Gibraltar is a major stopping point for cruise ships and Atlantic crossing sailboats. Gibraltar’s unique location has created a multi-cultural country packed with ethnic dining and shopping that draw huge crowds of tourists. This tiny country is a mere 2.6 square miles and is ranked number 5 out of 230 of the most stable countries in the world byJane’s, an IHS company. Street crime is rare in this British overseas territory. Ironically, Gibraltar’s most famous citizens also happen to be 200 criminals that are never prosecuted.
The Barbary Apes are one of the biggest and most photographed attractions in Gibraltar. Many of those pictures are never shared with friends and family because the cameras never make it off the rock. The monkeys (mistakenly referred to as apes because they are tailless) are fantastic little thieves. They will snatch camera cases, purses, bags and just about anything they can get away from you if they think there may be food in it. I witnessed a woman put her purse down to take a picture of a cute little monkey. She laughed and refocused as it got closer and closer. Remarking how friendly the little guy was she laughed. Most likely her photo was the monkey making a fast getaway up the hill with her purse in tow. In the August 27th 2006 issue of Daily Mirror a man claimed that a monkey stole his brand new $300 hairpiece.
For some reason humans feel closer to wild animals when they feed them. Regardless of how many warnings and threats of prosecution, people still find the need to feed these animals. Not only has it caused them to become thieves, the Barbary Ape has a very delicate natural diet. Pork rinds are not on the list of acceptable foods. The monkeys become ill quite often from tourist junk food. A fine of 500 GBP is imposed for feeding them.
While these animals are docile and friendly they are wild. With a little caution an interaction between man and beast can be experienced like no other place on earth. The best way to approach them is to not approach them. Sit down and wait. A friendly monkey is sure to come up and greet you. They are very curious animals. They love to touch, look in shirt pockets, feel your hair and climb on your shoulder. If you are relaxed and calm they will follow suit. Like people they do not like to be teased or tricked. Pretending to offer them something will not please them any more than it would a person. Treat them with respect and gentleness and they will treat you the same.
For me the best part of traveling is that feeling I get when I know I am as far away from everyday life that I can get. Leaning against a railing on top of the Rock of Gibraltar staring out over the Mediterranean with the Moroccan coast to my right and Spain to my left , having a conversation with a monkey, ranks right up there at the top of being very far from home.