Perched precariously about 1400 feet (420 m) above the sea lies one of the greatest areas for natural beauty in Europe, The Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Considered by visitors to Gibraltar to be the one of the biggest of the attractions of Gibraltar, the Upper Rock Nature Reserve is where the visitor to Gibraltar can see multiple natural attractions including the wildlife as well as numerous plant species that are unknown or rarities elsewhere in the world.
He or she will also be able to view the entire area, as well as the Bay from the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, and the view is nothing short of breathtaking. The Upper Rock, or upper mountain as is it sometimes mistakenly called, is home to the Barbary Macaques, as well as somewhat less famous denizens of Gibraltar.
Nestled on the limestone peninsular of Gibraltar, the most famous of the residents of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve – the Barbary Macaques, which have lived out their lives here for several hundred years, remain the only free ranging apes of Europe.
Legend says that when the last of the apes leave here, Gibraltar will no longer be in the hands of the British.
Aside from the apes, the Upper Rock Nature Reserve is home to multiple types of birds, including the Barbary Partridge and Buzzards. There are about 311 species of birds who are present, and make their home here, or appear when migrating through.
Gibraltar, being at the heading area of the Strait, is a very prominent area for accumulating the birds during their migrations, with the vegetation there, unique in all of Southern Iberia offering them a fleeting home as they stop to take a breather, and to rest and feed from the migrations. The Upper Rock Nature Reserve serves as a temporary home to many of them prior to a continuation of the long trip that may take them over water or desert on route to areas as far away as Russia or Greenland.
The birds you may see in Gibraltar, both near the shore and in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve are part of the many attractions of Gibraltar and what make the Upper Rock Nature Reserve truly an ornithologists paradise.
To name but a few of them, there are:
- Golden Eagle
- Egyptian Vulture
- Rüppell’s Vulture
- Griffon Vulture
- Eurasian Black Vulture
- Short-toed Eagle
- European Shag (These also breed on the cliffs of Gibraltar)
- Western Marsh-Harrier
- Northern Harrier
- Pallid Harrier
- Montagu’s Harrier
- Eurasian Sparrow Hawk
- Northern Goshawk
- Eurasian Buzzard
- Long-legged Buzzard
- Lesser Spotted Eagle
- Greater Spotted Eagle
- White Stork
Among the mammalian species who make Gibraltar their home are the Red Fox, European Rabbits and Mouse Eared Bats, and it is one of the few places where one may see the critically endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal.
Other wonderful things to see on the Upper Rock Nature Reserve are the plant life, including the sweetly scented Jasmine, Honeysuckle, and Sea Lavender, as well as some of the more popular flowers here, including Candy Tuft, Thyme and Chickweed.
If you’re the hardy type, why not take a short hike to visit the Apes Den, where many of the Barbary apes live. The view from Apes Den is fantastic, and seeing the monkeys in their natural habitat is something that you will experience nowhere else in Europe. A word to the wise. The monkeys tend to be quite curious and its not at all uncommon for one of these inquisitive little folks to grab the food from your hands, or even from your backpack. So be alert at all times and keep any food stored tightly away in your bags until moving away again from the area.
If you’re up for an even longer hike, make your way up to Jews Gate, which will offer you a breathtaking scenic view of the Rif Mountains of Morocco. The Upper Rock Reserve is also the home of the last remaining lime kiln that exits in Gibraltar and it’s well worth your time to take peek. While you are up on this side of the Rock’s Nature Reserve, visitors will also want to take the time to see St Michael’s Cave, one of a wide range of caves that contain an incredible array of stalagmites and stalactites.
On the exact opposite side of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, you will find home to the Moorish Castle, the City Under Siege Exhibition, the World War 2 Tunnels, and the Great Siege Tunnels, all of which are an absolute must to see during your visit to Gibraltar.
There are multiple very rare plant and animal species in the park, and some of the things you see here are such that you won’t see them elsewhere in Europe, or in some cases, in the world. As such, of course, the park is protected so taking anything from it, or picking flowers or other plants is something you are prevented by law from doing, so please do bear that in mind and respect the governments protection policy.
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