Monkeying Around in Gibraltar

This little overseas territory of the UK is home to Barbary apes

We affectionately name him Gib.

Admittedly, it's not a very original moniker for an adorable baby monkey on the little peninsula of Gibraltar. After all, Gib is the nickname of this seven-square-kilometre chunk of rock in the Mediterranean, which is an overseas territory of the U.K. dangling from the southernmost tip of Spain. And, by default, unimaginative tourists automatically end up calling Gibraltar's famous Barbary apes, young and old, Gib. However, in this case, tiny Gib is the cutest and most deserving of the name.

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As our tour group strolls along the top of the Rock of Gibraltar to take in the views, Gib hops on his mom's back for a ride over to see us. He dismounts into his mom's embrace to give us all a melt-your-heart, big-eyed stare. To prove he can do things on his own, Gib wanders off to grab a stick and then bolts back to mom. Our tour group of 20, by this time, has taken hundreds of photos and cooed just as many times.

While Gib is the star of this encounter, the 250 other Barbary apes, which are really tailless macaques monkeys brought over from Morocco, are considered Gibraltar's most famous residents and biggest tourist attraction. The primates roam in seven packs on the upper elevation of the peninsula where tourist frequent to soak in the vistas and explore St. Michael's Cave, a subterranean wonder of natural stalactites and stalagmites and man-made amphitheatre and lighting show.

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While wild, the monkeys are accustomed to people. You're asked not of feed them, because they will aggressively snatch food and anything else they can get their nimble little hands on, from sunglasses and purses to jewelery and iPhones.

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Gibraltar is the first stop on the seven-day Mediterranean cruise aboard the elegant, 947-foot-long, 3,573-passenger Emerald Princess. Gibraltar isn't a common stop on Med cruises, so many passengers are excited to step foot on The Rock, as it's colloquially known, for the gargantuan white limestone formation that juts out of the Strait of Gibraltar.

The view of The Rock of Gibraltar from the Emerald Princess cruise ship.

The view of The Rock of Gibraltar from the Emerald Princess cruise ship.

This little peninsula, with a population of 30,000, also has a fascinating history and geography.

For a millennia, different nations have fought for control of this strategic peninsula located between Europe and Africa where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet in the narrow strait between Spain and Morocco. The British took Gibraltar from the Spanish in 1704 and still have it today as an overseas territory.

The lighthouse at Europa Point in Gibraltar marks the southernmost point of Europe.

The lighthouse at Europa Point in Gibraltar marks the southernmost point of Europe.

Proud to be British, Gibraltar is also serious about its own sovereignty. Thus said, the diminutive peninsula is a bit of Jolly Olde England in the Mediterranean.

In town, palm-treed Casemates Square leads to a British-style high street chock-a-block with U.K. brand stores Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, Topshop, Next and Dorothy Perkins. Our sustenance stops also reflect Britannia, with tea and scones with jam and clotted cream at The Cornish Bakery and fish and chips with Bass ale at All's Well Pub.

A port with only one per cent corporate tax and no sales tax, Gibraltar has become an international shipping and banking centre and the world headquarters for many online gambling companies.

The view of town and the Emerald Princess in port from the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.

The view of town and the Emerald Princess in port from the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.

From Gib, the Emerald Princess also called on Marseille, France (for Provence), Genoa, Italy (for Portofino), Livorno, Italy (for Pisa and Florence) and finished in Rome. The cruise started in Barcelona. The Emerald Princess remains in the Med through November, then will sail across the Atlantic to ply the Caribbean.

Air Canada flies non-stop between Toronto and Montreal and Barcelona and Rome for easy access for Canadian travellers.

Check out Princess.com and AirCanada.com .

The writer was a guest of Princess Cruises, which neither read nor approved this article before publication.





TravelSteve MacNaullComment