The Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal

Posted by on Jul 8, 2011

This isn’t a post about diving or photography so to speak; however, if you plan on diving in Bali or Komodo or any of the other wonderful dive sites that take you through Bali you probably will make a detour to Ubud (if not you should) and will get the opportunity to go to the Monkey Forest.
One of the elaborate and beautiful statues in the monkey forest.

 

The Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal

The Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal is between Ubud and the resort we stayed at, Alam Indah. It is a sacred Balinese Hindu site where it is believed that the Bali Aga (original Balinese whose religion centered around animism and ancestor worship) may have lived. It is unknown when the first temple was built there, but it may have been as early as the mid 14th century. The structures seen currently are a mixture of old and new as they are made with soft volcanic rock which deteriorates quickly in the humidity. The temple and surrounding structures are quite beautiful and one could spend an afternoon exploring them and the river which runs through the forest.
Ficus trees are among those studied shown here near the ampitheatre and down by the river.

 

The Part Monkeys Play in Balinese Hinduism
Monkeys are both loathed and revered in Balinese Hinduism, as they have both positive and negative forces. The monkeys in the sacred Balinese Hindu temple sites like the Sacred Monkey Forest and Uluwatu are revered. One of the dances that we enjoyed at Uluwatu temple was the story of Ramayana, bride of Rama who is abducted by the evil king and rescued with the help of Sugriwa (King of the monkeys) and his monkey army. The negative nature of the monkeys is seen when they raid rice fields and snatch items from souvenir shops and tourists. Which we witnessed at Uluwatu when a monkey stole a tourist’s wallet right out of his pocket!
The temple at Uluwatu and one of the dancers in the Ramayana.

 

A Little about Long-tailed Macaques
The monkeys in the sanctuary are long-tailed macaques. They are quite used to people walking among them and often will jump on people and take off with things they find interesting like sunglasses and hats. At the entrances to the Monkey Forest vendors sell bananas to feed the monkeys. We didn’t buy any preferring to photograph the monkeys without having them swarm all over us. Macaques live in troops which are like family groups with females staying with the same group throughout their life. Males migrate between troops but must be accepted by the troop’s females to join it. There were several mothers with infants which were very cute. The mother macaques were quite protective and would gather in their infants when anyone came close.
A troop of monkeys with the glowering matriarch and a mother holding her newborn close.

 

The Role of the Village of Padangtegal and Research in the Forest
But the Monkey Forest is more than a sacred site and sanctuary for monkeys it is also a part of everyday village life where festivals are regularly held and it is also an area of research. The Udayana University in Denpasar is studying the sacred trees of the forest of which there are 115 identified species. The monkeys also are part of an ongoing study conducted by the Balinese Macaque Project. The Sacred Monkey Forest is owned by the village of Padangtegal and members of the village serve on the governing council to protect the site, educate visitors, and oversee management and monitoring of the natural and cultural resources.

We enjoyed our walks through the monkey forest exploring the temple, forest and river, especially in the morning when there were fewer people about. You will too!

More information on the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal is available on the monkey forest website, http://www.monkeyforestubud.com/