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The Apes of Gibraltar

Updated on February 16, 2015

The Barbary Apes on The Rock of Gibraltar

Gibraltar is the home of the "Barbary Ape", a kind of macaque monkey, but without a tail. It is a highly controversial place and has been a British territory since 1704 much to Spain annoyance, as it has a rather strategic location at the only entrance to the Mediterranean. The Rock itself also acts as a impenetrable fortress. It is connected to Spain and the only way in or out, by land is now over the airport runway. But is it a good place to visit?


If you want to go somewhere different for a long weekend, in Europe, what could be more different than Gibraltar? This unusual peninsular with it's mountainous rock jutting out into the Mediterranean towards Africa is quite stunning but also has an interesting and quite violent history, and a rather obscure mixture of British, Spanish and Moroccan culture and cuisine and of course those monkeys.


For travel tips, advice and hotel recommendations (and photographs) please read on.

Getting To Gibraltar

If you are in the U.K. getting to Gibraltar is easy, flying BA from London Gatwick direct into Gibraltar's small military airport. There is a morning flight and an evening flight each day. From Spain it is also very easy to get to, by road.

My recent flight to Gibraltar was quite exciting, circling the rock, then making an attempt to land then pulling up at the last minute due to heavy cross-winds, doing another lap of the rock and finally landing rather heavily on the tarmac. Usually you won't have any such excitement, but the view on approach is quite memorable.

Map of Gibraltar - Where is The Rock of Gibraltar?

show route and directions
A markerGibraltar -
Gibraltar
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B markerseville, Spain -
seville, Spain
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Getting Around

Gibraltar is small enough for a keen walker to never need a taxi, but there were plenty available at the airport, and on arrival I took one to the hotel to help me get my bearings. There are other taxi ranks around the town too. There are also minibuses that can be hired for tours of the island from hotels or from the town and a cable-car from the base of the rock, at Europa Road, at the end of the main road through the town, near the botanical gardens. This is the recommended way of getting to the top of the rock.

Cameras

For a couple of in-depth articles about how to choose a good digital camera, please see the following:

Digital SLR Cameras

Digital Compact Cameras

Alternatively, here is some good kit, ideal for a trip to Gibraltar:

Accommodation in Gibraltar

We stayed at the imaginatively named Rock Hotel on Europa Road (it cost about £130 a night for a double en-suit room with balcony). A clean white Art Deco hotel on the side of the rock, overlooking the botanical gardens and cable-car terminal to the front with fantastic views of the Mediterranean and North Africa from the terrace and our small balcony. On arrival at 11am the room wasn't ready, but the friendly receptionist thrust a glass of port into my hand showed me to a comfortable chair in the pleasant little bar. The bedroom had two small free carafes of complimentary sherry and whisky with which to enjoy the sunset. The restaurant was very pleasant and quite old fashioned with a good selection of British or European dishes, although rather expensive for what you get. I would certainly recommend this hotel and restaurant if staying in Gibraltar. It's location is ideal for exploring and it has fantastic views.

Rock Hotel:

Things to do in Gibraltar

The town which sits between the rock and the airport (and Spain beyond) is like stepping back in time (although not very far) to England a few decades ago, with a strange mix of a slight Spanish and Moroccan influence. The food similarly was from a different era, pretty variable and most of what I tried was not very good, with the exception of The Rock Hotel restaurant which was surprisingly good, although fairly expensive (about £50 a head for a two course dinner with wine). There are a few English style pubs on the main road through the town which serve good English beer and food such as fish and chips, but the biggest selection of cafes and bars is in Casemates, the main historical square where there are plenty of tables outside.

The Gibraltar Museum is well worth a visit, with a 15 minute film about the history of Gibraltar and a lot of interesting artifacts it gives a good introduction to the place before exploring some of the sights.

The Botanical Gardens opposite the Rock Hotel are pleasant and worth a brief visit. There is also a "Wildlife Park" which is just a small zoo with a lot of empty cages and a few mangy animals, although it was apparently being renovated, so maybe most of the animals were somewhere else.

The Rock is where most of the tourist attractions are. A mini-bus from the cable-car terminal took us to each of the main attractions for about £10 each (shared with two other tourists) making it a bit cheaper than the cable car and we didn't need to walk between the points of interest (i.e. we were lazy and I'm trying to think of excuses) Wonderful views of Africa, the siege tunnels where the English fought off the Spanish and a large cave with huge stalagmites and stalactites etc. and of course, those monkeys everywhere (Barbary macaques or "Apes" as they are often called) Great fun to watch, but a young one jumped on my head and got a bit overexcited (all over my camera. So beware)

Dolphin watching is also possible from boats chartered from the mariana near Casemates. We managed to get a large boat for just £20 each shared with just one other person, but in high season I would imagine the boat would have 20 or 30 people on it for the same price each. This is very enjoyable. The dolphins seem to love it as much as the humans and play in front of the boat. The trip took about 90 minutes.

Dolphin:

Conclusion

I would certainly recommend visiting Gibraltar if you are in that part of Europe and have a day or two spare and even as a destination for a long weekend it was worth doing. Any longer than that and I think you would run out of things to do. From a culinary point of view it is not very good, but it is however quite unique.

Monkey Business:

Monkey Photos

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    • profile image

      Adrijan 5 years ago

      Nice

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 5 years ago from Valencia, California

      Wow Andy our paths appear to have crossed a few times, remember Gib from my Navy days and those little rock apes, actually stayed in the Rock Hotel, fond memories :-) thanks for sharing

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Love the photos in this lens.

    • OrganicMom247 profile image

      OrganicMom247 5 years ago

      Great informational lens on what seems like a great place to visit! Thanks

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      I saw the apes not too long ago - even saw two of them in town!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 6 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      What an amazing experience. You must have so many ideas swirling around in there!

    • profile image

      fenellashorty 7 years ago

      Cute monkeys

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • profile image

      Vacation-In-My-Head 8 years ago

      Yet another great one. Beautifully done.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Ah, we were THAT close to seeing the apes of Gibraltar. It was a last minute decision on my hubby's part for us to not visit during our Costa del Sol vacation. Well, now I can see what I missed here! ;)

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Another great lens.

    • profile image

      QueSea 8 years ago

      Wow! What a view. Great photo of the ships in harbor. Thanks for sharing

    • Andy-Po profile image
      Author

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      [in reply to Bob] Monkey Business! ;-)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      What are those monkeys doing in the last photo?

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      The closest I've ever been to a monkey or an ape is at the zoo.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Andy-Po profile image
      Author

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      [in reply to Evelyn_Saenz]

      Yes, you can see Morocco from Gibraltar, in fact we had rather a good view from the hotel balcony.

      The monkeys have been there for centuries, but are actually originally from Africa and were probably brought there by Moroccans who lived in Gibraltar before the British. They don't live in the wild in Europe and their numbers are actually controlled on the Rock, probably because they are a tourist attraction.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 8 years ago

      I have been to Gibraltar but didn't see the apes. I do remember that it felt very British there - with better weather of course!

    • SylvianeNuccio1 profile image

      SylvianeNuccio1 8 years ago

      As always I love your lens. Beautiful pictures with Mr. monkey!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I think these are some of the best photos of yours that I have seen Andy. I am not a big monkey lover either, but some of these are just great shots. 5***** for another great lens.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      I have always wanted to visit Gibraltar. Can you see Morocco from there?

      I had no idea that there were monkeys living in Gibraltar. Do they also live in Spain?

    • profile image

      Mayflowerblood 8 years ago

      love the pictures. they bring a smile =]

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 8 years ago

      Really great lens, and wonderful history, How amazing the number of places you have seen.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great lens! I love travel lens that actually give a personal recommendation, not just generic tourist information.

    • debnet profile image

      Debbie 8 years ago from England

      Funny isn't it...of all the places in Europe, this would probably near the bottom of the list for me as a weekend break. But I'm sure is has it's own charm. What are the monkees doing in that last piciture???

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 8 years ago

      I love the dolphin picture.

    • Lynx92 profile image

      Lynx92 8 years ago

      Another great travel lens Andy. I visited Gibraltar a few years ago whilst on holiday in Marbella. My eldest daughter was not impressed by the attention she received from one of the apes. I am in total agreement with the comments you have made in the conclusion.

    • anthropos lm profile image

      Lamar Ross 8 years ago from Florida

      It is interesting to drive over from Spain also. While spending some time in Spain last Spring, we drove over to Gilbraltar on a day trip. One day was enough for me, but it was certainly worth visiting.

      Thanks for joining ”Anything and Everything Travel” Group. We look forward to seeing your other travel related lenses in our group. Keep up the good work.

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 8 years ago from Covington, LA

      Wow, you really visit some fabulous places. Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens link to the appropriate plexo and vote for it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi, I squidooed over from Tipi's. Thanks for letting us hitch a ride on your experiences--very nice!

    • The Homeopath profile image

      The Homeopath 8 years ago

      When I was little, I remember treasuring a copy of National Geographic that had an article on the Barbary Apes. I kept it on my bookshelf and it was a BIG deal because my Grandparents kept every single copy for YEARS of their subscription like they were precious treasure (which they are, of course), but they let me keep that one! I couldn't even read at the time, but the pictures of Gibraltar are still etched in my mind.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 8 years ago

      I am going to have to add this to my list. It looks wonderful! 5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi, Andy! I had to download the dolphin to put on a lens, and I will give you all the credit. Another great lens. *****

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 8 years ago

      This looks like a fun trip. I would really enjoy the monkeys. Welcome to All Things Travel.

    • profile image

      gibraltar 9 years ago

      Glad you enjoyed your visit to Gib. However, have to disagree with the culinary comment. If you ate solely at the Rock, you would have been disappointed. For such an expensive hotel, the food is sadly lacking. However, in the marina areas in particular, the food now ranges from Maroccan to Chines to French, local and of course Spanish. I've been here 6 years and have been let down only a couple of times, one of them being at the Rock. Visit again and veer off the "beaten" path and you will be happily surprised