Of Ancient Temples and Long-Tailed Macaques
The Enchanting Monkey Forest of Sangeh
A 17th Century Wonder
Many have heard of the famous Monkey Forest in Ubud, and many have ventured from far and wide to visit this iconic must-see destination. But the true explorer, the insatiably curious and those with a thirst to understand more of Bali's unique and fascinating history should also make a trip to the quieter yet enthralling, somewhat magical Sangeh Monkey Forest in the village of Sangeh.
It is a curious fact that all 14-hectares of the Sangeh Monkey Forest are covered with towering groves of giant nutmeg trees, also known as the "Pala Hutan" in Bahasa Indonesia – the immediate areas outside of this 14-hectares remain barren of the Pala Hutan, with only low-growing trees, shrubberies and rice fields dotting the landscape. This moss-covered sacred forest is home 700 gentle and docile long-tailed macaques, ancient temples, a holy river and a holy tree that represents the male and the female form.
Finding the Sangeh Monkey Forest is easy enough and entry is only IDR 10,000 per person. There is a huge carpark to accommodate all vehicles, although, at the time of our visit, there was only one other transportation there and a few motorbikes. This beautiful archway depicts the start of the forest and is a great spot for photographs. Large stone pathways are flanked on either side by expansive, lush green lawns with large bales and coconut trees. Very picturesque and nostalgic.
Here we were met by a friendly guide who accompanied us on a tour of the forest. We followed a stone pathway that runs clockwise through the area starting with the magical and picturesque moss-covered ancient stone temple and the dozen or so stone statues that flanked its entrance. It's a truly otherworldly sight, and one can't help but feel the sensation of going back into time. Today, large ceremonies are held here once every 6 months.
Photo by Indotrip.com
The Bukit Sari Temple, as it was called, was built in the 17th century by the King of Mengwi. Our guide entertained us with an intriguing local legend, which explains the origins of the giant nutmeg trees: in the golden era of the Kingdom of Mengwi, the King desired these very Pala Hutan to grace his royal gardens. His son, the prince was put in charge. The story goes that the prince moved a cluster of trees from Mount Agung towards his father's royal gardens using only supernatural force. Unfortunately, a mortal bore witness to this and the spell was immediately broken. The trees took up root here in Sangeh along with the army of monkeys that inhabit its branches.
The pathway took us around the temple and on the other side, we came across ancient stone artifacts. According to the guide, these stone sculptures were the original sculptures from the 17th century and are now placed in one location for everyone's viewing pleasure.
As we walked along the pathway which led us deeper into the forest, we come across groups of long-tailed macaques and although initially afraid, we quickly saw that the monkeys of Sangeh were gentle, well-behaved and docile. As long as you don't provoke them, you won't have a reason to worry about your things being snatched or any of the monkeys climbing up onto your person uninvited.
There are other temples located within the Monkey Forest as well, including one that featured a large tree with a holy water spring at its roots. There is also a holy river located here called the Penglukatan Tridatu. If you have time, you could explore the river which is used by the locals for rituals and a holy tree bearing both the male and female form called Pohon Lanang Wadon.
The Sangeh Monkey Forest is open every day until 6pm. Be sure to get there by 5pm the latest to enjoy what this mesmerizing forest and its enticing inhabitants have to offer. The guide is there to assist you and give information of the area – although it is not a requirement, it would be polite to tip your guide once the tour is over. The monkeys here are well-behaved and docile, but, just like any other wild animal, they will react if provoked. Be smart – do not shout, throw anything at them or bring food even in your bags.
Do make time to visit the Sangeh Monkey Forest for an entrancing and unique excursion to add to your treasure trove of memories. Head there with a guide, or simply get on a motorbike and follow the map to Sangeh Monkey Forest. Share your photos and videos with us! Find us on Facebook and Instagram and tag us to be featured!