Table Mountain: A New Natural Wonder

The Table Mountain Cableway. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

Table Mountain might be one of the New7Wonders of Nature, but its wonders are not new to Capetonians, who have been enjoying the majestic mountain’s unique beauty for centuries. Likewise, there aren’t many visitors to the city who don’t get to the top, whether on foot or on the Cableway.

The mountain took the accolade for many reasons other than its iconic beauty. More than 1500 plant species, and numerous fauna species, are contained in the unique Table Mountain National Park. Its forested lower slopes with clear mountain streams and scenic paths offer an instant escape from city life: tranquil walking trails, adventure play in nature for kids, cycling routes in conservancy areas such as Tokai Forest, and leafy picnic areas in Newlands Forest.

A trip up Table Mountain is a must-do for every visitor to Cape Town. Views at the top are superb, and you can also follow one of the marked one-hour walking routes on the “table top”, before heading to Table Mountain Café for a buffet breakfast or snack lunch. The more energetic can follow the three-hour round trail at the top to the highest point of the mountain, Maclear’s Beacon.

A favourite Cape Town indulgence in summer is a late afternoon ride to the top of the mountain for sundowners – look out for the half-price sunset special tickets available in the summer months. At the top of the mountain it can be quite chilly and you should take extra warm clothes with you, even on a sunny day.

You can see for miles at the top. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

Save time and money by booking your Cableway tickets online, so that you can skip the queue and receive a 10% discount. Or obtain a Go Cape Town card, a passport to the city that allows the holder a visit to each of the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Table Mountain Cableway, and an outing on the City Sightseeing Bus, again avoiding queues and saving money. 

Another option of reaching the mountain top is to follow in the footsteps of early visitors to Cape Town in the 1700s, and hike up via Platteklip Gorge when it’s cooler in the morning. It’s a steep but uncomplicated trail taking one to three hours depending on pace and fitness. In the 18th century, slaves bearing laden picnic hampers would have accompanied tours, but today’s hikers have the convenience of breakfast at the café and taking the Cableway down to save tired muscles. Remember the cardinal rules of hiking on the mountain – go in a group, always take a map and plenty of water, and let someone know your planned route.

There are plenty of spectacular hiking routes up and down the mountain, including one from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. For these longer trails, unless you have an experienced local in your party book a guide who knows the mountain well, as the terrain is rugged and the weather can change suddenly on the higher slopes if, as regularly happens, the famous “table cloth” of cloud envelops the mountain top.

Gentler hiking trails can be found in Silvermine Nature Reserve, where you can enjoy the varied fynbos of the Cape Floral Kingdom without too much exertion.

To immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Table Mountain National Park, book a guided hike on one of the Hoerikwaggo trails. Several trail options, lasting from two to five days, lead along a dramatic route that stretches from Signal Hill to Cape Point. Gear is transported for you between the comfortable eco-friendly tented camps, so you carry only your day-pack as you enjoy the spectacular scenery of this unique mountain environment, known by the Khoisan people as the ‘Mountain of the Sea’.

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