After being cooped up in my guest house for 3 days , I was excited to get out and see the sights. My first stop? Monkey Forest. One of things I was most excited about coming to Bali was visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. I’ve heard so many different views/opinions about this “attraction” from don’t go there, you’ll get bit, to it’s over crowded, to it’s the best experience you’ll have. My experience was the latter of all three.
I got to the gate soon as they opened at 8:30am and the lady at the gate proceeded to tell me it would be wise to get out my camera now, because once inside, if I open my bag the monkeys will come and attack the bag thinking there’s food. OK, I’ve been forewarned. After hearing about other people’s stuff being stolen by the monkeys, I took this seriously. I decided to put my Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens on my camera and left everything else in the bag. (i.e. meaning no selfies were going to happen this trip)
I locked up my backpack and headed in. I passed on the stand selling bananas as I heard too many horror stories about the monkeys getting aggressive with taking the food and I had my hands full with guarding my camera. I also figured if I wasn’t getting the shots I wanted, I could always come back and get more.
First thing I noticed when I walked in was the forest was a beautiful lush green with moss growing everywhere. Seconds later I ran into my first set of monkeys and instantly fell in love. There were so many babies! I walked around for about 2 hours. The first hour I was one of only a few people in the park. By 9:30am, it was like I entered Disneyland. So many people! I stayed away from the action of Monkeys jumping up on people. Bonus of having a long lens, I was able to take pictures from a distance without being right up in their face.
Towards the end of my time there, I found an area where there weren’t too many people and sat down on a bench to look at my shots. A young monkey was fascinated by my camera and jumped up on my lap to check it out, sticking it’s head in my lens. I wish my camera could have focused on his head, would have made a great shot! He stayed with me for a little while, playing with the strings on my backpack and climbing on top of it just sitting perched, hanging out. I’m not one to go purposely interacting with wildlife, but if they come to me, I’m all for it (and I got my rabies shots before I left), so why not play with a willing monkey? 😉
I wish I had also taken my GoPro out for this visit, but I may go back later this week and take some more pictures. The cost of admission? 30,000rp equivalent of $2.31.
Here are my tips to anyone who wants to go capture beautiful images at Monkey Forest:
1) Go early – Be there when the gates open; less people = better shots.
2) Don’t buy the bananas – I promise you, you will get your shots without them, that is unless you really want that shot of a monkey sitting on your head.
3) Use a long lens – You will be unobtrusive and the monkeys will sit longer for you when there’s not a lens staring right in their face.
4) Be patient – I stopped at 3 different sections. The one I spent the most time in, I stayed about an hour moving very little, letting the monkeys do their thing. They will warm up to you if you give them time and if you stay long enough you might make a friend even without having food.
Link to full gallery of photos HERE