Don’t let the monkeys bite!
A practical guide to avoiding monkey attacks while traveling in Asia
Having spent two years living in India, Monkeys had become a normal sighting for me. In fact, the monkeys were more of a nuisance than anything else. I’ll never forget the first two months I was living in a Hill Station in the Himalayas in a remote village in India when I had my first terrifying monkey encounter. I was renting a room—yes, literally a room—which was on the balcony of an unfinished building across the street from the “Aunties” (any woman that is your senior in India is referred to as Auntie as a sign of respect) renting it to me. It had no kitchen, no bathroom and cost me less than $150 dollars a month. If I needed to use the bathroom, as I typically did multiple times in a day, I needed to go down two flights of stairs, cross the street, go up two flights of stairs and pray that the “Aunties” only toilet wasn’t occupied. It typically was occupied since it was a joint family house meaning that everyone (cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nephews, brothers, sisters, husbands, daughters, etc.) all lived under the same roof.
I had no kitchen in my tiny room with only a hard, uncomfortable single bed, but included in my rent was three meals a day cooked by the Aunties themselves.
Early one morning when I awoke from my slumber, I groggily wore my flip flops and began to unlock my door to begin my daily walk to the bathroom. I stopped in my tracks when I saw a swarm of monkeys on my balcony.
I had forgotten to remove my trash! I thought, silently kicking myself for the rookie mistake. The uncle was supposed to collect my trash early morning but in my desire to sleep in I had left the small bag on the porch.
The monkeys were LOVING IT! They made camp on my balcony and were intent on staying there for the whole day it seemed. The problem was…there were several male monkeys and protective momma monkeys with their very small babies in the mix. And, the bigger problem at hand… I HAD TO PEE!
Monkeys in India are worshipped (As are many animals in India such as the cow). This is because of one of the Indian Gods, Hanuman. Due to this, many of the locals feed the monkeys and because of this the monkeys have NO FEAR of humans and OFTEN attack humans, especially if they think they might have something tasty at hand or if they feel threatened. The other problem with the monkeys is that THEY BITE and in India the monkeys carry diseases and sometimes rabies.
Now is a good time to mention that I was living in a remote village and there wasn’t any hospitals nearby. I was also a good 13 hour BOUNCY AS HELL bus ride away from New Delhi, where any real medical treatment could be found. And I was of course living on my own in the small room with no way to communicate with the Aunties whom all spoke entirely in Hindi.
Flash forward to Nepal. Five years later. I have long since left India and have grown accustomed to life in England, where my first world problems and westernizations have slowly started to surface in my daily routine.
I return to Nepal for a quick visit on my way to Bhutan, where I am to lead the Horse Riding Expedition (More of that Here) with my husband by my side. As it was his first time to Nepal and we had a day to kill before our flight to Bhutan, we decided to take a wander around Kathmandu for a quick outing.
I immediately remembered why I disliked Kathmandu and the memories of living in the busy, noisy, bustling chaos that can only be found in India and it’s sister countries had me on edge. Our driver dropped us at the Monkey Temple in the city for us to explore at our leisure. We had breezed through several other sites and it was a shame for me to see the after math of the Earthquake. (I had seen the beautiful temples before the Earthquake and was devastated to see the destruction that had taken place.)
Lost in thoughts, but my rusty Hindi kicking in, I purchased a cold soda for my husband and I to share. I grabbed the drink from him as we walked outside the small shop into the temple infested with monkeys.
Had I still been living in India I would never have let my guard down, but my comfortable westernization had me make the biggest mistake of all. I held the soda in my hands and opened the cap to take a sip of my drink IN FRONT OF THE MONKEYS.
I also would like to add that it was that time of the year when all of the momma monkeys had little tiny itty bitty babies clinging to their backs. I should’ve been on high alert. Before anyone knew what was happening, a momma monkey caught sight of my opened soda bottle and leapt from her spot on the wall onto the ground and sprung straight towards me. Her teeth barred as her fingers reached in mid-air for my exposed soda. She was carrying a small baby on her back and the look on her face told me she was ready to bite me to protect her young baby while trying to steal my cold drink.
Although I had been rusty enough to make this mistake of an opened soda bottle, my reflexes hadn’t diminished as I turned my body in the knick of time. Momma Monkey landed onto the back of my shoulder as I turned my head away from her and folded my arms over my chest, also away from her claws and teeth. My quick reflexes worked and the stunned momma, completely unprepared to land on my back, leapt off of me just as quickly as she had leapt onto me, before disappearing amongst the others.
I had had enough of Kathmandu and we left. I somehow managed not to get any scratches or bites but I wasn’t going to give a different monkey the chance while we made our way to the exit.
If a Monkey Attacks You and How to Prevent it:
- Keep calm
- Try to keep your fingers and hands away from them!
- Do not try to feed monkeys or pet them! They are wild animals and deserve to be treated like one!
- Do not carry anything shiny on you. Remove any sunglasses, hats, or anything you think they might like to try to steal or get their hands on.
- Keep your phone in your pocket or bag.
- If you have a bag, make sure its one with a shoulder strap and it is closed fully.
- If your bitten or scratched GO TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY. Monkeys in Asia can have rabies and if you are bitten by a monkey with rabies you must get a series of vaccinations and injections ASAP if you want to stay alive!
- Avoid the male monkeys.
- Watching from a distance is ok, but don’t try to get too close to them, even if you see others doing it.
- Flash photography or noises might catch the monkey’s interest. You want to remain as anonymous as possible!
- Have a backup plan
- Have good reflexes and don’t hesitate or second guess!
- Don’t look at them in the eyes, especially not the males, they will feel challenged by you.
- Don’t pet the babies! No matter how cute, the babies momma’s are never very far away!
- Be responsible.
- Respect all animals.
- If charged by a monkey you can try to scare them away by waving your arms and shouting and stomping your feet. Once they run away be sure that you make your escape! Don’t wait around for them to get the courage to try again!
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