Ubud village is the centre of Balinese art, and at its southern end lies a site Hindus have honoured since the 14th century… the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. Here, a delicate balance of tradition and tourism keeps the place also known as “Wenara Wana” alive.
A verdant jungle greets guests as they enter the sanctuary, but the Balinese Macaques – brownish-grey monkeys with long tails – are definitely the stars. Baby macaques are adorable little creatures with pleading eyes, cuddling with their mothers or wriggling their way out of trouble. Older monkeys scamper to grab a banana or a peanut, which visitors can buy at the entrance. According to Hindu belief, the sacred monkeys ward off evil spirits. It’s a good idea to keep away all valuables as these may catch the eyes of these mischievous simians.
But it’s not all about primates on your Bali holiday. Petulu Egrets, Javan Kingfishers, and Java Deer are but a few of the fauna which call the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary their home.
The forest is holy ground, and locals pray to some trees they consider holy. Pule Bandak, for example, captures the essence of the woods and is used to make religious masks. It is believed that the tree’s spirit will then reside in the masks. There are more than a hundred species here, including Majegan, another sacred wood used to build shrines; Rambutan (or “hairy fruit”), a spiky red globe with sweet, white flesh inside; and rare Panggal Buaya (or “crocodile wood”), so-called because its ridges look like the bumps on a crocodile’s back.
There are also temples in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. Pura Dalem Agung (temples of the dead) is dedicated to the god Siwa (or Shiva), the destroyer. The Lingga Yoni, a symbol of a phallus and a womb, is particularly revered and is used in worship. The Bathing Temple, which is said to have magical and healing properties, is a place to appease the gods, as water is one of the most important Hindu offerings.
Tickets to the sanctuary cost less than a pound.