A sanctuary of the spirit – and some spirited monkeys

So you’ve decided to get away from the Bali beaches for a day and explore the highland interior. You can’t decide if you should check out the native wildlife, or take a look at some ancient Balinese art.

Why not both? At Ubud Monkey Forest, a reserve about 34 km inland from Kuta, native monkeys chatter and swing through the trees while ornately carved Hindu temples stand serenely below. It’s the quintessential only-in-Bali experience.

Meet the Monkeys

This 27-acre patch of deep ravines, steep hillsides, and dense forest is home to some 600 long-tailed macaques. These are no tiny little monkeys. Long-tailed macaques can grow to 65 cm tall, with tails up to 26 cm long, and adult males can weigh up to 9 kg. They can jump up to 5 meters – no surprise to any Monkey Forest visitors who’ve seen them soaring from tree to tree.

Park staff feed the monkeys sweet potatoes, and they forage for foods like papaya and coconut. But they’re always up for an extra treat from park visitors. Bananas are sold outside the park for tourists to feed the macaques – and if you’re not careful, they’ll come after any food in your pockets or bags!

The Ubud macaques are very accustomed to human contact and not shy about getting up close and personal. Visitors can watch the full spectrum of monkey life unfold around them, from eating to grooming, from mums cuddling babies to rival males talking trash – and of course, lots of joyous playing around.

Temples from the 14th Century

Standing since sometime in the 1350s, the three temples in the Ubud Monkey Forest are spectacular examples of Balinese art, with intricately decorated carved figures of dragons, gods, monsters, and animals adorning their weathered spires. The growth of moss on the temples accentuates the eternal, timeless feeling of these centuries-old masterpieces.

But they’re not just beautiful relics. These three temples are still vital to modern-day spiritual life in Ubud. As such, the sacred areas of the temples are closed to visitors, except for those observing Balinese Hindu prayers. But an outside observer can appreciate their transcendent majesty.

The boisterous, grabby macaques may seem an odd contrast to the imposing, solemn temples of Ubud Monkey Forest. But monkeys have always played a central role in both Hinduism and Balinese native religion. The legendary Hindu hero Hanuman is a monkey, and two helper monkeys traditionally accompany Barong, king of the spirits in Balinese mythology.

Earth and Heaven, the natural and the supernatural, the ridiculous and the sublime intermingle in Ubud Monkey Forest. It’s an experience no visitor will ever forget.

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