryway door which you access from the bedroom. He is looking at us, hands pressed against the window. All I can think is that if that little cheeky monkey somehow gets through those doors, I am going to have to make a run for it in my towel.

Ciaran, very stupidly, starts beating his chest at the monkey. Even bigger mistake. The monkey starts bearing his teeth at Ciaran, so Ciaran does it even more. I run back into the bathroom to get a better view of the monkey and see that he starts beating his chest too, which is a sign that he is the king. He sees me looking up at him, gets down on all fours on the skylight and bears his teeth at ME! It is a truly terrifying experience, I am just glad that I am inside and that he can’t get to me. I run back into the room and just sit on the bed,waiting for nightfall to come and for him to go away.

We learned a lot of lessons that day about monkeys. I was so hopeful that I would love them, but it’s true when everybody had pre-warned us that they can be mean, cheeky little things. If I had to do Ubud all over again, I wouldn’t stay anywhere near the Monkey Forest because I was so petrified all the time. I also think that hotels near the Monkey Forest should give all guests a guide of the “do’s and dont’s” of interacting with the monkeys. I wish someone had warned us about the plastic bags, how were we to know? I wish someone had said to us, don’t run away in fear, that provokes them to chase after you.

The next day, with a little convincing, Ciaran and I visited the Ubud Monkey Sanctuary and I am really glad that we did. I faced my newly developed fear of the monkeys and kept in mind all of the valuable lessons we had learned so far about interacting with them. The sanctuary is a beautiful and peaceful place, as long as you stay calm. It’s definitely a memorable experience and one I won’t forget.

So, in a bid to help others who are planning a trip to the Ubud Monkey Forest, I’ve created a handy little guide for you. Do I think you should visit the sanctuary? Yes. It is a must do if you are in Ubud, but do so with caution, otherwise you will end up traumatised like us ha! You can have a really great time if you are mindful of the rules and bear in mind that the monkeys are wild animals. Keep this guide in mind when you visit. I hope that that it helps. 

  1. Do not bring ANY food into the Monkey Forest. It does not matter if it’s concealed in a backpack or purse, and of course, whatever you do, don’t put it in a plastic bag like we did!  The monkeys are smart and know if you have food somewhere on you. When we actually went inside the sanctuary on our last day in Ubud, we saw a bunch of monkeys trying to steal a woman’s backpack, literally pulling it off of her back, because she had food in there. Good luck getting your backpack back from a bunch of ravenous monkeys!
  2. Don’t wear anything shiny! This includes, sunglasses – they will steal them right off your face, earrings – they will try to pluck them from your ears, necklaces – they will rip them off of you and phones – put them safely inside your bag or they will reach down and pluck them from your hand.
  3. Do not put your hands in your pockets while you are walking around. To the monkeys, this means that you are hiding food and they will try to run up to you and attack you. If this happens, very slowly pull your hands out of your pockets and hold out your hands to prove to them there is no food.
  4. Do not make eye contact, smile, or make any sudden movements around the monkeys. Even if you do have sunglasses on, they can sense you are looking at them and they will feel threatened and attack. If you smile and they can see your teeth, that is a threat to them. If you run away or make any sudden movements, that is a threat to them. Remain calm and relaxed around them, and nothing will happen.
  5. This goes without saying, but do not beat your chest at them. You are not the king of the jungle and they will get VERY ANGRY.
  6. I can’t believe I even have to put this one in here but, do not bring a net with you into Monkey Forest. We saw a man with a huge red net walking around the in the hopes of actually capturing a monkey. A guard walked up to him and said, you cannot have that here, these are wild animals and you are not allowed to capture them. And the man did not understand why on earth he couldn’t catch one and bring it home with him. He was dead serious. The guard made him leave.
  7. Do not take pictures with flash on under any circumstances. The monkeys are really scared by the flash and will try to attack you if it goes off in their face. Be careful.
  8. Do not touch them – they will bite you. Keep your distance if anything.
  9. Do not feed them. When you walk into the Monkey Forest, there are ladies standing around trying to sell you bananas so that the monkey will climb on your head. I would not recommend doing this without a guide as there are several reports of tourists getting bit.
  10. If you do want the monkeys to climb on you, walk up to a guard and let them know. They will ensure it is done safely. As we were talking to a guard about our ordeal the day prior, he told me I needed “Monkey Therapy” and grabbed my hand to have a monkey climb on me. I resisted over and over again, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He told me to remain calm, and I listened. He had a bit of food and the monkey climbed up on my head. The guard didn’t leave my side, and while I was very anxious, I felt much safer knowing the guard was at my side and nothing bad would likely happen. Monkey therapy was a success.
  11. If for any reason you feel scared or anxious, stay close to the guards. They will protect you and they are all over the Monkey Forest. If you get bit, run to a guard immediately and they will help you straight away.

Would you want to go to the Monkey Forest in Ubud?

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