The Monkeys of Gibraltar

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With the amount of photos that I took of the fascinating Barbary Macaques on my short but sweet visit to Gibraltar, I felt like they deserved their own blog post.

Gibraltar is one of the few places where you can see Barbary Macaques in the wild and the only wild population in Europe. Whilst Africa is sadly seeing a decline of these primates; in Gibraltar they are absolutely thriving and it’s clear why, when you see how well they’re looked after by the locals.

Before heading up the rock I was feeling slightly nervous. I’d heard tales of ‘attacks’ and had been told to take care of my belongings because they’re well known for being light fingered! Luckily I had little to worry about. It was early morning and they were docile for the most part – only slightly curious of us but mostly used to having a camera lens pointed at them.

I could have spent the whole day just watching them. So human in their expressions and on the most part, so gentle.

Here are a few photos I took of these fascinating creatures. Enjoy!

You can also check the full post about my short experience in Gibraltar here.

Barbary Macaque Gibraltar

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Exploring the rock of Gibraltar

Up until a few weeks before this trip, Gibraltar had not even entered by mind as a country to visit.

What was there to see really?

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A rock?

Well, yes admittedly you won’t need too much time to explore but it’s still definitely worth a look…especially if you’re a monkey lover!

I actually had an ulterior motive for going to Gibraltar which was work related. Our company was setting up a new team and I went there for a week to help with the transition. Thanks work! Unfortunately as the trip was for business I only had one full day to explore so I knew that I had to make the most of it.

I also knew it would involve the rock and seeing the monkeys!

At 8am, my colleague and I set off with a mission to reach the peak or at least get to the highest point that we possibly could. Getting to the actual rock to start our incline was pretty simple, having said that we did take a wrong turn at the beginning and ended up adding an additional 60-100 stairs to our journey – I really really don’t like stairs!

We started off from the town on the northern side (or to the left of the rock if you’re facing it) and made our way upwards passing Moorish Castle and our very first Barbary Macaque!

Seeing him (I decided it was a ‘him’ called George) sitting there so peacefully immediately put my nerves to rest. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from wild apes but I had heard some stories about some not so good experiences on the rock. People feeding them scraps of food has made them confident and sometimes aggressive. I was half expecting him to leap off of the roof and attempt to steal my camera! Alas, nope. George was extremely cool, calm and in his own chilled out world.

Barbary Macaque

With every incline the scenery became more and more beautiful. That mountain in the distance in Spain looked very inviting.

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Gibraltar Hike 2

We encountered another friend along the way!

Barbary Macaque Gibraltar

Some other unexpected friends were spotted too. Its ears perked up at the sound of my camera clicking, bless. Sorry bunny!

Rabbit Gibraltar

We managed to find a path to the newly opened Windsor Bridge which is a suspended bridge built over a 50 metre gorge. I’m pretty good with heights but for the faint hearted it might be a little unnerving!

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The walk around the rock was surprisingly peaceful despite being such a touristic spot. I guess it was a good thing that we had left so early. It also seemed to have affected the notoriously naughty monkeys which were remarkably calm in our presence. That’s not to say that I wasn’t still a bit nervous. Being in such a close proximity to these amazing animals you realise just how much you are in their territory. They won’t give a damn if you want to pass them by on a narrow stairwell. You wait for them, not the other way around and that was fine by me!

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I arrived nervous and left in total awe for these amazing creatures! I could have watched them for hours.

Photographing Macaque

If you’re stopping by Gibraltar I highly recommend visiting the rock on foot if you’re able to. You’ll have so many more spontaneous and quieter moments with the monkeys than you would if you’re in a tour bus (which are plentiful if that’s the option you’d like to choose). There’s also the cable car to take you to the top which I think would be a cool experience too, especially if you’re not a fan of steps and hills!

St Michaels Cave GibraltarSt Michaels cave

If stalactites and stalagmites are your thing then a visit to St Michael’s Cave is a must. Thousands of years of rainwater seeping into the limestone has turned the rock into this magnificent cave fit for a genie. The light show in the auditorium space really sets the mood and if you’re lucky, there may just be someone with a fantastic voice to resonate around the cave. Don’t Cry for me Argentina sounds pretty epic with cave acoustics, trust me!

The Great Siege Tunnels Gibraltar

Our final stop before making our way back down were The Great Siege Tunnels; a 52 kilometre network of tunnels inside of the rock. Heading in alone felt a little eery. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the soldiers who had lived inside there.

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There’s plenty of interesting information to read inside the tunnels which left my imagination wandering here there and everywhere.

You can purchase a ticket which gives you access to all of the above and more by visiting St Michaels Cave for just a small fee (less than 20 euros).

It may not have been a location on my bucket list but meeting wild monkeys close up should have been. I had an amazing day and if there had been more time I would have ventured up the rock again alone.

Check out Visit Gibraltar for more things to do.