A visit to Gibraltar for every tourist is a rare chance to encounter, at close quarters, a wild animal in its environment. Legend says if the monkeys disappear from Gibraltar so will the British which is why during the Second World War with the numbers dwindling Winston Churchill sent to North Africa for replacements.

Churchill’s plan worked, and the colony thrives to this day. There are several places to see the almost 300 monkeys in their natural habitat as they are littered around the Upper Rock. The easiest way and the way we recommend is to ride the Cable Car to the Top Station where, as soon as you reach the top, you will see monkeys sitting around waiting for you. The monkeys roam freely around the Top Station on the lookout for any unsuspecting tourist. If you haven’t had enough of the monkeys by the time you have finished enjoying the views and completed your multimedia tour the Cable Car also has a mid-way stop called the Ape’s Den which is exactly, what the name suggests. You can walk amongst them or watch them bounce off cars and buses as they play. Please be advised that the Cable Car will not stop at the middle station between the months of April to October. There are also other packs to be found around the Upper Rock Nature Reserve including on Charles V Wall, a 5-minute downhill walk from the Cable Car top station.

The Gibraltar macaques are actually a tailless monkey called a Barbary Macaque (Macaca Sylvanus). No one is sure how they got to Gibraltar, however, speculation has it they were brought either by the Arabs sometime after 711CE or the British after 1704. The Macaque is listed as ‘endangered’ in its homelands in Algeria and Morocco but here in Gibraltar they thrive under the care of the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS).

The monkeys encounter humans on a daily basis and are all too often fed by well-meaning but ill-informed visitors. Their general health has improved under GONHS and there is a statutory fine if anyone is caught feeding a monkey or deliberately touching or interfering with the macaques.  They are fed at locations around the Rock daily on a diet strictly observed by experts and though it may seem basic to you to the monkeys it is balanced for their health, well being and teeth.

They are wild but used to humans, so it is perfectly ok to approach close enough to take a photograph, some may even pose! You may sit near them but more likely they will come close to you, if they do approach you please do not touch them. You may get away with it once but touch an ape that got out of his cave the wrong side that morning and you will get a bite. They are very protective of their young and often show signs of aggression to keep you at bay. Stay away! One thing the monkeys love is a plastic bag. They associate the sound and sight of plastic bags with food. They will grab it immediately and please do not try and stop them as they will bite. It is best to let it go and hope they drop it after their curiosity is satisfied. Only then can you recover whatever was inside they have disregarded as a non-food item. They also sometimes jump onto people to get from one perch to another so if they do sit on you just bend over to tip them off, they should go and pick on someone else. If you buy an ice cream or food at the Cable Car Top Station eat it inside. Many a Tour Guide counts the seconds it stays in the hand of the unsuspecting before it is taken by a monkey.

Just remember the following points and your visit to the monkeys will be a joy to remember and photograph;

  • Put away any plastic bag or food before entering an area where monkeys can be found roaming.
  • Don’t pull faces at them or mimic them. Showing teeth is a sign of aggression.
  • Don’t touch them, they aren’t pets even though they look cuddly.
  • Don’t eat outside if there are monkeys in the area.
  • Above all, don’t feed them.*

To learn more about these fascinating mammals, we recommend you visit:

*Please be advised the Government has introduced a law which prohibits deliberately touching or interfering with the macaques. Effective Monday 3rd August 2020.  Anyone found committing an offence will be liable on summary conviction to a fine at level 4 on the standard scale.

If you would like to learn more about our famous monkeys download the Barbary Macaque & Cable Car walking tour via the app