Everyone loves monkeys! Well, except for the people who have their sunglasses or mobile phone pinched by the inveterate thieves, or the tourists who have had their wits scared out of them by a monkey climbing up their back to sit on their head. To be perfectly honest I’m not a fan of interacting with wild animals of any kind because they are… well, wild animals and not cute cuddly predictable toys.
However, I can see the attraction to getting that photo for Instagram of you with a monkey on your shoulder. There are monkeys everywhere in Bali, but most of the troops are concentrated in a few popular tourist areas – the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Sanglah Monkey Forest, Uluwatu Temple and nowadays in the streets of Ubud along the aptly named Monkey Forest Road.
I have some expert tips for those looking to get up close and personal with the Long Tailed Macacas that are native to Indonesia. The first is to remember that like most animals used to human interaction, they can still be unpredictable. That includes displays of aggression and even injury through getting bitten.
The second is that they are expert thieves and are well known for not just trapping your phone or sunglasses, but have the audacity to rummage through your handbag and pilfer whatever they can get their hands on. And they are experts at lifting phones, wallets and purses.
Those pics on Instagram that you see of a monkey reaching for the camera with a tourist just behind them? They learn this from local guides and park wardens who hold nuts just above the camera and take the shot when the monkey reaches for it.
Unfortunately, tourists who are too cheap or not that smart try to do this themselves without the supervision of a local warden and often get an unexpected shock when the monkey doesn’t get what it really wants, which is easily obtained food. Treat the local monkey population with respect, don’t rush any interactions, and always remember – the funniest experiences I have had are watching unsuspecting tourists being treated badly by monkeys who are clearly a lot smarter than the tourists treating them like photo props.