“Why didn’t I like this house? It’s beautiful”
“You said it felt like the type of place horror movies took place. I wasn’t going to argue with that.”
“Ah, I was probably just tired. Let’s take it.”
Those words were said the day before. Now, 15 minutes after moving in, we’re sitting in the upstairs bedroom, glass doors tightly shut, plotting our escape.
One of our captors sits on the other side, casually stating his territory. He’s one of the bigger of the bunch, but less aggressive in his nature. Nevertheless, the message is clear: this is their house and they will fight to keep it.
Steve’s nemesis appears at the window. A scrawny fellow with a fierce temper. He bares his teeth and wipes his gums across the glass, smearing his saliva, and trying one last time to find his way in.
I whimper, terrified he and his cohort might smash the glass or sneak their way through the rafters. We’re surrounded by a gang of around 15, and their desperation to get in makes my mind run wild around their intentions. Don’t these guys fight to the death? Could we overpower the pack?
When they first arrived, we thought them curious, cute even — here to check out the neighbours, perhaps see if they had some food. We knew they’d likely be a pest, but never imagined they’d be a threat.
Within minutes of our arrival, they emerged through the trees, slowly working their way closer, some sitting on the wall, others on the roof. What started as delight quickly turned to alarm.
“Love, this doesn’t seem right. They appear to be closing in.”
“Don’t worry, we’re much bigger than them. They’ll be scared.”
And at that, Steve made himself as large as his six foot allows and shouted loudly at the intruders.
Mr. Scrawny-fierce immediately retaliated, baring his teeth and nails as he came at Steve aggressively, his cohort poised for support.
“Quick, get in here,” I called from the bedroom.
We slammed the screen doors shut, just in time to trap the menace on the other side.
He perched on the balcony, eyes locked with Steve through the glass, and pissed down the stairs, while his mates rolled around brazenly on the sofa just behind.
Their message and fearlessness were clear. We were trapped.
Sitting in the bedroom of what was meant to be our new home, we knew it couldn’t be. The house had been empty for two months and had clearly been claimed by this band of Macaque monkeys. We couldn’t live there and feel safe. Not only were the monkeys vicious, but many of the local population are known to be riddled with disease – rabies and the fatal B Virus. We had to leave. The only question was how, when they had us from every angle.
Luckily, we knew Gade, the agent who had rented us the home, was already on his way over to sort out some final details. We sat in anticipation, trapped in our glass-walled room, waiting for the sound of his scooter.
Neither Steve nor I had any knowledge of Macaque behaviour. In the nearby Monkey Forest, they are rarely aggressive unless you’re withholding food. This was an unprecedented situation: we were challenging their territory and they were furious. Having watched my fair share of nature programmes, I knew that was a serious move in the monkey world. What I didn’t know, and could only imagine, was what 15 muscular and toothy monkeys would do to two human perpetrators if they got the chance. ‘Catastrophic thinking’ would be a good way to describe my response. Steve, meanwhile, cracked out his computer and started to work. He was certain they couldn’t get through.
And while it’d be more dramatic and make for a better horror story to say he was wrong, I’m delighted to say he was right, and no monkeys made it into our fort. In fact, by the time Gade arrived, a long 20 minutes later, it appeared most of the monkeys had dispersed, the remaining ones distracted by a local offering bearing fruit. We quickly gathered our belongings and rushed out the gate, passing the tell-tale territorial along the way.
We were out and safely back at square one, homeless in Ubud, but with two important lessons learned: listen to your gut when it says a new home seems like the set of a horror movie; and never ever ever move into a house occupied by monkeys.
The monkeys pictured here are not the ones that tried to attack us. I’m afraid I was too busy panicking to crack out the camera! These are also smaller. It’s the chunky male ones that worried me most.
Monkey safety tips
Our advice is to always be careful around monkeys. They may look cute, but they can also be very aggressive. We got into trouble in Bali because we moved into a house that they had claimed as their territory. This was an unusual situation, but a good reminder that monkeys are not always afraid of humans.
People also often have problems with monkeys and food, especially in touristy place where monkeys are used to being fed. If you have food on you in an area like this then the money will do their best to get it. If they try, I’d advise just giving it to them rather than risk their aggression. Monkeys carry a lot of diseases and it’s simply not worth the risk. Of course, some people choose to feed the monkeys, which exacerbates the situation and is also risky as the monkey may bite / scratch if they want more. Don’t expect them to shake your hand and say thanks!
It pains me to say this as I used to think that monkeys were simply wonderful and that I could interact with them without fear. Nowadays, I still think they’re wonderful but I keep a respectful distance.