Table Mountain is easily Cape Town’s most defining characteristic and one of the most recognisable landmarks in South Africa.
Not only is Cape Town’s beloved mountain the centre-point of a million photographs, it also supports a unique and threatened biome, is the only geological feature in the world to have a constellation named after it and, since 2011, one of the ‘7 New Wonders of Nature’.
Table Mountain dominates Cape Town’s skyline, and the flat top of the mountain extends for three kilometers. It looks completely flat, but one side is slightly higher than the other at 1086m above sea level. The mountain is flanked by two other well-known peaks, ‘Devil’s Peak’ and ‘Lion’s Head’.
A sight as famous as the mountain itself, a perfectly neat ‘Table Cloth’ of cloud often covers Table Mountain. This occurs when a south-easterly wind pushes cold air up the steep slopes of the mountain from the sea. When the cold, moist air meets the even colder air near the top, the moisture condenses to form ‘orographic clouds’.
The mountain and surrounding slopes are all incorporated into Table Mountain National Park. This Reserve protects the delicate, largely endemic, highly bio-diverse and threatened Cape Fynbos biomes of Table Mountain as well as the surrounding peaks and foothills at the tip of the Cape Pensinsula.
Table Mountain National Park is part of the Cape Floral Region, all areas of which are collectively designated a World Heritage Site, boasting the greatest floral plant diversity in the world. There are over 2,200 fynbos species endemic to the Table Mountain National Park alone.
The Table Mountain Cableway offers a thrilling ascent to the plateau, where you can enjoy incredible views over Cape Town, Table Bay, Robben Island and the western and southern Atlantic Seaboard. There is a curio shop at the plateau Cableway Station, as well as a restaurant and the start to a number of marked walking trails along the top of the mountain which can be enjoyed by the whole family.
There are no large animals on the mountain, though both lion and leopard were once found there. Rooikat (African Caracal) are occasionally spotted by hikers, but sightings are very rare. Besides small ‘klipsringer’ (stone jumper) deer, the fauna on the mountain consists mostly of rock hyraxes (a kind of rabbit sized animal called a ‘dassie’), mongoose, porcupines and tortoises.
Activities that can be enjoyed on Table Mountain and the surrounding slopes include hiking, rock climbing and caving in the sandstone cave system of the ‘Back Table’. There are several hiking trails that will take you to the top of the mountain, including the Platteklip Trail up via Platteklip Gorge (Flat Stone Gorge) – a split in the middle of the mountain that permits access on foot up the steep cliffs.
Cape Town wouldn’t be the same without Table Mountain. It is as much a part of the city and the buildings themselves, and Capetonian’s are very proud and protective over ‘their mountain’. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy Table Mountain with its panoramic views, hikes and walks, but there are very strict rules regarding the use of open flame (no lighting up a smoke), rubbish and the protection of a number highly endangered plant species found nowhere else in the world.
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