Looming large and welcoming you to Cape Town, whether you are arriving by plane, train, boat or automobile, is the iconic Table Mountain, one of the 7 Wonders of Nature. Looking at it from below is one thing, but it is quite another to be atop the mountain, from where one is afforded amazing views of Cape Town, Robben Island, the Peninsula and beyond.
My first visit up the iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town was in January when my family came together in Cape Town For Christmas. January is summer here in South-Africa and we had a lovely clear and sunny day for our mountain outing.
Fact 1: Table Mountain, probably the most photographed landmark in South Africa, is now one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. I must admit it is difficult to resist photographing this beautiful mountain from every angle in cape Town and its surrounding areas.
Fact 2: South Africa’s Table Mountain, is more than just a pile of rock in the bay. It forms part of a protected national park with some remarkable features that make it a great destination for nature-lovers, deserving of more than just a quick cable car ride to see the view from the top. I still have to explore the National Park but will wait for Spring or Autumn when it is not so hot.
Although it was a hot and sunny day we did experience quite a sudden but brief lasting “fog” that moved over the mountain, obstructing our view.
I later learnt that the flat top of the mountain is often covered by orographic clouds, formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain’s slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called “table cloth” of cloud. Legend attributes this phenomenon to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks. When the table cloth is seen, it symbolizes the contest, and this is what we experienced while up there.
Fact 3: The mountain forms part of Table Mountain National Park, which is globally recognised for its biodiversity, and contains truly unique fauna and flora. The park encompasses the Table Mountain chain stretching from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south and the seas and coastline of the peninsula.
It is primarily an open-access park with only a few points where conservation fees are payable including Cape Point, Boulders (where you’ll see penguins), the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Silvermine.
Fact 4: The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway was the solution to the arduous walk and climb to the top. Since its opening in 1929, more than 22 million people have taken the trip to the top of Table Mountain. The new cableway was upgraded and officially reopened on 4 October 1997. If it wasn’t for this cable car I am sure that my family and I would not have made it to the top of the mountain on this hot and sunny day.
The trip to the top is an outing in itself, as you are safely and gently transported from the lower cable station to the top of the mountain and visa versa. The journey takes a little more than 5 minutes and the high tech rotating cable car offers the best views of the city. This cable car took us over 3500ft above the city, where there is a network of well-marked paths to explore as well as strategically positioned lookout points. I couldn’t wait to explore the mountain and get to take some long awaited photos at each lookout point.
Fact 5: You can walk or climb the mountain, or even abseil down it, depending on your expertise and fitness levels, but be warned. Although the mountain may look tame on any given day, each year it claims lives as people set off under-prepared for a sudden change in weather. Always hike in a group and carry water and warm clothing with you. Better still, hire a guide or ask an experienced hiker to take you along.
Fact 6: At the upper cable station you will find a restaurant and a curio shop as well as a network of footpaths to explore the table top. The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately 3 kilometres from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs.
Fact 7: The Mountains vegetation consists predominantly of several different types of the unique and rich Cape Fynbos. The main vegetation type is endangered Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos, a fire adapted vegetation, and evidence suggests that in the absence of regular fires all but the drier fynbos would become dominated by trees.
Fact 8: The most common mammal on the mountain is the dassie (the South African name, from Afrikaans, pronounced “dussy”), or rock hyrax. They look so fluffy and cute, I would love to hug one of them.
Visitors to Table Mountain can enjoy wonderful views of the Rock Hyrax (Dassie) scuttling along the rocks, lizards sunning themselves, butterflies flitting past and you might even be lucky enough to spot a porcupine digging for bulbs.
The bird life is wonderful too, from the large Verreaux Eagles to the small colourful sunbirds.
Fact 9: Do the right thing for the planet – take the bus! Belive me parking can sometimes be hard to find on busy days, and you can end up more than 1km away. We were so glad that we took the bus up. We actually took the City Sightseeing’s Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, a service that runs every 20 minutes and got to stop at a number of other tourist attractions on our way back to our hotel. You can also purchase your Cable Car Tickets directly from the City Sightseeing Bus drivers. Saving you from standing an extra hour in a long line to buy a ticket.
Fact 10: No visit to Cape Town is complete without visiting this iconic landmark.