In Bali's hip spot, Katie Furze is torn between watching surfers and protecting her offspring from the local primates.

Whether you hit the waves or simply watch them from a cliff-top warung, Uluwatu is sensational.

It was 20 years ago when we last visited this famous surf spot. I remember a slightly harrowing motorbike ride down rocky terrain to an isolated beach where we were the only foreigners in sight.

Today, Uluwatu is heaving: numerous warungs cling to the cliff's edge, providing amazing views of the ocean and the magnificent waves below. Food, drink, massages and shopping are right at your fingertips.

Tourists from all countries trail up and down, most of them bronzed, cut, and carrying surfboards. Indeed, you need to be young or fit to get up the hundreds of steps from the beach to the road. Uluwatu is now the place to be seen and celebrities visit often. According to our driver, One Direction was there just the night before.

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Our two young families climbed carefully down past stalls selling clothing, jewellery and handcrafts.

"Hello, where you from?" the women called as we clambered past. And then, amid hoots of laughter, "You have too many children, can I have one?"

We paused to watch the local photographers perched on ledges capturing the action through telescopic lenses.

As the surfers made their way back up they viewed the shots of themselves on the waves, and for a small price, could have them transferred on to CD.


A surf school sign at Uluwatu. Photo / Getty Images

We marvelled at the caves formed far below by the surf cutting into the soft limestone.

It is reminiscent of the Mediterranean, and quite unlike other parts of Bali.

At the bottom, we took a cooling dip in the turquoise shallows where the water is calm and clear, while surfers glided in on 2.5m waves just a few metres away.

Although unrecognisable at first glance from the Uluwatu I'd visited 20 years ago, the essence of the place is still the same: the steep limestone cliffs, the azure sea and the world-class waves are as stunning as ever.

A short drive away, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is a beautiful temple perched on a west-facing cliff top, and also home to a colony of sacred monkeys. When we visited the temple itself was closed to tourists but that didn't matter as it was the view and the monkeys we'd come to see. We donned our sarongs and bought packets of peanuts and bananas.

The ticket collectors warned us to hide our jewellery and sunglasses and to hold our cameras tightly. The monkeys greeted us straight away and happily accepted our bananas and peanuts.

The kids were delighted.

"Ooh, they're so cute," they cried.

And then, when we weren't looking, a monkey swiped the orange cap off my 6-year-old's head.

"What a naughty monkey," we exclaimed.

An elderly local approached and explained we had to bargain if we wanted to get the cap back. So we tried to offer the monkey peanuts and bananas in exchange, but it just tossed them back with a look of disgust.

"Is this all you've got?" it seemed to say.

A single banana or peanut wouldn't do, the man told us. So we gave the monkey a whole bag of peanuts. It tossed them back and ran further away with the cap. The man dashed after it with a bunch of bananas. He knows what to do, we thought, reassured.

However, the monkey ran further away, chewing the button off the top of the cap.

Finally, the man ran off and returned with a boiled egg which he offered to the monkey with great ceremony. This was the business. The monkey accepted the egg gracefully, dropped the cap and swaggered off with its prize.

It was then that we realised the monkey had ripped a hole in the cap, just to spite us. By this stage, I wasn't quite so keen on the monkeys, sacred or not.


A monkey at Pura Luhur temple in Uluwatu, Bali. Photo / Thinkstock

To add insult to injury, as we left the temple the monkeys launched an all-out attack on our six-year-old, taking turns at grabbing his jandals and baring their teeth ferociously.

When I went to his rescue, the monkeys started on me, squealing, hissing and trying to rip my sandals off my feet. Someone had the bright idea of spraying them with a water bottle and in the confusion we rushed to the gate, giggling hysterically.

We were thankful we still had our valuables, but we pitied the next bunch of tourists who were approaching this riled-up group of primates.

If you're visiting southern Bali, Uluwatu is definitely worth a day trip, for the sea views and the temple, not to mention the monkeys.

CHECKLIST
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies direct to Bali twice a week. Uluwatu is about an hour's drive from the airport or from Kuta or Legian.