The Majestic Table Mountain stands proud, overlooking the city of Cape Town, in South Africa and is also featured in the official flag as well as other local insignia. The mountain forms a part of the Table Mountain National Park which makes it a major tourist attraction.
The flat top of the mountain was the reason behind its name. The view from the top of Table Mountain has been described as one of the most epic views in Africa and so it forms a prominent landmark overlooking the city.
The most spectacular feature of the Table Mountain, is its level plataeu measuring approximately 3 km from side to side and is surrounded by impressive cliffs. This picturesque mountain accompanied with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, on either sides, forms a dramatic backdrop to the city of Cape Town.
The Higest point on the Table Mountain is the eastern end of the plateau which is marked by Maclear’s Beacon, a stone cairn (a heap of stones) built for trigonometrical survey. This point is 3,563 ft. above the sea level.
Local legend attributes the phemenon of the formation of the Orrographic clouds, on the flat top of the mountain called ‘Table Cloth’, as a smoking competetion between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks. As soon as the table cloth comes into view, it symbolises the contest. The Table Mountain is at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range that forms the back bone of the Cape Peninsula.
Table Mountain Sandstone is found in abundance on the upper part of the mountain Mesa (an American English term for ‘table land’ and a Spanish & Portuguese word for ‘table’, is an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually cliffs). The Table Mountain Sandstone is highly resistent to errosion and forms characteristic steep ridges.
The mountain is very rich and diverse as far as the biodiversity is concerened. But the vegetation is dominated by several endangered types of unique and rich Cape Shruberies and so the mountains’ vegetation type forms a part of the Cape Floral Region protected areas. These areas consist of about 2,200 species of plants and have been given the status of World Heritage Sites. The Table Mountain Range has the higest concentration of threatened species of any continental area of the same size as it in the world. Much of the indegenious forests have been felled and replaced with commercial plantations. The exposed slopes get rejuvenated due to the mountains’ seasonal natural wildfire cycles.
The mountain is inhabitted commonly by the Dassie, a small thickset herbivorous mammal, measuring between 30cm to 70cm, with a short tail. They are actually related to Elephants rather than rodents and are also called Rock Hyrax. Apart from Hyraxes, there are Porcupines, Mongooses, Snakes and Tortoises, that find a home on the Table Mountain.
Cableway- the Table Mountain cable is situated on the top of the mountain and is one of the most popular tourist attractions, attracting around 800,000 people using the cableway. The cable is used to take the tourists from lower cable station on Tafellberg road, which is about 302 m above the sea level to the plateau top of the mountain. The station located on top of the mountain offers a splendid view of the city of Cape Town, the Table Bay ( a bay on the Atlantic ocean, got its name because it is dominated by the flat topped Table Mountain) & Robben Islands (an oval shaped island on the Table Bay) and the Atlantic Seaboard.
The Adventures to indulge in..
Hiking tales of the Table Mountain- the Table Mountain offers various hiking trails of varying difficulty , which are enjoyed mostly by the locals and the tourists of course. Since the peak is surrounded by steep cliffs, direct assents from the city side are limited. Although Platteklip Gorge, a prominent gorge up the center of the main table, is a popular and straightforward direct ascent to the peak. The course takes between 1-3 hours to complete depending upon one’s fitness level. There are various other tracks and courses to reach the peak, which include the routes going via the Black Table ( a lower area of the Table Mountain), Skeleton Gorge, Bridle Path also called the Jeep Track, the Nursery Revine etc. The most popular ascent, is Kasteelsport which is situated on the Atlantic side, is a gorge overlooking the Camps Bay (a prosperous suburb of Cape Town), but the track most preferred by the walkers is the Pipe Track.
The four Table Mountain hiking trails by the names, People’s Trail, Table Mountain Trail, Orangekloof Hiking Trail and Top To Tip Trail, form the Hoerikwaggo trails. These trails range from two to six days and are successfully operated by South African National Parks.
Climbing rocks up the Mountain- rock climbing on the Table Mountain serves as a very popular pass time. One finds numerous well documented climbing routes that vary in the level of difficulty, up the many faces of the mountain. The main climbs are located on the cliffs below the cable station. Since no Bolting is allowed, one has to resort to traditional climbing only.
In the Caves- Table Mountain is an exception since it has several large cave systems that have developed in Sandstone, while most of the world’s important caves occure in Limestone. Among all the cave systems the Wynberg Caves are the biggest. These caves are loacted on the Black Table, near the Jeep Track, over looking the Orangekloof ( an area of the Table Mountain National Park, it is a conservation area which is highly restricted) and Hout Bay (a town situated near Cape Town).
Mountain Biking- the slopes of the Table Mountain offer a number of jeep tracks which are utilised for mountain biking. the route to the Block House is a popularly used biking track. The mountain has a very steep jeep track by the name of Plum Pudding. To be on the right track and safe, bike riders should follow the directional signs on display for mountain bike riders.
The Mensa Constellation
Table Mountain is the only earthly feature to give its name to a constellation. Mensa (meaning table) constellation is seen below the Orion, around mid night in mid July. It was christened thus by a French astronomer during his stay at the Cape, in the mid 18th century.
If you are an adventure lover and are in search of thrill to quench your thirst for adventure, then the Table Mountain, South Africa, is where your search shall find its destination. Do visit.