That time we got held hostage by monkeys in Ubud

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House near Monkey Forest, Ubud
It looked so idyllic…

“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.

Trapped

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 β€” 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.

Surrounded

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.

Intimidation tactics

“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.

Monkey in Ubud

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.

Monkey2

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.

39 thoughts on “That time we got held hostage by monkeys in Ubud”

    • Me too! I was convinced they were going to get in. I kept saying to Steve “What if they’ve learnt to throw rocks through windows!” He thought I was crazy πŸ™‚

    • I love monkeys and was actually really excited to be living next to the Monkey Forest. It changed the moment we realised they weren’t afraid of us and actually seemed to want to hurt us!

      • Like any monkey’s they can be dangerous. I have a 2 1/2 Longtail Macaque and he is a great pet. Money love to bite. The way you train not to bite is you bite them back when they bite you. Yeah, that can be scary also, but that is how I trained my monkey. His name is Rockie and everyone love Rockie in our area. The kids love him.

      • They are attracted to things like sunglasses, earrings, of course food, and they will even come and take or try to take your sandals. Not making eye contact is your best way to just move about, especially when they are in a group. For the most part they are just menaces who are curious, but they do not fear you. Most are used to human interaction, yet it is true if they have claimed ground they consider their turf. If whether in Ubud or Uluwatu, use common sense and don’t wear jewelry, pack away from food things like sunglasses. If they become more aggressive stand your ground, but make your way about without direct contact or aggression back and they will move on. Just one of the many obstacles you’ll deal with as a price to pay to live in paradise.

  1. What a shame because this house looks amazing. But I totally understand. Macaque monkeys are terrifying and I saw some nasty attacks in Monkey Forest. Good luck finding a new place!

  2. Scary!! When we went to the monkey forest I was so afraid of the monkeys. They were very aggressive and I saw 2 people walk past with bite marks on their stomachs! Glad you got out of that house, I wouldn’t have been happy or comfortable there either with those house mates.

    • I was so surprised at how aggressive they are. We’ve since been to the Monkey Forest, and while they were better behaved in there, they were still pretty scary!

  3. When I lived in Zimbabwe we used to wake up to packs of monkeys stomping about on the roof (they used to steal our mangoes, taking one bite and then throwing them away). So we would get firecrackers and throw a few out the window to get em gone, they were huge there, probably 3 or 4 times the size of the ones in Thailand, but still no match for mans fire (crackers). Maybe you should carry firecrackers around with you πŸ™‚

    • Firecrackers aren’t a bad idea…
      A monkey came into a restaurant the other day and showed no fear until the owner appeared with a shotgun. The monkey took one look and fled!

  4. Woah! That’s totally crazy. I used to wish there was monkeys in San Pancho. Glad you survived relatively unscathed. Much love!

  5. That definitely sounds scary! I felt as though I was there. Intense!

    Glad you’re ok! I’ve seen a few monkey muggings in my time! Not nice!

    Helen

    • We went to the Monkey Forest the other day and saw so many monkey muggings, it was crazy. The monkeys are completely out of control!

  6. And all this time I’ve been thinking that monkeys are CUTE! Well, maybe cute in those pictures but clearly not in real life. Glad you made your escape and good luck with the house hunt!

    • Oh no, don’t be put off by this post or the monkeys. The house was right behind the monkey forest, literally about 100 metres away. Just make sure you don’t rent a house to close to it. The monkeys never come into the town, which is pretty incredible. I’m not sure how they’ve been trained not to do it, but it’s worked. So, please don’t be put off. Our situation was quite remarkable!

    • Hi Alana,

      The monkeys in Bali are not everywhere. Just some spots that can easily be avoided. Like you, I really do not like them. Bad experiences in India with them also.

  7. Wow! Sounds crazy. Glad to hear you guys are well. It’s crazy how vicious monkeys can be. They are incredibly persistant little guys and wont stop until they get what they want. It’s a shame though that place looked awesome!

  8. Oh goodness, that sounds just terrible. And the fact that it pissed on the steps is wacky, I mean, they really were trying to warn you off. I am happy just the way it ended and I hope your new place and town are just what you were looking for πŸ™‚

    • I know! That was one of the most scary aspects. Their message was so clear! Our new place is much better! And far, far away from the monkeys

  9. I went to Ulawatu Temple with a couple of friends when I was in Bali and one of the monkeys snuck up from behind and stole one of her earrings right from out of her ear; without even ripping her flesh!
    And I won’t mention the time I saw someone get attacked at Victoria Falls for her handbag – all they got in the end was their bottle of water but it was terrifying!
    Yep, definitely trust your gut instinct next time! :s

  10. As a child the gremlins movie terrified me, and this sounds like a real-life version of that movie. And yes, my friend was bitten by a monkey in Bali and had to get a giant shot in her butt–not fun! Glad your obituary will not say “death by monkeys”! πŸ˜‰

  11. This is hysterical! I thought, at first, that you were talking about bugs, or giant geckos. I often feel like we are shut inside our bedroom at night because of the mosquitos, but they have not been as bad recently. We also have a giant tokay gecko living in the rafters just outside our bedroom door who leaves giant gecko poop on the floor. We try to get in and out of our doors at night as quickly as possible – to not let the mossies in to the bedroom, and to avoid getting pooped on by Fred the Spotted Tokay Gecko.

  12. It sounds like something out of a B horror movie! You were definitely right to leave, I got bitten by an unprovoked monkey before so they are not to be messed with!

  13. I think we just signed up to rent that house! We’ve been living a couple doors down and the monkeys are aggressive. I’m hoping the current renters have re-claimed the house from the monkeys.

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