Upon arrival into Gibraltar I needed to acclimatise to the heat and the Sun, and where better to do that than with a cold beer and some food? After all, we'd woken up at 3.30am for our flight and its now past lunchtime! Ocean Village is right next to where we were staying and an ideal place to chill, watch the fish, birds and boats go by. In the evening we were heading to explore Spain so we used the time to relax.
Grand Casemates Square is a large square surrounded by large bomb-proof fortifications which once housed the barracks for the troops stationed there in the mid to late 1800s. The barracks have now all been transformed into shops, cafe's, bars and restaurants. The square is a main social hub for Gibraltar where you can relax outside under the parasols or inside under the air conditioning.
Botanical Gardens - The Alameda Gardens
The Alameda Gardens are a smallish botanical garden which features a lot of cacti, succulents, trees and wildlife native to the region. It is a peaceful and tranquil oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the main town. You can spend a few hours here wandering around looking at the different plants and local wildlife, including a few lizards and turtles.
One of the highlights of our stay in Gibraltar was going out on the dolphin watching tour. We headed out on the last tour of the day, mainly because it was going to be quiet and the operator said that since there was no time constraint on returning if there is a good sighting they will stay out with them a while longer. The tours are scheduled to last around an hour, however, we were out an hour and a half as we had an exceptionally good sighting - a pod of nearly 30 males hunting and investigating our boat. Highly recommend Dolphin Adventures, and if you're in Gibraltar you must go see the dolphins.
Gibraltar Cable Car
Exploring the Rock of Gibraltar is one of those things you must do, even only the once. Our plan is to ride the cable car to the top and walk down. The queue for tickets can get extremely long, however, we booked a combined ticket when we went out dolphin watching. There is a separate priority queue for prepaid tickets so we simply handed over the voucher and strait onto the cable car, saving at least an hour of queuing and saving 25% off the price.
The trip up takes about 5 minutes, although it feels a lot quicker. Depending on how lucky you are you may or may not get a view. There are no seats and they pack people in pretty tightly so there isn't usually enough room to move a camera around. Once at the top, you are greeted by the famous Barbary monkeys, and a sign warning you that they are wild animals and that they bite. And that feeding them has a £4,000 fine.
Gibraltar Barbary Monkeys
The monkeys, Barbary macaque, are everywhere on the top. There are over 200 of them and they can be seen on fences and railings, in the trees and even on the paths. Sometimes even in the cafe at the top. At the top of the cable car terminal, there is a cafe with a viewing platform and from here is you are lucky you can get some good photos of the monkeys with Gibraltar in the background.
Climbing the Rock of Gibraltar
We walked along the top of the rock along the paths in the nature reserve (£5 for walkers) and saw the Charles V Wall, built in 1540 by Roman Emperor Charles V, and used as a filming location in the James Bond film The Living Daylights.
We continued on to the Skybridge viewing platform, which was partly closed due to a broken glass panel on the floor (very reassuring!) but we were still able to get some good photos from the viewing area.
Continuing on we stopped at the Douglas lookout tower, past the SpyGlass listening post, and on to the massive O'Hara's Battery. The artillery gun here is a 9.2-inch diameter calibre capable of launching a 380 lbs shell with 100 lbs of explosives 29,600 yards across the strait of Gibraltar. From the gun placement you can get a 360° panorama across Gibraltar, the Mediterranean sea, the Atlantic ocean and even into Morocco, although it was not clear enough when we were there.
St Michaels Low Caves
On our way down from the top of the rock, we called into the low caves for a spot of caving. These are fairly small caves, but not your typical show caves. These caves are for the more adventurous, and fitter people. There is no pathway and you will be required to climb, crawl, squeeze through gaps, abseil short distances (2-3 metres maximum) and balance on narrow ledges around a lake.
I would recommend that you wear casual or old clothing as you will get grubby. Decent shoes are a must (absolutely not flip flops as you won't be allowed in). While you can get through with a rucksack, I would advice against this as some of the spaces are very cramped and there is hardly enough room to squeeze through without a satchel. There is a place to leave your bag near the entrance, however, it isn't very secure and belongings are left at your own risk.
You can take photos in the caves with cameras and smartphones, however be aware that there is a very which chance of knocking them on the rocks when squeezing through, and if you take your phone, make sure that you keep it secure in a pocket as if it falls out and into one of the many small holes, you will not see it again. There are places where you have to slide along using your bum, so a back pocket is not a good place to keep the phone either (as I found out).
It's very worthwhile doing the lower cave tour, take the above notes in mind and enter the caves with the bare minimum.
After the caves, we walked back down to the town level and took the bus back to where we were staying.