A rocky peninsula situated at one of the most southerly points of Western Europe, Gibraltar is almost completely surrounded by the sea. The sea plays a huge part in Gibraltar’s consistent appeal to visitors, with a huge variety of activities that take place in, on and around the water.
The Bay of Gibraltar, on the Rock’s western side is relatively sheltered and opens to the south into the Strait of Gibraltar. To Gibraltar’s eastern side lies the sparkling Mediterranean Sea stretching out into what is romantically termed the cradle of civilisation. A vast eco-system, a source of food and wealth for generations, the sea dominates Gibraltar’s landscape and influences life on the Rock. For tourists, it can prove an irresistible draw.
Many of Gibraltar’s thousands of tourists arrive by sea, usually on one of the many visiting cruise ships. Others arrive by land or air and both those alighting from an aeroplane and those entering Gibraltar through the land border with Spain will cross Gibraltar’s airport runway in order to reach the Rock itself and its bustling city centre. The runway juts out to sea at both ends; walking or driving across the runway, visitors cannot fail but be impressed by the sight of the Rock’s imposing Northern face looming ahead of them.
For nature lovers, the Bay of Gibraltar provides many opportunities to explore marine life. Rich in nutrients fed into it by four major rivers, the Bay is a breeding area for various species of dolphins, notably the Common, the Bottlenose and the Striped dolphins. On occasion, as happened earlier this year, the Bay is visited by pods of migrating whales. And these are just the cetaceans.
With a huge variety of fish, sea birds, invertebrates and other species, the Bay of Gibraltar is a lush environment. Regular ‘dolphin trips’ are made on small boats out into the Bay taking groups of visitors to watch these magnificent creatures. Gibraltar’s mild climate is conducive to sightings of dolphins, sea turtles and other wildlife. The operators are licensed by the Gibraltar Government and work to Marine Protection regulations to ensure the welfare of the animals as well as a the safety of participants.
Sailing is popular in any seaside town and, for tourists who have booked a longer stay on the Rock, Gibraltar boasts several sailing schools. For those who love being active, even if only in Gibraltar for a few hours, there are plenty of opportunities to stretch out and enjoy the physical challenges of stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, beach volley ball, boat trips to Gorham’s Cave – part of our World Heritage site – and much, much more. Gibraltar also offers opportunities for scuba divers and snorkelers to explore right under the surface – not only are our cliff faces, reefs and sea caves of interest to many, but the sea bed is littered with historic wrecks for wreck divers.
Visitors who prefer a more leisurely pace have the choice of six beaches on which to unwind and relax after a busy tour of the Rock and its world famous historic sites. Even in winter, Gibraltar benefits from favourable weather so that visits to the beaches are an absolute pleasure, if not always for bathing, then certainly for walking and for relaxing in one of the many waterside restaurants.
Surrounded by sea, Gibraltar is a hive of activity and one of the most appealing cities in the Mediterranean.