Monkey Forest Bali
Located in Ubud, the Monkey Forest is home to over 700 monkeys and 186 species of exotic trees. To the Balinese, the forest serves as an economic, educational, spiritual, and conservation center, and an important landmark in Balinese heritage. Travelers are attracted to visit the sacred forest by both the culture and the wildlife found within.
The Monkey Forest is sprawled over 12.5 hectares of land and bordered by a number of sacred temples that have great cultural significance in the Balinese way of life. These temples serve as cultural sanctuaries where daily events such as temple festivals are held in honor of gods and the Balinese people.
The area that is enclosed by the temple walls, including nearby trees, are considered sacred. Here, a number of spiritual rituals are carried out to promote oneness between the people and their deity. In addition to the gods, the locals also give offerings to the spirits of the trees and some of the statues built within the Monkey Forest.
The highlight of the Ubud Monkey Forest is, of course, its inhabitants: the macaque monkeys. These long-tailed primates, also known as the Balinese long-tailed monkeys or scientifically as Macaca fascicularis, occupy the sacred forest in five major groups that occupy the eastern part, the central part, the cemeteries, Michelin, and the area right outside the main temple. At any of these locations, you can be able to observe them move in large groups of 100 or so with the trees and a nearby river providing food and water to sustain them.
Conflicts between different groups are fairly common as rival factions are forced to cross territories during the drier seasons to access water from the river. Macaque monkeys are naturally omnivores and live off a diet of sweet potatoes, papaya leaves, bananas, cucumbers, coconuts, and a number of other locally available fruits. Like their human neighbors, these monkeys are active during the day and asleep at night. You’ll find fruit sellers as you enter the forest if you want to feed the monkeys, but be prepared to be swarmed when you open your hand full of fruit!
Interestingly, the Ubud Monkey Forest Bali has over 186 species of trees, but only 115 have been identified. Balinese heritage marks some of the trees found in the forest as holy. The leaves of the Beringin tree, for instance, are used in cremation rituals while another tree, the Majegan is the designated building material for Balinese worship shrines.
The Pule Bandak tree, arguably the most sacred of them all, is believed to embody the spirit of the forest. It is said that on special occasions, a piece of wood from the tree is cut off by a Priest and used to make a mask. By leaving the tree alive, the Balinese culture dictates that the spirit of tree lives on in the mask, giving it great power.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is guided by a Hindu philosophy of conservation known as Tri Hita Karana, which can be loosely translated to mean “three ways to achieve happiness.” Ancient scripts indicate that the philosophy stemmed from the Balinese belief that true happiness can be achieved when the relationships between humans and their fellow humans, their environment, and their supreme deities are nurtured.
In essence, the Ubud Monkey Forest is more than a cultural and spiritual landmark for the people or a tourist destination. The forest plays host to a number of rare species of plants as well as the famous monkeys. Its unadulterated assortment of wildlife has significance and value for botanists and other scientific researchers.
There are three temples within the Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali. According to the Pura Purana (a sacred document), these were constructed in the 14th century and are used to worship God (Hyang Widhi) in different personifications.
The first temple is the Pura Dalem Agung, or the Main Temple, is used in the worship of Shiva, otherwise known as “the Transformer” or “the Recycler”. The Beji Temple (Pura Beji) is used as a place of worship for the goddess Gangga. During the piodalan ceremony, this temple serves as a place where “melukat,” or physical and spiritual cleansing, is carried out. The third temple, Pura Prajapati, is in the northeast part of the forest. It is used in the worship of Prajapati. Adjacent to it is a cemetery that serves as a temporary stopover during the mass cremation that’s held once every five years.
Travelers are free to explore the larger part of the forest, but a few locations remain prohibited for public visitation. Sacred closed off areas like the temple can only be visited for the purposes of praying, and only by those who wear the proper Balinese prayer regalia.
A set of rules dubbed the “Monkey Forest Tips” guide visitors on how to interact with the wildlife and the sacred environment. All plastic bags and bottles are banned from inside the forest and as such should all be left at the ticket counter.
Feeding the monkeys is allowed, provided you don’t give them human snacks such as peanuts, bread, and biscuits. If you do decide to feed them, refrain from toying with them by pulling back the food. This could aggravate them and cause them to be hostile.
Keeping the environment pristine is very important here. The local residents take it upon themselves to ensure that the area is well kept and cleaned up despite playing host to a large number of tourists every day.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is also a good place to experience the best of Balinese culture. With numerous events taking place daily, weekly, monthly, and bi-annually, there is no shortage of things to do around these parts. Photography is one of the recommended activities especially for nature enthusiasts and lovers of the diverse culture in the charming Bali region. Visit the sacred forest to enjoy the best Bali’s wildlife, culture, diversity, and natural environment in its purest and most exquisite state.