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Hey, Hey, They're the Monkeys!

A stroll through Bali’s famous Monkey Forest took just enough time for the girls’ batiks to dry. This part of Bali contains a number of famous temples sited within ancient, untouched forests that are home to large bands of wild monkeys. Lucky monkeys; their choice of real estate endows them with holy status thanks to the nearby temples.

Sharon and I had visited the forest during our last trip to Bali 17 years ago, and I was curious to see whether it had changed. Back then, the town of Ubud was a fair distance from the forest entrance, requiring an hour’s walk. But the town had grown so much since then that the streets, shops and restaurants now extended all the way to the official entrance to the park. Instead of an adventurous trek to the forest, like we had experienced back then, going from the town to the forest entrance felt just like crossing Fifth Avenue to enter Central Park!

The entrance sign notes that the monkeys are “free living, wild animals.” Visitors are warned to be careful around them, not to feed them anything but bananas, and especially not to try to hide food from them, because they are unrelenting in their attempts to dig it out of clenched fists, pockets and zipped-up backpacks.

I bought some fresh bananas from a vendor at the entrance. Turning to enter the forest, I immediately found myself surrounded by a bunch of pretty aggressive males.

Before I had time to make a move, the leader scampered up my leg with bared teeth and grabbed at the fruit. Talk about monkey wrestling! Luckily, he only got a good grip on one, leaving me with the rest of the bunch.

Monkeys 1: Human 0.

Hmm. These monkeys may be wild, but they sure aren’t scared by humans. I wanted the bananas to last until we had actually taken a few steps into the park, so I turned my back to the troop and quickly stuffed my pockets with the individual bananas. Sami’s response was immediate: “Daddy! The sign says not to put bananas in your pockets! The monkeys will find them!” Yeah, right. I’ll show those monkeys. They won’t get past me a second time.

I turned around and started to walk down the path. Sure enough, one of the monkeys immediately spied my bulging pockets and jumped up for a snack. I couldn’t believe it!

I tried to fend him off, but he kept clawing at my pocket, teeth bared and hissing loudly, until he figured out where the opening was. He reached in, grabbed a banana, and jumped down to eat it. Were his teeth still bared, or was he laughing at me?

Monkeys 2: Human 0.

I thought evolution made humans smarter than monkeys…

At that point, I decided that the best things to put in my pockets were my own two hands, and I gave the rest of the bananas to the girls. Having witnessed me getting ambushed, the girls were a bit nervous, but they soon got more comfortable, and the fun began!

Sami was first out of the gate with a successful hand-off:

Miranda soon found her own willing recipient.


Monkey life was going on all around us; we watched them running around, grooming themselves (looking for what, we wondered?) and chasing each other through the trees.

We did a lot of “Awwww…”-ing at the cute little baby monkeys, too:


Various family groups were easy to identify. The larger male monkeys were clearly guarding the females, some of whom were quite pregnant.

The girls felt very sorry for this pregnant one, who lumbered around with great difficulty. (They were especially nice to their mother for a little while after that!)


The monkeys tend to hang around near the entrance to the forest, where most of the tourists, like us, eagerly offer them bananas.

Leaving the feeding frenzy behind, we did a little exploring on the paved, curving trails under the towering palm trees.

The Monkey Forest boasts several important temples, but we weren’t really in the mood to don our sarongs and check them out. Posing by the cool statues in the softly fading daylight was more our speed.

On the way out, we spent more time watching the monkeys frolicking around. With questions about evolution still humming in my mind, we headed back up the hill to find our own snacks that wouldn’t get snatched away.

Next: White-water river rafting


Bali chapter shortcuts: Intro Xmas Eve Zoo Temple Market Balinese Beauty Tsunami
Batik Monkeys Rafting New Year's Biking Elephants Sea Sports Cremation Dress Up Missing!

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