Sacred Monkey Forest
In central Bali near the town of Ubud lie three 11th-century Balinese Hindu temples on 27 acres dedicated to (again) monkeys. Around 600 of these sassy simians, otherwise known as Balinese macaques, live in two distinct troops known as matrilines. Like any group of animals that compete for limited land and resources there are sometimes conflicts but for the most part they manage to coexist peacefully. As with their human cousins, it is not uncommon for some of the male macaques to wander between matrilines in attempt to find mates.
Also like in human societies, parenting styles range from highly permissive to very protective with mothers bearing most of the burden. It is however not uncommon to see females caring for unrelated young and occasionally adult males will take on some of the responsibility. The brochure for Monkey Forest Sanctuary says, “Both males and females, have set of dominance relationship, but they are not always clear and consistent [Sic].” This puzzling sentence is cryptic enough that, in my experience anyway, it also could be used to define human relationships.
A visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest, known in Balinese as “Mandala Suci Wenara Wana”, would be pleasant even without the monkeys (although the name would be a little weird). Over 155 species of trees shade wide pathways and clear, fast running streams flow through the preserve. The sites contains three mossy, fern covered temples are at once mysterious and inviting. Birds and butterflies flitter through shafts of sunlight and the music of cicadas fills the air.
In addition to the macaques watching the humans is pretty fun too. There are signs saying, “Don’t Feed the Monkeys” at the entrances and entrepreneurial banana vendors selling monkey snacks right next to them. It is comical to watch as people take fruit out of their bags and the monkeys, sensing a treasure, start climbing up their backs and onto their heads as the visitors attempt to raise the bananas out of reach.