Hanging out with monkeys is not my idea of fun for they can be quite aggravating and even a little scary. But they’re also cute, especially the babies. So when I found myself walking past the forest in Ubud, Bali where four troops of the long-tailed macaques live I thought, why not? Besides, this forest has wardens so if one tries to climb on my back there is a good chance I’d be rescued.
More than 600 monkeys share this forest and nearly 100 of them are babies. There are warnings that the little ones are just as quick to bite as the grown-ups and their mother can be very protective so I decide it’s better to be cautious. But not everyone visiting the forest is. Some have brought food with them, especially bananas, and the monkeys want it. If you sit down the monkeys will look in your pockets and try to get into any bag you’re carrying. If they take something (like your keys), don’t go after them but try to find a warden. Maybe they’re not so cute!
If they try to climb on you you’re supposed to walk slowly away and not stare at them while you’re doing it because they will find that threatening. And don’t step on one by mistake or wander off the path into their territory for they won’t be happy. A monkey chased after me simply because the dress I was wearing blew up with the wind; I guess it didn’t like the movement.
An adult male can weigh as much as 18 pounds; it has broad shoulders and larger canine teeth than the female. The male has what looks like a mustache whereas the female has facial hair that makes them look a bit like a bear.
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Female monkeys rule! That’s because they stay in the same troop their whole lives whereas the males move between troops and have to be accepted by the troop’s females each time they move. Everywhere there are monkeys grooming one another, keeping the skin and hair clean.
The Balinese have their unique brand of Hinduism and part of that includes both disliking and revering monkeys. This monkey forest has a sacred Hindu temple so if the monkeys stay there the people will protect them. They are not very happy with the monkeys when they leave the forest and wander into the village or try to find a meal in one of the rice fields.
The best thing about the Sacred Monkey Forest is not the monkeys but the forest. It is simply beautiful and worth visiting—with or without the monkeys.
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses 2012