I had been on a solo travel trip to Bali about a year back. It is a rather large island with a lot of specific areas that offer you varied experiences.
You have Jimbaran , which is a rather quiet fisherman’s village and a beautiful beach along with lots of beach restaurants to explore. You have Seminyak and Nusa dua, which are the touristy regions with hip hotels and bars. You have Tanah lot, which has some of the most beautiful temples in Bali and then there is my favourite of all, Ubud– which is the cultural hub of Bali with lots of beautiful rice terraces, organic gardens, museums and local arts and crafts. It’s a natural haven and filled with local charm. Of course, it is also usually crammed with tourists and local vendors trying to sell something to tourists most of the time, but then, if you overlook all of that and opt for the local stuff, it is quite an interesting place.
The monkey forest was on my agenda when I arrived in Ubud. I had read reviews online where had people reported having unpleasant experiences with the monkeys when they visited the forest but nevertheless, I opted to go there. After all, who knew if I would visit Bali again in the future and even if I did, whether the forest would still be the same as it was at that moment?
The Monkey forest is actually a forest nestled in the centre of Ubud. However, it is more like a sanctuary for the monkeys with a full-fledged staff arrangement to look after the primates in this area. You need to get a ticket to explore the forest.
I got mine and set off like the other visitors to explore this famed forest with my friend who visited me from Jogja in Indonesia. The monkeys actually greet you right outside the forest area. In fact, they are known to sit around on the roads as the vehicles pass by. It can be quite a sight if I say so.
The trail was rather interesting and made me feel as if I was entering a rain forest. Gigantic trees on the sides of the pathway formed a canopy overhead. The sun was up and shone through the branches. Small sculptures and carvings – mainly depicting monkeys could be seen at regular intervals on the trail.
The walk wasn’t exhausting as such. With some of the monkeys screeching overhead or one of them sitting by the side of the road happily munching on a sweet potato or banana- whatever his/her meal at that time makes for a rather fun sight. You just have to be really careful to not aggravate them lest they get irritated or feel threatened. It also isn’t a good idea to hand them cameras or selfie sticks. (I saw a tourist doing that to shoot a video)
There are monkeys everywhere – in all shapes and sizes…Big monkeys, baby monkeys, male ones, female ones, fat ones, scrawny ones…
I learnt of monkey groups that day. Apparently, monkeys have their designated groups or gangs too. They have community heads or elders too – just like we have in humans. They usually live peacefully but one aggravation on either group’s part and all hell breaks lose. It becomes extremely difficult to contain the situation then, as monkeys can get rather nasty. If ever such a scenario occurs, avoid or move away from that place.
I walked around the winding trail and explored the complex. There was a small temple located next to a stream that was accessible only by crossing on a small bridge laid between dense forests. I am not too sure what the temple was about but then, I didn’t really pay attention to that, as I was purely there for the monkey experience.
The baby monkeys were an adorable lot. The infants were cuddled up with the older ones while the slightly older ones were seen playing by themselves around with the older ones keeping a watchful eye on them.
There were a few others randomly sitting around on rocks or trees and contemplating life I guess. I assume that was what their grim look meant. I spotted one guy sitting on top of a monkey statue as I entered the forest and was still around there in the same position when I left the forest about an hour and half later. He seemed to be entrusted with the responsibility of keeping a count of the visitors in the forest I assume.
The conservatory staff fed the monkeys thrice a day with sweet potatoes as I heard. The potatoes are chopped in chunks and left around in the designated areas and the chimps come around for their meals.
There isn’t much to do in the forest except look at the antics of these animals, understand a bit of their life and spend some time simply enjoying them. I haven’t been to such single-animal designated sanctuaries earlier in any of my travels but I have to admit, I love this one purely for the baby monkeys. They are such an innocent looking lot to behold. And I guarantee you; they are always there in large numbers.
Leaving the sanctuary and walking towards my car, there are monkeys clinging to overhead branches in the parking lot and around the main roads leading to town. Anyone passing by this area simply cannot pass by without spotting these creatures and having an “Aww” moment.