Got Ubud on your Bali itinerary? What about Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary?
Home to 1,049 Balinese long-tailed monkeys, this Hindu temple complex is one of Ubud’s most popular spots receiving over 10,000 visitors PER MONTH. No solo traveler should pass up such an iconic Bali experience!
AND if you’re heading over soon, check out the ultimate itinerary for 9 days in Bali.
Getting to Monkey Forest
Monkey Forest is conveniently located at the end of Monkey Forest Rd. From the main area of Ubud, it’s about a 20-minute walk to the sanctuary. However, for safety purposes, I strongly recommend booking a Grab (Southeast Asia’s equivalent to Uber) or a taxi – they’ll take you directly to the main entrance.
Pedestrians and cars share the roads surrounding the forest, so it’s not as easy to navigate by foot as you’d think. Speaking as a female traveler, I always tried to avoid walking on those kinds of roads (especially at night!!) to decrease the chances of drive-by robberies and pedestrian-car accidents.
The main entrance is at the northern end of the sanctuary along Monkey Forest Rd. and the exact address is: JI. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kabupaten, Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia.
What time is the forest open?
Monkey Forest is open daily from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM.
What is the entrance fee?
Tickets are on sale until 5:30 PM. As of October 2019, adult tickets cost 80,000 rupiah ($6 USD)
How long can I expect to be there?
I recommend giving yourself 1-2 hours. The sanctuary is relatively large, so allow yourself ample time to wander.
General safety for solo travelers visiting Monkey Forest
Posted just before entering the sanctuary is a list of rules to abide by:
- Do not panic
- Do not run
- Do not look the monkeys in the eye
- Do not hide any food
- Do not bring any kind of plastic/paper bag
- Please take care of your valuable belongings
- Don’t ever touch, grab, or disturb the monkeys
- Feeding monkeys peanuts, candy, bread, drinks, and any other snacks are prohibited
I know … we all want to feed and pet those adorable monkeys, but trust me – it’s RISKY. These rules keep both you AND the monkeys safe! Especially as a budget traveler, the last thing you want to spend is an exorbitant amount of time and money on preventable doctor’s visits.
As far as safety as a solo traveler goes … are the monkeys aggressive?
Well … yes and no. If you leave them be and mind your distance, they’re perfectly fine (and are so intriguing to watch). But if you have food (even hidden in your bag – they can smell it!), get too close, or try to pet them, they will attack. After all, they are wild animals simply defending themselves.
Be careful with baby monkeys! Mothers are VERY protective and will intervene if they feel their babies are being threatened. Even though they’re so stinkin‘ cute, keep a safe distance!
Should I get a rabies vaccine before visiting?
Please consult a doctor for professional advice. The following is based on my personal opinion and experience at Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.
Before visiting, I did some research on the chances of catching rabies from a monkey bite/scratch at the sanctuary, and honestly, it sounded pretty rare.
Monkey Forest’s website shares its work alongside the Primate Research Center of Udayana University and Dr. Agustin Fuentes (University of Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology). According to them, none of the monkeys have tested positive for rabies within the last 14 years. I also read up on other bloggers who shared their experiences of getting bitten/scratched, and none claimed to test positive for rabies.
If you’re planning on traveling around Southeast Asia for an extended period, I definitely recommend getting a rabies vaccination to be safe. Monkey Forest has a health center on-site that’ll document the case and clean the wound. With the initial rabies vaccine (pre-exposure), a post-exposure shot is needed within 48 hours after a bite (vs. 24 without the initial vaccine).
One of my friends got scratched by a monkey, and when she signed the form to document her injury, you wouldn’t believe how many others were bitten or scratched on that day alone!
Can you feed the monkeys?
Yes, but by all means DON’T DO IT! I cannot stress this enough!
At the time of ticket purchase, you can buy bananas to feed the monkeys. If there’s anything you remember from this, let it be that they will stop at NOTHING for your food.
If you hand a monkey a banana, they’ll take it, but assume you have more. Once you’re out of bananas, the monkeys can still smell it on you. They’ll think you have more and will continue to climb on you and search through your belongings.
Food is probably the biggest cause of attacks in Monkey Forest. DO NOT BRING FOOD (drinks are highly discouraged as well). Even if you think you’re in the clear to sneak a little bite of a granola bar, you’re not. Remember, over 1,000 monkeys live here – you ALWAYS have eyes on you.
Does Monkey Forest have a dress code?
Nope! But I recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes or sandals that are non-slip; the sanctuary is mildly hilly and heavily forested. As far as clothing goes, wear whatever you’re comfortable with.
Two things to NOT bring … SUNGLASSES and JEWELRY! These are stolen all the time. Once a monkey snatches it from you, that’s it – there’s no fighting for them back.
Bags are tricky. Monkeys can easily figure out how to unzip bags, undo knots, and pickpocket. Fanny packs are great as long as they’re tightly worn around your waist. I carried a small backpack and held it tightly in front of me the entire time. Some of my friends took small crossbody bags, and those worked just as well.
Whether you take a backpack or purse – always hold onto them tightly in front of you! Every solo traveler’s worst nightmare is losing their personal belongings – especially to a monkey!
Ideally, you should only wear the essentials and leave all accessories behind. The more you have, the more chances you’re giving a monkey to snatch something and possibly injure you.
Should I bring my phone into Monkey Forest?
DO NOT – I repeat – DO NOT carry your phone in your back pocket!
Having your phone in your back pocket (or any pocket for that matter) is literally asking monkeys to steal it (and they will). Remember, they’re intelligent and will fearlessly reach into pockets and bags (sometimes they’ll even peek into your shirt).
Break this habit for the day and leave your phone in your bag when you’re not using it. I know this can be annoying … especially when we’re trying to capture those precious moments! As a solo traveler, your phone is so valuable – it’s not worth the risk. When you have it out, hold onto it tightly!
Are there temples at Monkey Forest?
Monkey Forest is rooted in Hindu beliefs, specifically Bali’s traditional philosophy of tri hata karana, which focuses on three streams of pursuing physical and spiritual well-being. The streams are: harmony with God, harmony amongst others, and harmony with the natural environment. You’ll see that sanctuary isn’t purely a “tourist attraction”, but serves as a place to connect the animals, forest, and people.
As you explore the sanctuary, you’ll come across three Hindu temples that date back to the mid 1300’s.
Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal: the main temple used for worshipping Shiva
Pura Beji: temple for purification and worshipping Gangga
Pura Prajapati: temple honoring the god, Prajapati
Fun fact: across Pura Prajapati is a cemetery for a temporary burial. A mass cremation is held every 5 years.
Although these temples are closed to the public, it’s important to understand the cultural connection they have with the sanctuary as a whole. They remind visitors of Bali’s Hindu vision to unite all harmoniously. As you wander the sanctuary solo, remember this and be grateful for what the sanctuary symbolizes.
Attacked at Monkey Forest?!
We weren’t IN the forest, but were just outside one of the sanctuary’s smaller exits. We had gone into a convenience store across the street for a quick snack (big mistake) and continued along the sidewalk when we ran into a couple of monkeys.
One of my friends was still eating her snack, but everything happened so quickly that we didn’t realize the monkeys were after her bag of nuts. They climbed up and right as she dropped them (after nearby people yelled to drop the food), the monkey scratched her on the way down.
Luckily it was a superficial scratch and she had gotten her initial rabies shots (although you need a post-exposure vaccine after a scratch/bite). We headed back to the health center and they quickly cleaned it up. We debated if she should get her post-exposure vaccine, but after consulting a nearby clinic and her doctor from the US, she decided it wasn’t necessary since the cut was pretty superficial (plus the fact that it was a scratch and not a bite).
My honest opinion of visiting Monkey Forest as a solo traveler
Monkey Forest should definitely be on every solo traveler’s Bali itinerary! The sanctuary was incredible and seeing hundreds of monkeys in their natural habitat was crazy!
Now is Monkey Forest ethical? Honestly, I’m not sure, but from my visit, it seems ethical. Monkeys were free to roam as they pleased and didn’t suffer any repercussions for stealing or scratching. Wherever they were seated, visitors were expected to walk around, even if they blocked an entire staircase. There weren’t any performances or signs of harmful treatment. They even had the freedom to wander outside of the forest.
At photo ops, the monkeys didn’t seem “trained”, but were bribed with food to help get the best angle (no hooks, sharp objects, nothing). And if the monkey ran off, that was it – no more photo ops.
Whew! Now you’re ready to explore Monkey Forest! Enjoy your solo travels and stay safe! 🙂
Have you visited Monkey Forest? Share your experience in the comments for other readers to see! And if there’s any other advice on enhancing a person’s solo trip to Monkey Forest, please share!