Gibraltar is somewhere I had wanted to visit since I was a teenager. A cadet instructor once told me about the famous ‘rock apes’ and I knew that it would be on my list of places to one day head off to. As well as that? Well, it’s steeped in naval history… What could be better?
When I was given the opportunity to go and put my sailing skills to good use and assist my brother with a yacht delivery, leaving from Gibraltar, I snapped it up. Initially, I would only be in Gibraltar for the afternoon, so had to prioritise what I wanted to get up to, narrowing it down to the ‘Top of The Rock’ and the Trafalgar Cemetery. After flying out very early on Sunday morning, it transpired that the yacht had pulled in to Almeria due to bad weather, so I actually ended up having a good day and a half to explore. Perfect…
I dropped off my bag at the hotel as I couldn’t check in yet and headed off straight for the Rock (412m) to see the famous Macaques.
During the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783) when Spain & France launched an assault by sea and land, an attack was supposedly ruined by the macaques on the Rock, who were disturbed, alerting watchmen.
There is a saying that as long as they remain on the Rock, so will the British.
I took the cable car up from the middle of town and decided I would walk back down, via the gun batteries. No sooner have you stepped out at the top, there are macaques everywhere you turn, and to say I was excited would be an understatement. These animals are beautiful, their expressions are priceless and they well and truly know how to pose for the camera!
These are the only wild macaques in Europe, and they’ve been up there so long that they’re pretty used to human contact… which leads me on to my next point.
If it’s loose, they will make a good attempt at getting hold of it. Now, either the people from one of the cruise ships weren’t warned about this, or didn’t think it was a serious comment. That soon changed when one guy lost his glasses to a baby macaque, and another his phone. They are very intelligent animals, and know exactly how to get in to your bag when you’re not looking, or even if you are. You can clap and shoo them all you like, they won’t budge. In fact, they may just choose to swing from your ponytail instead, as I discovered.
Thankfully, I managed to flummox them. I stuck everything in the main compartment of my rucksack and I then padlocked the zips shut. This meant that however hard they tried, and try they did… a number of times… they had no such luck.
They could only get in to the small front pocket which was empty.
Nice try Rafiki, nice try.
They haven’t a care in the world for personal space, so if you’re wearing something and they want it, expect macaque bum on your head for a while. Some Americans thought I was ‘incredibly brave’ and couldn’t work out why I wasn’t scared. I mean, a monkey on my shoulder is literally my childhood dream come true, I’ll not lie. Remember, though, these are wild animals so whilst they look adorable, if cornered or if they feel at all threatened they will snap. Just treat them with respect.
My advice if you do head to the Rock?
Take a rucksack and padlock it, or keep hold of your bag at all times, and make sure it can be done up. Don’t take food in it either, as they will find a way to get to it, believe me.
You can’t be too mad at those faces, though…
Also at the Top of the Rock are the old gun batteries, a restaurant and the paths down to the caves, siege tunnels and castle. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do all of these, so will just have to go back, eh? If you walk to one beauty spot, make sure it’s O Hara’s Battery as the views across to Morocco and Algeciras are unbeatable.
The base station for the cable car can be found alongside the Alameda Gardens at the southern end of Main Street. From the top, you see two continents (Europe and Africa), two bodies of water (the Atlantic and the Mediterranean) and three countries (Morocco, Gibraltar and Spain).
The cable car is open 7 days a week from 09:30 to 19:15, with the last cable car down being at 19:45, except between 1st November & 31st March when timings are 09:30-17:15 and the last cable car down is 1745. The cable car does not stop at the mid station between the months of April and October (inclusive).
Within the nature reserve, there are plenty of well marked routes for the easier walking levels or more challenging, including the famous Mediterranean Steps (another reason for me to go back once my knee works again). As mentioned, there are plenty of things to see and do, whether you walk up or down, including the siege tunnels, caves and castle. Ticket prices can be found on the website for the cable car.