THE WILD MONKEYS OF GIBRALTAR

We saw the iconic wild monkeys of Gibraltar! The first weekend that I visited Spain over the summer G took me to see the cuties that live on the Rock of Gibraltar. It’s only about an hours drive south from Marbella but is actually British! (I needed my passport to cross the border, so dont forget yours if you ever go there from Spain!)

I had been to Gibraltar a few times before when I worked in the yachting industry, but never got the chance to go and see the monkeys. I had heard rumours about them and was always very intrigued so when he suggested taking me to see them I thought it sounded like the best date ever.

UPPER ROCK NATURE RESERVE

The 5 troops of Barbary Macaques that on the Rock are the only population of wild monkey in the whole of Europe! How did they get there?? Nobody knows! There are a few interesting theories though..

One possibility is that the monkeys were brought over by North African Muslims who reigned over Spain in 711 – 1492. They apparently kept the monkeys as pets! But, it could have also been the Romans, Carthaginians or Phoenicians who were there before that.

Another theory is that they are the remaining of a population of monkeys which spread over southern europe over 5 million years ago during the pliocene epoch….

All we know for sure is that in the 1700’s when Gibraltar became British territory the monkeys were already there. Then, in the 1800’s one of the governers tried made sure that the monkeys were protected but by 1942 the population had dwindled to only 7. It was at this time that Sir Winston Churchill ordered that the number be replenished with more monkeys from Morrocco and Algeria.

Today there are 300 monkeys and they are Gibraltars biggest attraction. You can visit the monkeys in the nature reserve, they are very brave and quite friendly! As you can see in the photos they were happy to just jump up onto our shoulders on their own and just hang out. Although they have been known to pick pocket so watch out for your things!

We were eating an icecream at one point, which we had bought from the little snack shop there, then all of a sudden one of the monkeys just came out of nowhere, took G’s icecream, hopped up onto a rooftop out of reach and proceeded to eat it in front of us! It was actually so cute and funny, but you’re not supposed to feed the monkeys, so dont get caught handing food over or you might get told off.

There is a group of people called the Helping Hand Trust who are responsible for feeding the monkeys and taking care of them. They bring them healthy fruit and vegetables every day, this keeps them from going into town and stealing food from the locals homes and garbage bins. Can you imagine walking into your kitchen and seeing a monkey stealing food from your fridge?! It’s like something from a movie! I’d want him to stay and hang out and become my new bestie haha.

Find the monkeys at the Upper Rock Nature Reserve.

Go to location on map

We hired tour guide in a van to take us up to the nature reserve, or there is a cable car.

ST. MICHAELS CAVE

While you’re there you can visit St Michaels Cave which is a very interesting place indeed. It is also at the top of the Rock right where the monkeys are. It is a network of limestone caves 300 metres above sea level and is full of stalactites and stalagmites. There are many long passages and large caverns which have formed over thousands of years from rainwater slowly seeping through the rock.

It’s believed that there is/was a subterranean passage which stretches 15 miles under the sea from Morrocco to this cave, legends say that this also could have been a way that the monkeys got to the Rock!

The Rock of Gibraltar has been considered to be one of the legendary pillars of Herclules and the caves to be the Gates of Hades or Hell, a gateway to the Underworld… I love this kind of mythology stuff! I find it so fascinating!

Some sources say that Hercules broke through a great mountain connecting the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean sea, others say that he narrowed the already existing straight to prevent sea monsters entering from the Atlantic into to the Mediterranean. One side of the straight is the Rock of Gibraltar (Calpe Mons) and the other side Jebel Musa, a mountain on the northenmost part of Morroco. Both said to be the two Pillars of Hercules.

In recent years cave drawings and neanderthal skulls have been found in the caves indicating that they were used by pre-historic men up to 40,000 years ago!

Today the cave serves as an auditorium, due to its amazing accoustics, it hosts light shows, ballets, plays, beauty pageants, ochestras and rock bands. We saw an orchestra play and it was beautiful.

Have you ever visited the Rock? Let me know in the comments below! x

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