airport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar
Sign In
Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
Save to wishlist

The Monkey Gangs of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Picture of Sam Bedford
Updated: 24 April 2018
Kuala Lumpur has a reputation for delicious food, world-class shopping and being a progressive Asian capital. But away from the Petronas Towers and Bukit Bintang lies a secret underworld hidden from view. Just behind the skyscrapers and high rises are thousands of resident monkeys skulking around certain parts of the city.

Kuala Lumpur’s monkeys

Monkeys lived in Kuala Lumpur long before people arrived and built a city. Just over 160 years ago, the sprawling metropolis of today looked just like the surrounding hills: covered in dense jungle. The endless palm plantations and dense skyscrapers and residential blocks were yet to arrive. Thousands, if not millions, of monkeys, called the jungle home. Flash forward to the present day and the former rainforest is now the city centre and suburbs. The monkeys haven’t gone anywhere – they’ve just been pushed back.

These primates are often seen just outside the busy city | Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
These primates are often seen just outside the busy city | © Culture Trip

Macaques make up the majority of the monkeys in Kuala Lumpur. This particular species tend to live in the outer extremities of the jungle or along river beds, which makes them more exposed to humans. The rapid economic development and expansion witnessed in the last few decades created an unfortunate conflict. Monkey residents are not only losing their habitat as the developers clear away vast areas of the jungle, but plantation owners see them as pests.

Don't be surprised to see a family of monkeys live in the area | Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
Don’t be surprised to see a family of monkeys living in the area | © Culture Trip
Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
A mother and a baby monkey in and around Batu Caves | © Culture Trip
If you don't want to them to bother you, try not to give them food| Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
If you’re scared of monkeys, maybe you should avoid giving them food | © Culture Trip

Where to see the monkeys

Head into the hills just outside Kuala Lumpur and walk along the trails. Within no time at all, the monkeys will be watching as they do their acrobatics and swing between trees. But the most common place for tourists to see the monkeys in Kuala Lumpur is at Batu Caves. Batu Caves, a late 19th-century Hindu temple located in a limestone cave, houses hundreds of macaques. As tourists enter the complex and climb the 272 steps to reach the temple, the monkeys wander around seemingly oblivious to the humans. Some tourists feed them fruit or nuts while others snap photographs. The monkeys aren’t scared and often appear to beg for food. Orchid Gardens, inside Perdana Botanical Garden, has a small population of wild monkeys too.

These monkeys are always the highlight for those who visit Batu Caves| Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
These monkeys are always the highlight for those who visit Batu Caves | © Culture Trip
You'll always have company going up the 272 steps | Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
You’ll always have company going up the 272 steps | © Culture Trip

They’re not as cute as they look

As cute and cuddly as the little critters look, they also have a dark side. The roaming gangs of monkeys, just like gangs everywhere, have a roguish side. As tourists and visitors walk past, beady eyes watch. When the opportunity arises, the adorable monkey swings down and grabs whatever they can get their hands on. From food and drinks to handbags, towels and phones, nothing is safe when the monkeys are about in Malaysia.

The monkeys here are always in search for food | Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
The monkeys here are always in search for food | © Culture Trip
DSC04089
Make sure you keep your food away and keep an eye on them | © Culture Trip
DSC04051
Pigeons are not the only animals that get fed here | © Culture Trip
DSC04008
They just roam around the compound in search for food | © Culture Trip
DSC03989
The monkeys are always attracted to those who have food and drinks with them | © Culture Trip