Death And Monkeys: Highlights of Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest

Baby macaques cuddling at Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali

The eager tourist patiently held the banana above his head. He didn't have to wait long before one of the hungry monkeys started to climb up his legs and body, finally adopting the quintessential photogenic pose on top of his head. As his friend darted around snapping pictures, the monkey suffered a moment of overexcited incontinence, which was accompanied by a cry of “Oh my god, it's peeing on me!” Having finished its business, and the banana, the monkey jumped off leaving a rather large wet patch on the back of the disgruntled man's t-shirt.

Baby monkey climbing in a tree at Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali

No visit to Ubud Monkey Forest would be complete without some interesting encounters with the local residents. We were assured that the monkeys would only climb on those carrying snacks, however this is definitely not the case. Stand still for too long and you will feel the tell tale tug as a monkey lands on your backpack and clambers around conducting a thorough investigation. If there are no snacks to be had, your new friend will jump off again fairly quickly.

Mother and Baby stealing offerings from the temple steps, Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali

Stealing Offerings from the Temple of Death

Graveyard at the cremation temple, Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali

Temporary Graveyard at the Cremation Temple

Pura Prajapati, The Cremation Temple

Although the monkeys are the main attraction, the sacred forest is also home to three temples. Near the main entrance, you'll find the Cremation Temple, where mass cremation ceremonies are held every five years. Residents from the local village, Padangtegal, are temporarily interred in the adjacent graveyard, the easiest way to store the bodies while they wait for the next ceremony.

En route to the Holy Spring Temple, you'll pass a stone pool, where a large group of monkeys seems to congregate. Get there early enough and you'll see the reason why. Just after the park opens, staff members arrive with sacks of leaves and vegetables, which are unceremoniously dumped on the ground providing a welcome breakfast feast for the hungry primates.

Pura Beji, The Holy Spring Temple

Continue to the bridge, a pair of stone carved dragons that slither across a ravine. The bridge passes through a dense curtain of vines that reach down from the forest canopy above, bringing you to the Holy Spring Temple. This small complex is covered in a thin layer of green mould and is used for ritual purification and cleansing. It's also a great vantage point to watch the macaques playing in the river below.

Family of 3 Macaques in a row at Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali
Statue of Rangda eating a child with her metre long tongue, Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali

Rangda, the Child-Eating Demon Queen

Pura Dalem Agung, The Death Temple

The Great Temple of Death is the largest of the three and is easily distinguished by the hideous stone effigies of Rangda, a child-eating demon queen with vicious fangs and a metre long tongue.

The young macaques here frolic, fight and pick through the offerings left at the temple whilst the elders inspect each other for fleas. The adorable infants, with their wrinkly faces and tufty mohawks, are closely guarded ready to be scooped up at a moment's notice when it's time to move. Nearby you may see a stall selling bananas that will ensure a memorable monkey experience.

The Monkey Forest is probably Ubud's number one attraction. It's an easily accessible place to have close encounters with wild monkeys. Watch their fascinating behaviour as they roll coconuts on the ground to crack them open, bathe in the river or interact socially with other members of the group. The monkeys are very used to tourists and view them as a great source of snacks, which can be problematic if they feel they're being denied a treat. However most people enjoy a fun, hands on visit.

Ubud Monkey Forest Travel Tips

If you watch the monkeys, they'll always take a few seconds to judge the distance before they jump. Move during that time and you will likely get away unmolested.

Macaque inspecting stones, Ubud Monkey Forest, Bali

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