Gibraltar travel guide: What to see at the Rock
One part of the United Kingdom I have always wanted to get to is Gibraltar. I wanted to know why my country has a little bit of land on the southern tip of Spain surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. I am not going to get to the politics of who has the rights to Gibraltar, that’s not my problem. If anyone wants to know this, research it, and it’s a bit long winded. And I thought the Falkland Islands and Argentina was a hot topic. However I wanted to come here to see the natural landscape, the wildlife and possibly met a local or two and see what life is like in this part of the world.
The main place I wanted to see was the Rock of Gibraltar to which the locals call it The Rock. 426 meters in height (1,398 feet), the Rock can be seen for miles. There is another reason why I wanted to go to the top of the mountain and I explain it a bit. Olga & I came here in the height of the summer so we decided to get the cable car to the top and hike down as it was around late morning when we arrived.
Whilst at the top, there are terraces which offer amazing views across the Strait of Gibraltar (and this is where I got my first ever views of Morocco and Africa as I have never been to the other side of the Mediterranean. Also the views along the east coast towards Marbella are truly stunning.
It is here what was the main reason for our trip. To see the Barbary Macaques which are known as the Rock Apes. They originally came from the Atlas Mountains and Rif Mountains in Morocco and while they are decreasing in numbers in Northern Africa, the numbers here in Gibraltar are increasing. There are over three hundred Barbary Macaques on the Rock! History states that the Barbary Macaques were on the Rock long before Great Britain took over the island in 1704, findings have been found in historical records in the early 1600s. There is legend that as long as the Gibraltar Barbary Macaques exist in Gibraltar, the territory will remain under British rule. Then shock horror occurred in 1942 (during the Second World War) that the population of the Barbary Macaques went down to seven. Winston Churchill who was the British prime minister at the time was shitting himself and ordered their numbers to be replenished straight away and grabbed some more monkeys from Morocco. Churchill really believed in this legend.
When visiting the Rock, if just to see the views, take a ride up the cable car, talk a walk in the underground tunnels, visitors are very likely to see the Barbary Macaques. Here is a few helpful tips:
Direct contact with the Barbary Macaques is strongly discouraged. Even though they are used to humans, picking them up and putting them on your shoulders is not a good thing to do. Even hugging them like a baby is not advised. They are still wild animals and if something frightens them, they will attack you.
Keep items on you close and secure. I found out that the camera which was hanging around my neck was grabbed by a little Barbary Macaque and tried to run down the path with it. I am a fast runner so he had no chance. The mother of the baby was just looking on, thinking, god, my child is a twat. But I felt like a twat as well.
Do not feed them. Let the authorities feed them the right foods. Do not hand feed them. They will lose their way if this carries on.
Recognise their warning signals – when threatened, the Barbary Macaques will give a warning which resembles a pouted mouth. Called the Round Mouth Threat (RMT) to which the macaque looks directly at the human who is being annoying with raised eyebrows. The gesture is usually silent but for the occasional ‘pant’ means ‘No’ or ‘Stop’. If a Barbary Macaque directs a RMT at the human, stop whatever annoying action it is that you are doing and step back calmly to give the macaque some space. This will reassure the macaque and it will stop displaying its threat gesture. Failure to do so would mean the macaque, having pre-warned you will need to resort to lunge or call for backup. Then a group of macaques will jump on the human, killing it and having you for lunch. So respect them! (Well, not sure if they will kill the human but you get the idea!).
Make sure you give them space. Don’t stress them out. Even if there is a mother and a baby in front of you, don’t get close. It’s a very stressful experience and the RMT as in point four kicks in. Get your ass away from them!.
And It is illegal to touch the Barbary Macaques. Enough said.
I am not joking, we saw quite a lot of Barbary Macaques whilst at the top of the Rock. We did a few trails up here (underneath the trees to keep cool) before eventually taking a staircase all the way down to the town centre of Gibraltar (even then we were coming across the little rascals, it was like one of them didn’t want us to walk away and wanted a cuddle…no!).
To see what else you can do in Gibraltar, check out the official tourism website here.