CRAB-EATING MACAQUE MONKEYS – WHERE YOU’LL FIND THEM
The Crab-eating Macaque is a native monkey to Southeast Asia. You can expect to come across these cheeky characters when you visit Koh Phangan. You may also see them on Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi and many other destinations within SE Asia. The Crab-eating Macaque can be found in a wide variety of habitats. From lowland rainforests and riverside forests, to mangroves and coastal forests. Although they can be hard to spot at times, they’re not scared of human contact and can easily adjust to human settlements. They are even considered sacred at some Hindu temples and on some small islands.
Although this monkey is often referred to as the Crab-eating Macaque, its diet is by no means limited to crabs. Other food items are in fact far more common. Macaques are an opportunistic feeding omnivore, which means they’ll eat a wide variety of animals, plants and other materials. They also eats leaves, flowers, roots and bark. They have been known to prey on bird chicks and nesting female birds, lizards, frogs, fishes and bird eggs.
On Koh Phangan, there are a number of different places you could encounter the Crab-eating Macaque. We’ve suggested the top 3 places you’re likely to come across these mischievous monkeys, if out touring on your bike.
Haad Rin Hills
One of the most popular spots is along the Haad Rin hills. Between Baan Tai and Haad Rin there’s a stretch of road which is notorious on the island for causing bike accidents due to its steep hills with sharp bends. It’s along this particular stretch of road where you’re highly likely to encounter Crab-eating Macaques chilling by the road side. Around 6am and 4pm each day a local Thai will drop off lots of bananas for the monkeys by the road side. It’s around this time that the Macaques will come down from the trees and grab a banana or two. A big yellow sign next to the road which says ‘don’t feed the monkeys’ marks to spot where they tend to gather.
The locals ask that tourists do not feed them and for good reason. Although Macaques can be very friendly and inquisitive, they can also extremely determined characters and will bite if antagonised. It’s not unheard of for them to come and steal your food in bags should you have anything hanging from your motorbike which takes their fancy.
If you are passing by around their daily feeding time you can expect to see an entire tribe hanging from the electricity lines next to the road. Be sure to stop and take a few pictures, but park your bike in a sensible spot off the busy road and don’t get too close to the monkeys. Also, don’t be tempted to feed them yourself or encourage them over as you may get a nasty surprise. Watch from a distance only.
Wat Khao Tham
You may encounter a Crab-eating Macaque at Wat Khao Tham, a temple in Baan Tai which has extensive grounds. The temple is set high up on a hillside with stunning views as far as the eye can see, across the island and out to sea. Monkeys can be spotted here because it’s quiet and safe for them. Sit quietly within the shaded grounds and look up in the trees. The monkeys don’t get fed here so you’re unlikely to see more than one or two at any one time. If you don’t happen to encounter a Crab-eating Macaque at least you’ve visited the temple, which is a popular attraction because of its viewpoint.
Another place you may see monkeys is walking around the jungle trails from Phaeng Waterfall. The jungle is very dense in the centre of the island with very little civilisation compared with other areas. You’ll need to do deep into the jungle to be in with a chance to see them. We suggest hiking one of the marked trails from the waterfall. Remember to be quiet and to look up.
Of course seeing these cheeking little monkeys anywhere on the island is not guaranteed because they are wild. However, the chances are high, especially on Haad Rin hills. Failing that though, you may see one riding a motorbike with their human owner!