19 Aug 13

Get acquainted with the local wildlife on your Gibraltar holiday

Gibraltar has long been a destination of choice for those wishing to get closer to nature, even if they are only initially aware of its internationally famous Barbary macaque monkeys.

There may be plenty of 'man made' attractions and activities awaiting those who embark on Gibraltar travel, but here at Visit Gibraltar (http://www.visitgibraltar.gi), we fear that we wouldn't be giving you a well-rounded picture of the British Overseas Territory if we didn't also mention its bountiful wildlife. Certainly, Gibraltar has long been a destination of choice for those wishing to get closer to nature, even if they are only initially aware of its internationally famous Barbary macaque monkeys.

Certainly, the Gibraltar monkeys have a curious association with the territory's long period of British rule, with legend dictating that this will remain the case for as long as they remain in residence. It was this belief that moved British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill to order the replenishment of the local population in 1942 from Moroccan and Algerian forest fragments, when their number had dwindled to just seven monkeys. The monkey has also been a fixture of the Gibraltar pound's five-pence coin since 1988, and you may even remember Timothy Dalton as James Bond, being startled by one at the start of 1987's The Living Daylights.

These days, those on a Gibraltar holiday can observe these tailless monkeys at close hand at the Apes' Den (Queen's Gate), as well as in the area of the Great Siege Tunnels. Gibraltar is the sole place in Europe where you'll find free-living Barbary macaques, so take your time in appreciating their natural behaviour while keeping your distance!

But for all of the undoubted fascination that many people have with the charming, friendly and inquisitive Barbary macaques, the wider wildlife associated with Gibraltar tourism is truly rich and diverse. That is routinely appreciated by those sailing into the bay and finding their boat followed by pods of leaping dolphins and flying fish, while those scaling the Upper Rock will find a renowned nature reserve. There's also a new wildlife park to be discovered in the famous public park, the Alameda Gardens.

Those arriving at the Upper Rock Nature Reserve in the spring and autumn encounter millions of migrating birds, with large roaming raptors like vultures, eagles and buzzards being especially well-represented. The Peregrine Falcon, Barbary Partridge and Blue Rock thrush are also resident here. The rich wildlife in the Alameda, meanwhile, is encouraged by the general lack of use of herbicides and pesticides, with the Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Greenfinch and Wren just some of the bird species nestling here. They are joined by reptiles like the Moorish Gecko and even bats such as the Pipistrelle, a common sight during the day.

Finally, how could you miss the chance to observe the aforementioned dolphins on your holidays in Gibraltar? Visit Gibraltar (http://www.visitgibraltar.gi) firmly recommends that you take advantage of a boat trip to see these intriguing animals up close. There are three species of dolphin to be found in various areas around the Gibraltarian coast, with even whales migrating here, including the Blue Whale. It all adds to the territory's fascinating wildlife mix.