Did you know that Table Mountain in the stunningly beautiful Cape Town, South Africa, has been voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature?
Or that the Mountain has formed more than 500 million years ago? For comparison,
- The Ural is 250 – 300 mil years old,
- East Andes – 280 – 570 mil years old, and
- Himalaya only 50 – 70 mil years young.
Everything about Table Mountain is amazing and magnificent, not just the views from the Table Top, its age and forms, but also the way it watches over Cape Town and the way the weather changes only on its top but not at its foot.
Located on the outskirts of Cape Town, the oldest city in South Africa, on the Cape Peninsula, it watches over the Mother City from up to 1085 m height (Maclear’s Beacon). The mountain stretches from east at Devil’s Peak (975 m) to west at Lion’s Head (640 m). Nelson Mandela proclaimed Table Mountain a National Park in 1998.
Whether or not you’re going to Cape Town, if you’re ready to learn more astonishing facts about Table Mountain, as well as how and when to visit for the best views, read on.
How Table Mountain Was Formed
No boring data, I promise. Just the most curious facts about the mountain and how it was formed.
As mentioned above, Table Mountain might as well be one of the oldest mountains on Earth.
The base of the mountain is solid granite, which manages to support its weight. The top of the mountain is sandstone, which fortunately isn’t as heavy as granite, so the base manages to carry its burden. And it’s a lot of weight, as Table Mountain rises 1085 metres above sea level at its highest point!
Ice layers during an ice age flattened the surface, giving the mountain its distinguishable Table Top, resembling a dining table. Once Table Mountain stood was at sea level and the waves washed and flattened its cliffs.
Despite its age, Table Mountain continues to grow even today.
In 1488, the Portuguese Bartolomeu Dias and his crew, the first Europeans to sail around Cape Point, were also the first to lay eyes on Table Mountain from 200 km distance. The first registered climber of the Table Top was António de Saldanha in 1503, who was also the first European to set anchor in Table Bay.
Plants And Animals You Can Find On Table Mountain
The reason Table Mountain was chosen as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature can be easily explained with the diversity of plants found here. The Cape Floral Kingdom might be the smallest of the world’s six plant kingdoms, but it’s the richest with over 8500 species. And many of them don’t grow anywhere else on the planet!
Numerous protea flower species, including South Africa’s national flower the King Protea, blossom in late February and March. Fynbos (literary fine leaf) and ericas can also be seen everywhere around Table Mountain.
Another interesting plant is the so-called climber’s friend – a low shrub with vicious prickles but extremely strong roots, growing in impossible places such as rocks, giving the climbers a place to grab and support themselves on their way to the Table Top.
The animal, which will catch your eye and probably even make you laugh, is the rabbit-looking dassie – the unofficial mascot of Table Mountain. Despite its looks, it’s actually a hoofed mammal and a relative of the elephant. Although there is a large number of these animals on Table Mountain, we didn’t encounter one during our visit. That’s the problem with wild life, there’s no guarantee you’ll meet your mammal ;-)
Until the beginning of the 19th century, lions also roamed the slopes of Table Mountain, but the last one was shot in 1802. The last spotted leopard was back in 1920, so no chance to see one today, I’m afraid.
The Best Time To Visit Table Mountain
It’s almost always possible to hike to the top of Table Mountain. But if you don’t wish to do that, as the trail is quite difficult, your only option is the cable car. It has been taking visitors to the Table Top since 1929.
Unfortunately, weather on Table Top is quite unpredictable and strong winds often cause the cable car to be suspended. That’s why the moment you arrive in Cape Town, the first attraction you should visit is Table Mountain.
It’s best to go to Table Mountain as early as possible in the morning. Later in the afternoons and in the evenings, chances the so-called table cloth will form increase.
Legend says that the Dutch pirate Jan van Hunks built a house on the east side of Table Mountain near the Devil’s Peak. One evening, a stranger came out of nowhere as he was smoking outside. They started a silent competition who would smoke longer and create more smoke.
The table cloth formed for the first time and now each time the clouds cover Table Mountain, Capetonians say the competition between the pirate and the devil has resumed.
But in reality, when the wind from the ocean is forced to lift up by the topography of the area, it meets colder air. This causes condensation and forms non-rainy clouds with low density or thick mist.
As the mist pours over the mountain slopes, the reversed process takes place and the clouds disappear. Although it’s unlikely to rain, the clouds reduce the visibility and hikers often get lost or confused.
Activities At Table Mountain
Apart from taking the Cable Car to the Table Top, there are several hiking trails, which will get you there. There are also multi-day treks available. Don’t forget to carry enough water with you, as the paths are all under the bright sun with no sight of a shadow all the way to the top.
In fact, quite a large number of hikers collapse on the way up as they underestimate the difficulty of the hike and overestimate their abilities.
Mountain biking is also possible on numerous different trails around Table Mountain.
And if that’s not extreme enough for you, you can climb the rocks to the very top. During our visit, there was a wedding party at the Table Top, waiting for the bride. As we were going down in the cable car, we saw the bride climbing the last few metres in her climbing gear and wedding dress! Life’s going to be pretty extreme for the groom ;-)
Once on top of Table Mountain, no matter how you got there, there are easy-to-walk trails to follow around the 4 km long plateau. Despite their difficulty level, it takes quite some time to finish the full circle, as the magnificent views and the diversity of the flora leave you in such an awe that you can’t pull yourself from your spot.
You just keep wanting to feel the breeze one more moment, breath in the smell of the flowers, make one more perfect photo before continuing to the next spot. And they’re all extremely spectacular, believe me.
The first thing you’ll see, taken you’ve come up with the cable car, is the Lion’s Head. Well, actually, the back of the head. It’s not very clear who named the hill this way, but the resemblance with a lion’s head is mostly visible to those returning from a wine tasting tour in the Winelands.
Next is the magnificent view of the 12 Apostles Mountains, spreading all the way to Cape Point. At their feet, you’ll notice the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the beautiful Clifton and Camps Bay beaches.
Continue your walk, try to find some blossoming proteas and ericas or try to spot a dassie. Then, on the north side of the Table Top, take your time to watch over Cape Town. On your right, you’ll also see Devil’s Peak, given the smoking competition has taken a pause and the table cloth has lifted.
Try to spot the main attractions of the Mother City. Down under, you can’t miss the huge 60-thousand-visitors football stadium, built for the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Or Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the most visited tourist spot in whole South Africa.
Then there’s the empty spot, where District Six once stood.
You can even see the trails and some of the brave hikers, going uphill.
Once you’re ready to come down the Table Mountain, the rotating cable car will give you one more 360° panorama of the north slope and Cape Town.
Don’t Forget To Admire The Magnificent Table Mountain Once You’ve Climbed Down
Not everyone who visits Cape Town is lucky enough to reach the Table Top. Weather conditions or the table cloth might prevent you from going up.
But even if you don’t manage to see Cape Town from above, you can still view Table Mountain from almost anywhere in Cape Town.
Some of the best views are, for example, from Signal Hill, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Dolphin Beach, Table View or on board a sunset cruise.
Have you been to Cape Town? Did you manage to visit Table Mountain or did the weather prevent it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments :-)
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