Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sangeh, Bali's popular monkey forest

The keepers of the forest have their hands full, feeding and caring for roughly 600 macaques who make their home in Sangeh monkey forest, located about 20 kilometers north of Denpasar, Bali's capital.

Tourist arrivals coincide with feeding time, which is around noon or early evening and has become a major attraction for visitors from home and abroad.

Close contact with these human-friendly animals is an experience to be cherished while staying in Bali. The macaques, in turn, have become accustomed to these visits and do not hesitate to sit on tourists' shoulders, munching peanuts, a banana or whatever else is given to them.

Accompanied by guides, visitors enjoy walking in the 10 hectares of monkey forest, canopied by a thick foliage of pule trees (Diterocorpus sinervis).

The trip offers an opportunity to see how the macaque colony has enjoyed an undisturbed life in their natural habitat since the 17th century.

While in other areas this species has been hunted and harassed to near extinction, it's quite comforting to know that at Sangeh they are at ease in their own environment.

Legend has it that the Sangeh monkeys were once guardians of a princess. Their legendary status is still upheld by the residents, allowing the macaques to live an undisturbed life in their protected natural habitat. The forest is also home to several temples, the oldest one being Pura Bukit Sari, dating back to the 17th century.

An impressive statue of Kumbakarna at the entrance gate reminds visitors of the role monkeys play in the Ramayana Hindu epic.

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