Summit a natural world wonder

Tuesday, 15 December 2020 08:00 AM

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world, Table Mountain is a spectacle to behold. Towering 1 080m above sea level, this majestic mountain range is teeming with an abundance of flora and fauna – so much so that it is recognised as the world’s richest, yet smallest, floral kingdom. Table Mountain’s peak is a tabletop-like plateau that spans three kilometres, offering its visitors a host of incredible walks, trails, and viewpoints that afford sweeping vistas of the Mother City’s bowl and beyond. 

 

Named Taboa do Cabo meaning “Table of the Cape” by Antonia de Saldahna back in 1503, Table Mountain is flanked on either side by her famed sister summits, Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak. The former is South Africa’s most summited peak, while the latter makes for the perfect place to watch the sun set into the Atlantic Ocean. Legend has it that the thick tablecloth-like cover of clouds that can often be seen blanketing Table Mountain’s peak is the product of a retired seaman, named Jan van Hunks, and the devil himself having a tobacco-smoking showdown; it’s truly a captivating sight. From its almost dizzying height, it’s hard to believe that Table Mountain’s magnificently flat top was once the level bottom of a valley.

 

Even those who know nothing about plants will be able to appreciate the rich abundance of biodiversity that covers its surface. Spanning 57 square kilometres, Table Mountain and the Back Table play host to over 1 470 floral species, many of which can only be found here. At one time, leopards used to live in the mountains but now, if you’re lucky, you might spot a rooikat or caracal. There is little shortage of the strangely elephant-related dassie or rock hyrax. Walk slowly, keep your eyes peeled and you can also see porcupines, mongooses, snakes, tortoises, and Table Mountain’s elusive Ghost Frogs.

 

Hikers will be thrilled by the host of exquisite hiking and walking trails on Table Mountain. Get the blood pumping on the ever-popular Platteklip Gorge, a steep ascent up a prominent gorge that cuts up the centre of the main table. For the more advanced seeking something a little trickier, try your foot at India Venster – a hike that requires a reasonable amount of all-limb climbing. Or, take the easiest route, Kasteelpoort, a relatively relaxing trail brimming with undiluted views of the picturesque Camps Bay. A must-do, Skeleton Gorge is a semi-challenging hike that delivers you to a secret “beach” and its own swimmable lake. 

 

The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

If you aren’t game for any climbing at all, you’re in luck, because there is another epic way to the top. The Cableway is an activity that makes this iconic Cape Town sight even more attractive, so much so that it has had 24 million visitors since its opening back in 1929! The state-of-the-art cable ride takes 65-passengers on a five-minute ride from the lower cable station at the foot of the mountain to Table Mountain’s summit. Rotating 360 degrees during ascent and descent, this fleeting ride affords views so unrivalled of the incredible mountain and the Mother City below that you’re sure to have your face up against the glass the entire way. The Cableway departs every 10 to 15 minutes, but you should expect to spend a fair amount of time standing in line during peak season, occurring between December and February. Either way, it’s well worth the wait.

 

The Cableway won’t operate during high winds or low visibility, so make sure to check the official website or call to ensure it's operating before you go. It’s also closed for an annual maintenance period sometime between July and August. There are many specials geared that benefit South African citizens so make sure to bring along your South African ID, should you wish to take advantage of them. These include a free return ticket for your birthday, a senior citizen special, a student special, and kidz season tickets, to name a few. Visit their website to find out more about these specials.

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