Today I went to The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary of Padangtegal. There are currently over 600 long-tailed macaque monkeys there roaming freely. They have guarded the sacred temples inside for thousands of years. This Balinese Hindu temple is one of the most sacred in the world (see: http://monkeyforestubud.com/about/the-temples/). Because of the growing number of tourist coming, they have tighten up the rules. The monkeys are very smart and know when you are vulnerable. They are also looking for anything they can get their hands on. There are 5 different groups (like families) and they are very territorial. We witnessed some of that while we were there. They are so much like people. There was sex, fighting, babies, teenagers and adults. Once they have something in their hands you are most likely to never get it back.
The sanctuary is run by the Padangtegal Wenara Wana Foundation. These people are all around the forest to assist if anything goes down. They use sling shots and sticks and the monkeys know who they are. Sometimes one of the members will just give them a look and they know to go the other way. Over the years the monkeys have grown smarter about stealing. They know if they take something of yours they will get a banana for giving it back. This has actually encouraged them to steal. Bananas are sold throughout the forest to feed them. They sell large and small bunches. The large bunches were 50,000 rupiah and the small were 20,000. The monkeys know exactly when you are reaching for the bananas in your bags (the vendors ask you to keep them hidden until you plan on using them). Sometimes people were just looking for something in their bags and the monkeys tried to grab the entire bag. Once I had a banana under my shirt and one came running across the park (he must have seen me put it there) and tried to grab at my shirt. It startled me and I ended up getting scared and throwing the banana away from me. They can move fast! If you hold the banana in the air, the monkey will jump on your shoulder to get it. It’s a great photo opportunity. Some of the older monkeys don’t feel like jumping so they just jump high enough to pull your arm down to the ground. I had a mother with her baby attached jump on my shoulder. That was amazing.
I could have spent hours and hours in there. The admission was 30,000 Rupiah ($2.08 US). 100% of the admission price goes into the non profit forest. The strange thing is I went back on a Sunday and there were hardly any monkeys around. I asked many workers there and got a few different answers. No one could really explain why though. A couple of them said they were full and tired ,but out of 600 monkeys I was still baffled. They are so cute and free roaming that I forgot they were wild animals sometimes. The only protection there are the workers with a sling shots and a bananas.
There is a HUGE sign at the front entrance with the rules. The ones I remember most were: 1) If they grab something of yours just let it go and don’t try to get it. 2) Don’t look them in the eye, its a sign of aggression. 3) Don’t make any loud screams or noises around them. There were several more, but those stuck out the most. During the visit there is a recording that goes on a few times asking not to give them outside food and don’t touch them.
Outside of the monkeys, the forest is home to one of the most sacred Hindu temples. There is also a sacred pool that has been used for centuries as holy water. The temples are closed to the public but you can still see them clearly without going inside. If you are sincere about praying in them and are dressed appropriately, the staff will assist you with arrangements. The temples are beautiful. They are worth seeing on their own. There is also a little cemetery with headstones in the park for the monkeys who have passed away there.
There are a few vendors inside of the forest (surprise surprise) selling clothing and the same stuff they sell outside on Monkey Forest Road. That’s where that monkey pictured above found that beer. The prices are sky high and you can buy the exact same stuff outside the park for less.