To say I disliked Ubud,Indonesia would be an understatement. My utter disdain for the pretentious and self righteous expats who have infested that beautiful area knows no bounds. When I thought all was lost. My bags were packed and plane ticket purchased, a small beacon of hope appeared. In the form of a monkey trying to steal my camera. This is the beautiful Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The only reason anyone needs to visit Ubud Bali.
Also known as the Ubud Monkey Forest, this 28 acre nature reserve houses over 600 Crab-eating Macaaque (Macaca fascicularis) divided into four distinctive groups around the complex. These monkeys freely run, jump, fight, play, and eat all over the complex. No cages here folks. You’ll be up close and personal with these guys.
How personable they are will immediately become clear. Simply put, they have amazing personalities. Even when their trying to go in your pockets or steal your camera, it’s hard to get mad at them because they are so damn cool to watch. And don’t worry about safety. Rangers are throughout the park to ensure guest are safe from them and their safe from guest. And trust me, I feel like the monkeys were the better behaved of the two.
I was intrigued by the clear family structures. Mothers protected their young with ferocity. Several times I saw the mother run off an aggressive male trying to bother her baby. Being born and raised in this highly touristic environment really lends itself to an adventurous nature for these monkeys. No fear of humans existed. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad yet.
Quick expose. Once one of these guys decides they like you then it’s done. You’ll have a little furry stalker following and jumping all over you. After this shot he decided it would be a great idea to hang out on my back and head for awhile. Although relatively harmless, I don’t like furry creatures crawling all over me. Especially when their mother isn’t look very happy about the activity.
About a minute before I shot this, he went on a rampage. Yelling, screaming, and attacking anything in sight. No tourist, but pretty much every other monkey in the vicinity. GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!! Even though he’s smaller than the average person, his speed and power will do some damage before you can get help. He was easily one of the dominate males in the park. Was lucky to run into him because he was the only true large male we saw. Luckily he calmed down and decided to hang out. Pun Intended.
In the center of the sanctuary you’ll see several temples. Their used for Balinese ceremonies and as housing for the monkeys. This was closed to the public but clearly not this guy. One aspect of Balinese culture I truly respect is their craftsmanship. Throughout Bali you’ll find entire villages dedicated to ONE craft. Stone working, wood working, textiles, etc etc. They dedicate their lives to making beautiful art such as those which decorate most temples.
FYI, This is what happens to your litter. We tried to get this piece of metal, a soda can, away from him with little luck. Eventually he stole my paper ticket and dropped this. Their attracted to anything shiny so folks, take off the ear rings and chains. These monkeys are VERY smart. As we were walking down a path, I observed three monkeys trying to start a fire. Yes, a fire. I’m not sure if this is evolution or learned behavior but their actions were clear.
I love the shots above and below because they show the bond between mother and child. Reminds us that we aren’t too far removed as a species. Mothers watch over their young very closely for the first 4-5 months of their lives. Unfortunately many young don’t survive as they are often killed by invading males or taken by higher ranking females within the group that aren’t lactating.
I watched this guy for about 15 minutes. It just seemed like he had so much on his mind. Not eating, playing, or yelling. Just sitting alone thinking. As a photographer shooting emotion is something we strive for. These animals make it so easy by constantly displaying their emotion with such passion and depth. Take your cue from this. If they look angry they probably are which means back off.
Sacred Monkey Sanctuary should be a reminder of the gifts nature has for us. To be able to interact so closely with these animals is a gift everyone should experience. With a great record for conservation and safety I fully recommend a visit. I would be remiss not to mention the risk of visiting this park. These are semi wild animals. They’ve been trained that people=food and can be aggressive at times. I refused to buy any food for them because I knew this going in. Once you’re identified as a food source they will hound you. If you don’t want to get this close then don’t feed them.
NOTE: DON’T TOUCH THE BABIES. Yes their cute but you know what isn’t? A full grown mother monkey biting your face.
High Resolution versions of all these images and prints are available here http://minoritynomad.smugmug.com/Indonesia/Sacred-Monkey-Forest-Ubud
So will you visit the Sacred Monkey Forest on you visit to Ubud?