This was the highlight of our trip to Bali even if we only spent a few hours here…it was worth it. The Monkey Sanctuary or as it is official known – Padangtegal Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana, is on the outskirts of Ubud town and is owned by the Padangtegal Villagers.
It is approximately 27 acres of protected grounds and is an ecological reserve for over 600 grey long tailed Balinese macaques. The villagers see the Monkey Forest as an important spiritual, conservational, economic and educational centre for their village. It is run on the Hindu principle of Tri Hata Karama, whose doctrine is about creating harmonious relationships between; humans and humans, humans and their natural environment and humans and their supreme god which are the three ways to reach spiritual and physical wellbeing. This leads them to have created a space of peace of harmony for all visitors, the conservation of rare plants and animals used in Hindu rituals and to provide education into the social interaction between the monkeys and their environment. It is a beautiful place and a port of tranquility after the storm of Ubud itself with its noise and traffic. The grounds also contain over 115 different species of trees and it is heavily forested and hilly with a deep ravine running through the grounds that has a stream at the bottom.
There is also a cemetery there – not for the monkeys but for the villagers, who are temporarily buried here until the day of mass cremation, which happens once every five years. Then there are the three 14th century temples in the grounds, Pura Puseh, Pura Desa and Pura Dalem. These temples play an important role in the spiritual life of the local villagers and some parts are not open to public viewing but are reserved for those who want to pray and wear proper Balinese dress.
When you arrive at any one of about four different entrances you are warned not to feed the monkeys anything but the bananas you can buy off the stall holders there and to watch your belongings…the monkeys apparently have a habit of chancing their luck. They say not to make eye contact with the monkeys as this is a show of aggression, so in you go trying not to look at any monkey in the eye whilst also trying to take pictures and watch where you are going. They are so many of them that you are never short of a photo opportunity and they seem to hang out in their different groups within the grounds and are mainly busy doing their own thing. You see them swinging from trees, sleeping on the side, grooming each other, fighting, chasing, looking after their young and yes, of course scrounging for food from the tourists.
Those brave enough to feed the monkeys delighted in having them crawl up them to retrieve an offered banana from their hands and then sit there calmly and eat it. They are not put out by the humans at all. They don’t actually need any bananas given by the tourists as they are fed well with sweet potatoes three times a day, papaya leaves, cucumbers and coconuts plus other local fruits and to be fair some were a little on the plump side. They seem to have a relationship with staff who make a certain noise to them to ward them off especially from a tourist who has become less keen on having them try and climb up their torso. It is wonderful though to see them in their own environment and it does feel very much their place and they seem happy and contented. You witness the inter group hierarchies between them, the family groupings and of course the most delightful part is the baby monkey’s, who are just so adorable. Well worth a visit to spend a few hours watching them and to walk through these beautiful 27 acres of forest.