The Campo de Gibraltar area is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable eco-systems in Europe. The area is situated between two continents, two seas and three cultures. An exceptional place for discerning nature lovers as the very name "Campo" means countryside in Spanish.
In the borough of San Roque, there are several nature spots, but the most outstanding one is the Pinar del Rey Pine Forest. These woods, due north of the town of San Roque, have a surface area of 338 hectares and are made up of mainly pine trees and cork oak trees.
In a plantation to the north of San Roque, in 1800, the Spanish Navy planted a mixture of cork oak and pine trees to provide timber for their navy. In 1804 the Spanish and French together were beaten at the Battle of Trafalgar and the Spanish found they no longer needed the wood. King Ferdinand VII gave the plantation to the people of San Roque as compensation for losing Gibraltar 100 years earlier. The trees you see on this walk are 200 years old. The entire area has been used by the local people as a recreational area and now are picnic areas and barbeques set up in the clearings. The wild life you may expect to see includes deer and wild boar.
In 1970 a troop of baboons escaped from a safari park at Alcaidesa and eventually found themselves in the northern part of the Pinar del Rey. They liked it so much they stayed.
Nowadays, these woods are the area's lungs and probably the most popular nature spot for miles around. In fact, thousands of families spend a day out in the country here, Sunday being the busiest day of course. The lower part of the park has a recreational area with picnic tables, benches and barbecue facilities.
Trail Name: The Walk to Baboon Rock
Distance: 3.5 kilometres round trip
Directions: Drive into San Roque town centre and follow the prominent signs for Pinar del Rey. At the entrance to the wood drive straight on for a further 2 kilometres until you reach a sandy clearing with white gate posts and a metal gate marking the end of the track. Park here.
Start Point: Car Park
Finish Point: Car Park
Essential Equipment: This walk can be done in trainers or walking shoes. There are many intersecting paths so a compass may be useful. If you follow this walk, you may, if you are lucky, see the baboons in their natural habitat.
From your car walk through the stile at the north end of the car park. Turn left on a sandy track heading gently uphill and north west. Follow this track for about 1 kilometre until you reach a crossroads. Turn right, now heading north. Stay on this track until you reach a 'T' junction with a fenced off wood ahead. The signs on the fence say 'Zona Adiestramiento Perros de Caza' which means "Hunting dog training area", dogs don't have to be kept on a lead, but from an ecological point of view it is recommended so that fauna and flora are left unharmed.
Turn right at the 'T' junction and stay on the track as it loops back on itself to the left with the wood also on your left. After a short walk you will see a small quarried area on the right of the track. 90 metres beyond this quarry a distinctive red sandy path intersects the track you are on. Turn right and uphill, now heading east.At the top of this hill, the highest part of the Pinar del Rey, the track ends at a rocky outcrop.
Clamber over to the top of the rocks. There are a number of places to perch. Now look across a shallow defile to a rocky spur, about 40 metres away. This is baboon rock. If you are patient, and lucky, you will see the baboons. Retrace your steps to the car park
© Nicholas Craig Nutter 2004 - 2012. Nick Nutter asserts his rights as the author of this article and all associated images. This article and images may not be copied or reproduced in any way without written permission of the author.