Week 24: Playing with Monkeys in Ubud, Bali
“Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” - George Taylor, Planet of the Apes 1968
What did I do
While in Ubud, Bali, we made a stop at the Sacred Monkey Forest. In the middle of the city is a giant forest inhabited by a horde of monkeys who are social, aggressive and hungry for bananas. Once you pay for your admission ticket, you enter the forest through a tunnel with carved images of monkeys and gorillas, big and small. The forest is lush, green and tropical.
Visitors have the option to purchase bundles of bananas for a chance to interact with these furry little, and not so little, creatures. My friends and I bought a ton of bananas, stowed them in our bags and explored the forest for the opportunity to feed monkeys.
Who was with me:
I was with my soul family from the yoga retreat. There were 16 of us, so we naturally split into smaller groups as we hung out and played with monkeys. The forest was bustling with tourist taking pictures and belly laughing as they observed the monkeys interacting with other humans.
What did I learn:
Pretty quickly, I learned that the bigger monkeys clearly bully the smaller, thinner monkeys. No wonder they were bigger, they hogged all the bananas. We had entered the monkey forest through the caves. Near a second entrance there is a billboard with some basic rules of engagement, the Dos and Don’ts of interacting with the monkeys. We didn’t see or read this sign until we decided to leave and ended up breaking every single rule of engagement. At times it was a bit scary but in hindsight, we had a lot more exciting stories to tell.
The rule that most surprised me was “don’t make direct eye contact with the monkeys.” They see this as a sign of aggression and in an act of self-defense, will scratch, scream, hiss, and jump on you. It was so interesting to watch them just be. One picked his nose, some had sex right in front of us, while others cleaned lint and bugs off each other. They had no inhibitions, without a care in the world of what humans or the other monkeys might think of them. It was liberating to observe.
Would I do this again:
If I am in Ubud again, I’d love to re-visit the monkeys. I’ll be much better prepared regarding how to engage with them. Next time, I’d like to observe them more rather than forcing an interaction by feeding them bananas.