A Hiker's Dream City
Towering 1088 meters over Cape Town, and around 500 million years in the making, Table Mountain is a playground for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Once an island, now boasting more plant species per square kilometer than a tropical jungle, this flat-topped monolith begs exploration. Trails run the length and breadth of the mountain, offering exceptional hiking for all levels of experience and fitness. Whether you’re looking for adventure or solitude, nature or views, a hike up Table Mountain is not to be missed.
Hike One Of Nature's Seven Natural Wonders
Table Mountain's triple status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Park and a World 7 Wonder of Nature is amply justified. Add to that the distinction of being the only natural feature on Earth with a constellation named after it – Mons Mensa, Latin for Table Mountain – and it becomes clear what a treasure Table Mountain really is. and is the most accessible of these natural sites, being less than a 30-minute drive from Cape Town International Airport. Cape Town’s city centre sits right at the foot of Table Mountain, meaning hikers can get from their hotel to the start of their route within a few minutes. The mountain has several hundred routes to choose from, which can take anything from an hour to eight hours to complete. If you don't feel like walking back down, you can always use the Table Mountain Cableway.
The most popular route is Platteklip Gorge, which starts from the lower cableway station, where there is ample parking and numerous public transport options. For a more gradual ascent to the top, the Skeleton Gorge route from the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden offers a superb range of scenery.
Taming The Beast
Please note: Table Mountain is not to be trifled with. For all its beauty and grandeur, it is not without danger and claims several lives each year. Some fall victim to its erratic weather, others to the harsh terrain. Many more hurt themselves or go through all manner of ordeals before making their way to safety – or getting baled out by Mountain Rescue. Most people grossly underestimate the mountain, thinking it to be tame – a misconception grounded in the mountain’s proximity to a city. The reality is that Table Mountain is much bigger and higher than it looks, and the terrain more broken and treacherous than it might suggest at first glance. Many of the trails that crisscross the mountain lead to and across sheer cliffs, places the average hiker does not want to go. These trails are mostly trodden by climbers in their approach to a climbing route, and can easily snare the unwary. Another factor that impacts on mountain safety is the weather. Table Mountain generates a microclimate that is notoriously unpredictable and capricious. Many hikers have been caught out by cloud that engulfs the mountain in minutes, making navigation a nightmare. Conditions on the summit can turn hostile very quickly.
Just over an hour’s drive from the city centre takes you to Cape Point, the most southwesterly tip of Africa. The area offers a variety of short walks, all with excellent views.
One of the local experts you can book hiking tours through is Riaan Vorster of Hike Table Mountain, who comes highly rated by those who’ve walked with him. The first 60 reviews about his tours on TripAdvisor all rated them as “excellent”, with many positive comments being posted.
A TripAdvisor contributor, teschbacher of New Jersey in the United States, wrote the following on July 12, 2012: “As a long-time reader of TripAdvisor, it was our climb with Riaan that catalysed me to finally becoming a contributor. Despite teasing him about the need to have some non-five-star reviews, no guide or excursion has been more deserving of such acclaim.”
Be Mountain Safe - Mountain Safety Tips
• Do not plan on hiking during or after bad weather as the rocks on the mountain get very slippery in wet weather and this is dangerous
• Watch the weather while hiking - don't push on in bad weather. Find shelter from the wind and rain
• Do not hike alone – the ideal party size is four; travel at the pace of the slowest member
• Always inform someone at your hotel or in your family of your intended route and your expected time of return
• The use of a qualified mountain guide is highly recommended should one wish to explore Table Mountain on foot. Find one of our qualified guides here.
• Alternatively, make sure to take an up to date contour map, comfortable walking shoes, a few friends, a cellular phone, sun block, and something warm as the weather on the mountain can change very rapidly
• On Table Mountain National Park, Skeleton Gorge & Nursery Ravine are dangerous and slippery routes when it rains. These are both routes for water to flow off the mountain
• When hiking Table Mountain, key 021 480 7700 into your cellular telephone before you begin your hike so that an emergency number is always on hand
• Keep to well used paths and do not descend unknown ravines or cliffs
• If you feel you have lost your way, do not forge ahead but rather return along the path you came
• Carry adequate water (especially in summer) and food to replace energy
• Chacma Baboons can be dangerous - do not approach them or feed them as they may attack humans. Do not eat in front of them. Do not let them sit on your car near an open window as they will attempt to enter your car and never feed them
• Stand very still on the sighting of a snake - they will usually go on their way and are not generally aggressive
• Be sure to leave the mountain before dark
• Please be mindful that Cape Town’s festive season coincides with the Cape’s long, dry summer season i.e. please make sure that cigarette butts and/ or fires are put out properly before leaving the area, and please exercise caution when taking an action that could result in the ignition of a fire
For centuries, mankind has looked upon climbing, hiking and scaling Table Mountain, our wonder of nature as the ultimate challenges – until the discovery of the exhilarating activity, Abseiling, that is!
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