Gibraltar is a popular Mediterranean cruise port known for its Barbary Apes that live on the Rock. I’ve visited a couple of times on cruises and have compiled this simple guide to help you to see these Gibraltar monkeys safely.
The Gibraltar Barbary Macaques are well-known residents of Gibraltar. There is estimated to be around 300 of them living in Gibraltar and are the only wild monkey population in Europe.
There is sometimes a debate about whether they are monkeys or apes as they are often referred to as Barbary Apes, but they are in fact monkeys.
The Gibraltar monkeys originate from Morocco but with only 9 miles of water (Strait of Gibraltar) dividing the two places, it’s no surprise that they managed to make their way to Gibraltar.
Where to see Gibraltar Monkeys
The main place to see the monkeys is Gibraltar Rock. The monkeys do sometimes venture into the town but you are likely to see most at the top of the Rock. The base of the Rock is in easy walking distance from the cruise port (around 15 to 20 minutes walk).
You shouldn’t go to the top just for the monkeys. From the peak, you can look down over the town below, North towards Sierra Nevada, East over the Mediterranean Sea and South across the Strait of Gibraltar to North Africa. This gives you quite a unique view of two continents, three countries and the meeting point of two great bodies of water: the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
You can also get a good view of your cruise ship in port from the ‘Top of the Rock’.
You can download an app on your phone in advance of your trip, which offers a multimedia tour once you get to the top. Search for ‘CityGuide Gibraltar’ in your mobile phone’s app store. WiFi is free to access at the top of the rock.
There are a few ways to reach the top of Gibraltar Rock:
- Cable car (aerial tramway)
- Taxi tour
Gibraltar Cable Car
The cable car is the most popular way to reach the summit of Gibraltar Rock. I would recommend booking your tickets in advance as most of your fellow cruise passengers are likely to be heading in the same direction as you.
It’s open seven days a week from 9.30am to 5.15pm, with the final car descending at 5.45pm. The cable car only takes 6 minutes to scale the Rock, 412 metres above sea level.
At the time of writing, the cable car is not accessible for wheelchair users. There are future plans in place to construct a new accessible cable car, including base and top station.
There is a mid-station close to the Ape’s Den but if you’re visiting between April and October, the cable car will not stop there. Instead, you’ll be taken straight to the top and you are able to walk down to see the monkeys.
From the cruise terminal, you’ll be able to pick up tours of the main sights, including the Rock to see the monkeys. During the summer months, when it’s busier, it’s advisable to book a taxi tour in advance with Gibraltar Taxi Association.
Walking Gibraltar Rock
It is possible to walk to the top of the Rock using steep roads and steps. It can take around two hours but there are several places to stop, take a breath, and enjoy the views.
There is a £13 fee per adult to enter the Nature Reserve to see the monkeys at Ape’s Den. Tickets can be purchased online or at the entrance to allow entry between 9.30am and 7.15pm.
Main Monkey Hangouts
At the Top of the Rock, you can enjoy the views before walking down the path to a feeding station. Food is left here for the Macaques but on our visit in the morning there weren’t many around.
You can carry on following the road down hill where more monkeys can be found. They perch themselves on the walls, fence posts, around the old buildings or simply in the middle of the road!
You can follow a footpath that leads to Ape’s Den. Although the Macaques are not apes and it’s strictly not a ‘den’, it’s where many of them hang out.
It’s important to remember that the Gibraltar Macaques are wild animals and can be unpredictable at times. There are few things to remember, to stay safe:
- Walk slowly and do not make any sudden movements that could frighten the monkeys
- Do not take food with you (even if it’s not on show, the monkeys are likely to sniff it out)
- This means you shouldn’t feed them either (it’s illegal)
- Do not approach the monkeys or make them feel cornered
- Do not touch them, however cute they look, they aren’t pets!
- The monkeys have learnt that bags = food, so if possible do not take a bag with you as this may lead to inquisitive monkeys jumping on your back or stealing your belongings
- Recognise the warning signs: if a macaque looks at you with pouting lips and raised eyebrows it means ‘back-off’
- Avoid leaning on walls or railings, where it is easier for the Macaques to jump on you
- The best thing to do is keep a safe distance
- Staying safe when visiting the monkeys, also means no need to visit the hospital or ship’s medical centre – which can be costly. Scratched and bites can be nasty and require a Tetanus injection.
Tips for visiting Gibraltar
Having visited Gibraltar, I have a few recommendations on how to enjoy your visit and make the most of your time in port.
Book your cable car tickets in advance and get off the ship early to avoid queuing. You can see the Macaques and still have time to do other things such as visit the World War II Tunnels or Europa Point.
Walking down the main street in Gibraltar is like finding yourself in a typical UK high street. The one bonus is the duty-free shopping. If you plan to pick up anything during your cruise, Gibraltar is great place to do it.
The main square in Gibraltar is called Casemates Square. Here you will find some cafes to stop and enjoy a bite to eat or drink.
The currency is British Sterling (£) but Euros are also accepted in most places. If you receive change in Gibraltar pounds, make sure you use them before leaving as they’re difficult to exchange at home.