If your Bali bucket list includes “See monkeys,” you’re in luck. Monkey sightings at Ubud Monkey Forest are a guarantee (unless it’s raining—more on that soon).
Plenty of people wing their visit to the monkey sanctuary. I was among them and managed fine, thanks to no rain and overcast skies.
But between getting lucky and spending time orienting myself to the sanctuary’s rules on the spot, it would have been better had I already known the tips I’ll be sharing with you.
Accessibility Note: Scroll to Tip #12 for details on wheelchair accessibility.
About Ubud Monkey Forest
The official name for Ubud Monkey Forest is Mandala Suci Wenara Wana or Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
You’ll encounter one species of monkey there: The long-tailed macaque. These monkeys are common throughout Southeast Asia and can jump up to five meters (about 16 feet) between branches.
Trust me, you won’t get tired of seeing “only” one monkey species. They come in many sizes, from newborn babies to over two feet tall.
Even though you and I might initially interpret Ubud Monkey Forest as strictly for tourism, the sanctuary has deep-rooted spiritual meaning for the Balinese, dating back to the 14th century when it’s believed the sanctuary’s three Hindu temples were built.
The Balinese constructed the temples and created a safe space for the plants and monkeys around it to achieve Tri Hita Karana.
Tri Hita Karana is the concept of finding harmonization between the following three entities:
- The human relationship with the Supreme God
- The human relationship with humans
- The human relationship with the environment
So, you can appreciate the spiritual significance that the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary has as you explore its 600 to 700-year-old grounds.
Tips for Visiting Ubud Monkey Forest
Below are the biggest takeaways I learned during my visit to Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. I hope they help you better prepare for your visit.
Tip #1 Plan Your Visit Around the Rain
Monkeys are our closest animal relatives, so it’s no surprise they share our desire to seek shelter when it rains (or better put, we share theirs).
So, there’s little point in visiting Monkey Forest during or shortly after it rains. The monkeys hide in the trees and stay there until they sense a break between rain showers.
On the “bright” side, you can do many things in Ubud while you wait for the rain to pass. Downtown is a 20-minute walk along the aptly named Jl. Monkey Forest road.
Tip #2: Plan Around the Sun, Too
Ubud turns into an oven when the sun is out. And when you’re in Monkey Forest with the sun beating down on the trees, the excess moisture makes it feel even more humid.
That said, a sunny day is an excellent time to see Ubud’s monkeys in full “swing,” playing in the trees and hanging out on the sidewalks.
But for comfort reasons, it’s best to visit Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in the morning or late afternoon on sunny days.
Tip #3: Wear Mosquito Repellent
Forests, rain, and heat make Monkey Forest a breeding ground for mosquitos.
Slapping your skin to keep mosquitos off you isn’t only a nuisance but can scare or anger nearby monkeys.
So, do yourself and the monkeys a favor by applying mosquito repellent before you enter the sanctuary.
Tip #4: Don’t Feed the Monkeys
It sounds like common sense when you read this tip, but as Voltaire said, “Common sense is not so common.” Of course, Voltaire never saw how cute Ubud’s monkeys were; it’s hard to resist not passing them a snack.
But I implore you not to.
Feeding monkeys food they’re not accustomed to eating can damage their health and lead to a scary situation with them running toward you. I saw a boy do this, resulting in him breaking into tears and the sanctuary staff having to come to the rescue.
The monkeys at Ubud sanctuary aren’t hungry, I promise.
They’re fed a diet high in monkey-friendly foods like sweet potatoes, papaya leaves, and other seasonal fruit in Bali. So, don’t tempt them with your leftovers from the local warung.
Tip #5: Keep Your Hands to Home
This is another tip that’s common sense but not so much common practice. We’ve already established that monkeys are cute, and humans have an affinity for wanting to touch cute things.
But touching the monkeys at Ubud Monkey Forest isn’t permitted. These are wild animals, and they can lash out at you if you touch them. Plenty of street dogs in Ubud will love your attention if you’re dying to get some fur time.
That said, the monkeys may touch you.
If that happens, stay calm. The most common reason they’ll do this is if you have food or plastic. Drop whatever it is that’s attracting them if they won’t leave you alone and slowly back away with your gaze away from them.
Tip #6: Leave Your Plastic Bags at the Gate
Because not everyone follows the sanctuary’s rules, the monkeys have learned that plastic bags contain food.
So, if you have anything plastic on you, or any object that makes the crunching sound of plastic, leave it at the gate before you enter the forest.
As neat as it might sound to attract monkeys when they hear the rustle of plastic, even if you don’t intend to feed them, the situation can get ugly quickly with monkeys searching you for what they believe is food.
Tip #7: Heed the Staff’s Advice
Monkey Forest does a good job of keeping the sanctuary well-staffed.
The staff is there to protect the monkeys from you, and you from the monkeys, should either party get out of line.
So, if a staff member asks you to back away from a monkey, stay clear of an area within the forest, or gives you any other instruction, listen to them. They’re there for your safety and that of the monkeys.
Tip #8: Keep Your Cool With Monkey Fights
People don’t always get along, and monkeys don’t either. Ubud Monkey Forest has 10 groups of monkeys, each named according to the part of the sanctuary they inhabit.
These groups sometimes move into each other’s territory for water, food, and more. When that happens, fights occur.
Always let the monkeys battle it out on their own. It’s in their nature to do so, and they’ll be fine; you, however, won’t leave unscathed if you try breaking up the fight.
Tip #9: Don’t Look Monkeys in the Eye
Monkeys use eye contact to threaten one another. So, by looking an Ubud monkey in the eye, you could unintentionally show signs of dominance.
And they won’t like it.
Admittedly, I failed several times at not looking monkeys in the eye at the sanctuary. It wasn’t intentional; it was habitual. Can you imagine not looking your pet in the eye?
I didn’t have issues with the monkeys when I caught myself looking them in the eye. But I also kept my distance from them. I imagine the closer you get to the monkeys, the higher the chance that eye contact could result in them acting aggressively.
Tip #10: Store Your Belongings
Ubud Monkey Forest offers free baggage storage beside the ticket desk. It’s wise to use it if you’re traveling with a bag of any size. But especially if it has shiny features.
And while you’re at it, take off dangling earrings, watches, change out of your pocket, and any other valuables that could attract a monkey’s attention.
Some people report that the monkeys in Ubud steal anything shiny and expensive. That wasn’t my experience, though I only entered the sanctuary with a zippered cloth bag. I didn’t witness it happening to anyone else; the monkeys seemed far more interested in food.
But it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Tip #11: Take Photos From a Distance or With the Staff
For the same reason that you should leave your bags at the front desk of Monkey Forest, you should also take photos of the monkeys from a distance; the monkeys could snatch your phone.
Furthermore, getting too close to the monkeys can scare or irritate them, making them lash out at you.
That said, there’s staff throughout the park with stations where you can pay for them to take a picture of you with the monkeys. They work with monkeys that have notoriously good personalities and entice them with food to crawl onto your lap.
I didn’t partake in this photo-op. The ethics of it seemed on the fence to me, although it was comforting to see that the monkeys were there by free will. They weren’t restrained in any form.
Tip #12: A Portion of the Sanctuary Is Accessible
Ubud Monkey Forest offers wheelchair users and people with limited mobility the ability to visit a portion of their sanctuary.
The entrance to the ticket office is fully accessible, with a ramp on the right side. From there, a paved path leads to Funeral Place, the main temple, exhibition room, and central point.
These paths can be steep in some areas, so a manual wheelchair user might need help pushing.
If you’re traveling with people who want to visit the stair-access-only sections of Monkey Forest, I recommend waiting by the main temple. The view of the temple is stunning, and monkeys abound (but that’s not to say they’re not abundant elsewhere too).
There’s a wheelchair accessible restroom at the ticket office. It’s separate from the other restrooms, but the door is unlocked. Unfortunately, the restrooms within the forest aren’t accessible.
Tip #13: Don’t Enter the Temples
Ubud Monkey Forest has three temples, and the average tourist can’t enter them.
However, if you dress in traditional clothes and intend to pray, you’re welcome to enter the temples at Monkey Forest.
Otherwise, stick with taking pictures of the temples from the outside and enjoy watching the monkeys as they use the hundreds of years old architecture as their playground.
Tip #14: Mother Monkeys Are Aggressive
Even the tamest of monkeys in Ubud can become combative once they give birth. For this reason, giving mother monkeys and their offspring extra space is crucial.
So, put the zoom on your camera to work, and enjoy snapping photos from a distance that doesn’t make the mother stare you down.
The gestation period in Monkeys is about six months, and the baby monkeys in Ubud stay with their mother until they’re about 10 months old.
Tip #15: You Don’t Need to Pay to See Monkeys
I’m all about supporting local communities, and the Ubud Monkey Forest price is so small that it’s hard to rationalize it as too expensive. So, if you have the time, visiting Ubud Monkey Forest benefits the locals, keeps the monkeys in good health, and the temples well maintained.
But if you’re tight on time, take a quick stroll to the sidewalk near the sanctuary’s entrance.
You can often spot monkeys jumping on the vendor’s stands, playing in the trees, or hanging out on the sidewalk before you enter the paid area.
FAQs About Ubud Monkey Forest
Visiting Ubud’s monkeys at Monkey Forest is exciting. But if you still have questions, read on to see if I answer them. If I don’t, leave a comment at the end of this article, and I’ll do my best to help.
Are the monkeys at Ubud Monkey Forest native to Bali?
Long-tailed macaque monkeys hail from Southeast Asia, so they’re native to Bali and other islands in Indonesia. It’s more common to see monkeys at Ubud Monkey Forest than in certain other parts of the island, though. The monkeys typically remain inside densely forested jungle except for areas where people feed them.
How many monkeys live at the sanctuary?
More than 1,200 monkeys live at the monkey sanctuary in Ubud. They range from zero months to more than six years old.
How much time do you need at Ubud Monkey Forest?
Most people spend 1.5 to 2 hours at Ubud Monkey Forest. The amount of time you need depends on your pace and whether you explore the whole sanctuary or a portion of it. Some people only visit the main temple, which you can do in as little as 30 minutes while still taking your time observing the monkeys.
Is there a place to leave my bag?
Yes. There’s a free bag check by the ticket office at Ubud Monkey Forest. Be sure to leave as many valuables at your accommodation as possible, for it’s best not to keep them at the bag check or take them with you into the forest.
What facilities does Ubud Monkey Forest have?
Ubud Monkey Forest has an onsite cafe, restrooms, ATM, luggage storage, WiFi, and coy fish food for sale. There’s a coy pond surrounding the ticketing area where you can feed the fish.
What should I do if a monkey chases me?
If a monkey chases you at the Ubud Monkey Sanctuary, there’s a reason for it. Drop whatever piece of food or plastic might be in your hands. Alternatively, you might have gotten too close to a mother monkey. Back away slowly. Be sure never to look a monkey that’s chasing you in the eye.
Do the monkeys in Ubud bite?
The monkeys in Ubud can bite. But they almost always only do so to people who try to touch them, play with them, or scare them. If a monkey bites you, head to Monkey Forest’s first aid office. They’ll clean the bite with alcohol and give you an antiseptic ointment.
Can I get a disease from the monkeys at Ubud Monkey Forest?
You don’t have to worry about getting a disease from the monkeys at Ubud Monkey Forest. The sanctuary works with the Primate Research Center of Udayana University, which ensures the monkeys stay healthy. Anthropology doctor Agustin Fuentes also studied rabies in Ubud monkeys and couldn’t identify a single case in the 14 years of his research.
Is Ubud Monkey Forest humane?
Ethics is a significant topic to consider before visiting an attraction involving animals. The monkeys at Ubud Monkey Forest are uncaged, able to leave the forest and head anywhere else in Bali. They appear healthy and are undoubtedly well-fed. But I understand those who choose not to visit for ethical reasons, given that there’s human intervention with how the monkeys live.
What attire should I wear?
The “keep it safe” part of me would tell you to wear sneakers. But let’s face it—Bali is hot, and no one wants to slap on a pair of socks and sneaks in tropical weather. I went in flip-flops and managed the stairs just fine. Shorts and t-shirts are acceptable too.
Is Ubud Monkey Forest safe for kids?
Ubud Monkey Forest is safe for kids if your kids are good at following instructions. If they aren’t, it’s best to wait until they’re older. There isn’t a minimum age limit on who can enter the sanctuary. You know your child best to judge whether they’ll be amazed or sacred by the monkeys.
What are the monkey sanctuary’s hours of operation?
Monkey Forest is open seven days a week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Is Ubud Monkey Forest worth visiting?
Ubud Monkey Forest is worth visiting if you want to have the chance to see uncaged monkeys up close. It’s a short walk from downtown Ubud, making it an excellent option for spending a part of the day. As long as you don’t visit the sanctuary during or shortly after a rain shower, you can expect to see dozens, if not hundreds, of monkeys.
Monkey Around…From a Distance
I’m ready to go back to Ubud Monkey Forest after writing this, and I hope it’s gotten you excited to visit.
I know a lot of the information here contained “don’ts” and warnings to keep you and your belongings safe. But the truth is that most people have a fun time, leaving the sanctuary with all of their belongings in tow and their bodies unharmed.
If you respect the monkeys, they’ll respect you.
Feel free to leave a comment with any questions. I’d also love to hear about your experience after your visit, including any tips or advice you’d add to this list.