As a child I desperately wanted a pet monkey. I would have gladly given up the option of having a family dog in favour of one of those incredibly cute two-legged creatures. But, I grew up monkey deprived. Over the years, my monkey love had to be satisfied with a trip to the zoo or a National Geographic documentary. Soooo, can you imagine my excitement when the opportunity ‘to walk among monkeys in their natural habitat’ presented itself?!
I was in Ubud, Indonesia heading towards one of Bali's most popular tourist attractions--The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. It's a nature reserve that is home to over 700 monkeys and sacred Hindu temples...sounds great, right?!
The Sacred Monkey Forest
With monkeys in sight, I practically sprinted to the entrance of the sanctuary. The little fellas were casually draping themselves over the entrance sign and the surrounding fence—an advertising executive couldn’t have positioned them any better. With the entrance fee paid; I was more than ready to be one with nature.
As I entered the sanctuary, the signage clearly stated:
“It is important to treat the monkeys with the utmost respect as this is their home and you are a guest in it. Moreover, if you wish to feed the monkeys do so carefully, and if they take food from you do not attempt to retrieve it.”
This guest couldn’t have agreed more.
It doesn’t take long for me to process that there were monkeys everywhere. And, I mean e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. There were monkeys in trees, monkeys sitting on rocks, fences and monkeys strolling around like they had nothing better to do. I couldn’t believe it! Holy smokes! I had to capture this awe-inspiring moment.
Not being technically inclined, I was a little nervous to take pictures with my brand new, never been used, digital camera. No sooner was the camera out of my knapsack and gingerly unwrapped from the plastic bag which was protecting it from the light drizzle falling; did a monkey sashay over and whip the camera from my unsuspecting hands.
Lady! Respect the Monkeys
Holy crap! In shock, all I could think of was…that monkey has my brand new, never been used digital camera! Much to the monkey’s disbelief—I snatched back the camera. My relief at having my camera back in my possession was only temporary because I received a VERY stern reprimand from of one of the sanctuary staff who was under the impression that I was behaving disrespectfully towards one of the precious little monkeys.
Although shaken from the scolding and the attempted theft, I wandered deeper into the sanctuary in search of one of the beautiful temples. My camera was now safely stuffed in my backpack and would remain in there for the duration of the sanctuary visit hence, the lack of pictures.
Recovered, I stopped to admire one of the temple’s architecture. It’s quite amazing what can happen in a sanctuary when you stop moving for just a second, because that’s all it took before a monkey in single bound jumped on my shoulder and then, positioned himself comfortably on the top of my head.
How lovely, I was in the middle of a sacred forest all by myself with a money perched on top of my head. A few thoughts in rapid succession crossed my mind.
I was mistaken when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. The second monkey opened his little mouth as wide as he could and sunk his crooked yellow-stained teeth into my leg. My thoughts drifted, and I found myself wondering…does my health insurance cover monkey bites? I was fairly confident that—it didn’t.
I must confess, I have always prided myself on being an independent woman who can successfully navigate herself around the globe; but at this precise moment…I wanted someone who could get these stinking monkeys off me. Much to my relief, the very helpful sanctuary guide suggested that…I ‘keep moving.’
Gee, thanks. Have you ever tried to ‘keep moving’ with a monkey on your head? I can tell you…it’s not easy. Moreover, did you know that a monkey can remain firmly planted on your head even when you shake your head vigorously back and forth? Well, as vigorously as you can with a monkey parked on your head.
Aussies & Dogs are the Best
During my travels, I have always gravitated to Aussies. They’re fun and now, I know—they’re also dependable. A very kind Aussie gentleman came to my rescue and dislodged the monkeys from both my head and leg. If he had of asked, I would have married him on the spot. As for the sanctuary guide, I was ever so appreciative of the role he played during my monkey bonding time.
It is safe to say…at that moment, I did not understand why The Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a top tourist attraction. In fact, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Once safely outside of the sacred grounds, I reflected on the last 30 minutes of my life. I concluded…as does anyone who has had the pleasure of a monkey encounter--they’re not those incredibly cute two-legged creatures you thought they were. I then, took the opportunity to deliver a silent prayer of thanks to my parents for allowing this dog lover to grow up monkey deprived.
Tips for Visiting The Sacred Monkey Forest
Should you decide to visit the sanctuary (and you should) for your safety and a more enjoyable visit than mine ensure you follow the guidelines and I've included some suggestions of my own: