Often described as magical and mystical, Table Mountain is Cape
Town's most prominent feature and a world famous landmark. This
majestic mountain is visible from almost everywhere in Cape Town
and is often used as a beacon by which to find direction. People who love mountain holidays will enjoy getting to the top of this iconic feature.
The mountain is sculpted from sandstone and rises
1086 metres at its highest point, Maclears Beacon, above the bay.
Its flat summit measures nearly 3km and provides breathtaking views
over the city and its beaches. The panorama stretches from Table
Bay to False Bay and around the mountain to the Hout Bay Valley
and Kommetjie. On a clear day one has a magnificent view across
the Cape Flats to the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
Table Mountain is home to a rich fauna and flora,
many species of which are endemic and survive only in the unique
ecosystem which is contained on the mountain. There are approximately
1470 species of plants, including over 250 different species of
daisies! Examples of endemic plants are the rare Silver Tree and
the wild orchid Disa Uniflora. Animals such as baboons and porcupines
live here freely, as well as furry rodents called Rock Dassies.
These little creatures look like plump rabbits without ears - incredibly,
their closest living relative is the elephant! The Table Mountain
Ghost Frog is an example of an animal found in no other place on
The exhilerating ascent of Table Mountain in the
cable car is a definite must for any visitor. Even the locals are
awed time and again by the 360º view of Cape Town from the
cable car. The cable car was first opened in 1929 and today conveys
some 600,000 people to the summit annually. On the summit there
is a restaurant and a souvenir shop, from which letters bearing
the Table Mountain postmark can be sent. Short walks from the cable
station take visitors through the splendour of the flora of Table
Mountain, punctuated by occasional sightings of dassies and framed
by the surrounding azure of the Atlantic Ocean.
For those athletic and energetic types, there are
some 350 recognised paths to the summit, some undemanding and suitable
for children, and some extremely difficult. It is not advisable
that visitors climb the mountain without an experienced guide. The
mountain can be deceptive and it is strongly recommended that visitors
contact the Mountain Club of South Africa on 021-4653412 before
embarking on a hike or climb.
Table Mountain is flanked on the east by the legendary
Devil's Peak. As the story goes Van Hunks, a pirate in the early
18th century, retired from his eventful life at sea to live on the
slopes of Devil's Peak. He spent his days sitting on the mountain,
smoking his pipe. One day a stranger approached him, and a smoking
contest ensued which lasted for days. The smoke clouds built up
and a strong wind blew them down towards the town. When Van Hunks
finally won the contest, the stranger revealed himself to be the
Devil (hence Devil's Peak), and the two disappeared in a puff of
smoke. Legend says that the cloud of smoke they left became Table
Mountain's tablecloth - the famous white cloud that spills over
the mountain when the south-easter blows in summer.
Of course, the phenomenon is also supported by
a meteorological explanation. The moisture-laden south-easter blows
against Table Mountain from over the False Bay and rises. At a height
of approximately 900 meters the winds reach the colder layers of
air and thick clouds form. These clouds roll over the mountain and
down towards the City Bowl. The characteristic tablecloth forms
when the clouds reach the warmer, lower air layers and dissolve
To the right of Table Mountain, Kloof Nek is linked
to the aptly named Lion's Head. The spiral walk up Lion's Head passes
through silver trees and spring flowers, and provides a 360º
view of the Cape Peninsula as you go round the mountain. The walk
is not terribly challenging, and is a popular family outing. At
the top, you are rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view, and
birds scramble for the crumbs left behind by numerous picnic baskets.
Lion's Head in turn is connected by a lion's body
to the rump known as Signal Hill. Signal Hill derives its name from
the time when it was used as a sephamore post for communication
with ships at sea. It is from here that the noon cannon is still
fired every day. After dark, the hill is a popular scene for couples
who enjoy the romantic sight of the sparkle of the city lights with
the backdrop of a floodlit Table Mountain.
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