Nevertheless, I am still happy to see wild monkeys. There are not many wild animals left in Phuket - the island was jungle covered 200 years ago, and Phuket used to have wild elephants, tigers, rhinos and a lot more. Industry in the form of tin mining and especially rubber led to clearance of much of the jungle during the 19th and early 20th century, long before any tourists came here. There are some untouched jungly areas, but much of the land is cultivated, and there are no tigers here anymore! Monkeys however are adaptable, and can live in just about any kind of environment. There are quite a number of places where you can see monkeys in the Phuket area....
I guess the best place to start is Monkey Hill (real name is Khao To Sae) on the north side of Phuket Town - it’s the hill with all the aerials/radio masts etc. on top, and easy to spot from much of the south of the island, being around 270m above sea level. There are a lot of monkeys here, mostly they are found near the top of the hill. Local people come up to feed them, but it’s not a “tourist attraction”. You can drive up in a car. People also exercise here, but I am not sure I’d want to walk up to the top where the monkeys are. Not sure if they can get aggressive, but I’d rather be in a car! (update) I saw a news story last year - a tourist was bitten by a monkey here.
Also on the north side of Phuket Town, Rang Hill (I am sure) never used to have monkeys some years ago, I do not recall seeing any until the last few years. Rang Hill is quite popular as a viewpoint, a place to eat or get some fresh air and exercise. On our last few visits, there have been monkeys a-plenty taking handouts or sifting through garbage. They just tend to hang around the car park area and not the restaurants.
Sirey Island (east of Phuket Town)
As you drive to Koh Sirey, passing the fishing port and shipyards, you enter an area of mangroves and here be monkeys. They live in the mangroves and the local authorities even built a little monkey viewing area by the side of the road. We like the Sirey island area, nice and quiet and there’s a very nice temple on the hill here too.
Wat Suwan Kuha Temple
Also called “Buddha Cave Temple” and “that cave with a Buddha in it”, Wat Suwan Kuha is a temple built into a cave close to Phang Nga Town, off Phuket Island, and about a 90 minute drive from Phuket Town. Certainly worth a visit, and outside the cave there are lots of monkeys. We have been a few times and I have not seen any monkeys inside the cave. I guess they know the rules.
Bang Rong (northeast coast of Phuket)
I remember driving down the small road to Bang Rong pier to eat at the floating restaurant in the mangroves. We’d been before but never seen monkeys. This time - monkeys! We got quite excited - unexpected monkeys are the best. They hang around in the mangroves but also jump around on the roofs of buildings and chew car aerials. We know where *not* to park now. Bang Rong is where you can get a ferry over to Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai Islands too. (Update) On our most recent visit monkeys were rather over friendly and even stole fruit from our table and tried to grab a bag of take away food from my wife’s hand. Take care!
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project
Close to Bang Pae Waterfall and not far from the aforementioned Bang Rong, the Gibbon Rehab Project looks after gibbons that have been illegally caught, or kept as pets. Some are released back into the wild. It’s illegal to own a gibbon, and if you see gibbons being hawked round the streets for photos, please contact the GRP. Gibbons are apes, not monkeys, I know that .. but want to include the project here, it’s worth a visit combined with the waterfall, a jungle hike ....
Jamie Monk works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers. For more information call: 084 626 4646 or visit: sunrise-divers.com