There are many place in Bali, Indonesia, that bear the name of monkey forest. They are really forests which is inhabited by groups of monkeys.
Recently I visited one of such forests that located in Ubud. It is known as the sacred monkey forest of Padangtegal, Ubud. The place also known as Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana.
The forest is called sacred because it is located within a sacred village area and it surrounded by temples. There is an old temple in the forest, too. The temple is still being used up till now. The temple festivals are regularly held by villagers in the area. To them, temples and forests are essential for renewing the contact with the spiritual world. It is said that the temple is needed to maintain harmony among humans, nature, and the cosmos. To achieve such a condition, they pray and give offerings to the gods, their ancestral spirits, and also the spirits of nature. That is why travellers will find offerings at many big trees as well as in front of old statues in the forest.
The monkey inhabited the forest in Padangtegal are known as long tailed monkey. They live freely within the boundary of the forest. For the Balinese, monkeys that live in a sacred Balinese Hindhu temple sites, like in the Padangtegal Monkey Forest, are believed to have capability in guarding the temple sites against evil spirits. That is why Balinese tend to respect and protect such monkeys.
Monkeys in Padangtegal Monkey Forest are quite tame. They are familiar enough with tourists. Some of them seems quite happy to play with travellers wandering in the forest. They often jump and then sit on somebody’s shoulder or lap. Fortunately there are no report of travellers been bitten by the monkeys so far.