Bali's Ubud Monkey Forest delights visitors but there are warnings for the hapless, writes Nicholas Jones

Dropping us off, our driver turns in his seat and, like a parent ferrying teenagers to begin a Saturday night, gives stern advice.

Leave behind anything loose — hat, sunglasses. Take out earrings and keep a firm hold on your phone.

The Ubud Monkey Forest is one of Bali's top tourist destinations; a sprawling complex with vine-heavy ancient trees, a band of 749 grey-haired and long-tailed Balinese macaques and three temples.


Google it and be faced with blog posts warning of monkey attacks, the risk of rabies.

One, titled Terror In The Monkey Forest, contains the following dialogue:

"Drop your banana, mister," shouted one Monkey Forest employee. "We don't have any bananas!" Andrew yelled in response as another monkey joined the chase ...

Large signs by the ticketing area show cartoon depictions of what not to do — large red crosses beside pictures of a hapless tourist making eye contact, petting a baby and being pick-pocketed.

Given the build-up I was half expecting to be set-upon as soon as we entered, but the first monkeys we encounter are completely uninterested in the tourists who bunch around to get photos.

There's fun in watching as visitors push their luck. One Japanese man edges his preschool-aged daughter closer and closer to a monkey, another English backpacker encourages one to climb over his back.

There are baby monkeys everywhere. One cries as tourists crowd in, and makes an escape, clutching its mum's stomach.

The grounds are beautiful and an experience in themselves. Huge trees shade a carp-filled pond, surrounded by moss-covered statues. Baby monkeys scamper amid headstones by a cremation temple .


At one point visitors are in single-file along a rocky path by a stream. A monkey by the water pulls the husk from a coconut, fumbles it into the water and scrambles down after it.

A poster warning of behaviour regarding monkeys, in Bali. Photo / Nicholas Jones
A poster warning of behaviour regarding monkeys, in Bali. Photo / Nicholas Jones

If these animals want to take us out, this is the terrain to launch the attack. Sweaty humans are rolling ankles and breathing heavily, sucking at plastic water bottles as they wait for the line to move again.

There's a commotion up ahead — is this the beginning? No, just rubberneckers slowing and laughing as a monkey humps another's backside.

Our closest call comes when one of our group reaches for a vine to steady himself, only to realise his hand is closing in on a tail. Its owner turns and bares its teeth in warning. We take the hint and head for the exit and lunch.

Emirates flies direct from Auckland to Bali, then on to London via Dubai.