Table Mountain was formed under the sea about 600million years ago and shaped by the breaking up of the continents, the moving of the glaciers formed the flat table top before the mountain was thrust upwards by tectonic forces. It has been weathered by wind and water. It is older than the Alps and believed to be at least 6 times older than the Himalayas. Table Mountain is composed of sandstone, granite and Malmesbury shale.
Table Mountain was originally named by the Khoi – Hoerikwaggo – Mountain of the Sea. Prehistoric inhabitation of the district is well attested about 2000 years ago the Khoi migrated towards the Cape Peninsula from the north, displacing the San and bringing with them their herds of cattle and sheep. It was later named Table Mountain by Antonio de Saldanha who made the first recorded ascent by a European in 1503 – he was a Portuguese sailor and needed to locate his fleet. He climbed up the Platteklip Gorge Route.
Interesting facts and figures about Table Mountain, it been a protected area for over 100 years, the first cable way was opened in October 1929. In 1796, during the British occupation of the Cape, Major-General Sir James Craig ordered three blockhouses to be built on Table Mountain: the King’s blockhouse, Duke of York blockhouse (later renamed Queen’s blockhouse) and the Prince of Wales blockhouse. Two of these are in ruins today, but the King’s blockhouse is still in good condition.
The mountain became part of the new Cape Peninsula National Park in the 1990s. The park was renamed to the Table Mountain National Park in 1998. Table Mountain National Park is a World Heritage Site and was claimed a national monument in 1998. In 2004, The Thars were declared alien species and 109 were culled. This was done in order to protect the flora on the mountain. In November 2011, Table Mountain was named one of the new seven wonders according to votes received. Table Mountain attracts 4.2 million visitors a year.
The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately 3 kilometers from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs. The plateau, flanked by Devil’s Peak to the east and by Lion’s Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town.
Table Mountain is at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range that forms the spine of the Cape Peninsula. To the south of the main plateau is a lower part of the range called the Back Table. On the Atlantic coast of the peninsula, the range is known as the Twelve Apostles. The range continues southwards to Cape Point.
Towards the eastern end of the plateau and is marked by Maclear’s Beacon, a stone cairn built in 1865 by Sir Thomas MacLean for trigonometrical survey. It is 1,086 meters (3,563 ft) above sea level, about 19 meters (62 ft) higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau. The cliffs of the main plateau are split by Platteklip Gorge (“Flat Stone Gorge”), which provides an easy and direct ascent to the summit and was the route taken by António de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain in 1503.
The flat top of the mountain is often covered by orographic clouds fondly referred to as the “Table Cloth” this is formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain’s slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called “table cloth” of cloud. Legend attributes this phenomenon to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks on devils peak, when the table cloth is seen, it symbolizes the contest.
The Cableway has been running for over 80 years and can carry 65 passengers. The recent rotating Cableway is of Swiss design has been in operation since 1997. There are only three rotating cableways in the world. The cable is 1200m.
There are various Hiking paths – most popular and direct Platteklip Gorge on North Face. Kasteelsport on the East Face and Skeleton Gorge from the famous Kirstenbosch Gardens. Highest summit Mac Clears Beacon 1086m. The best way to get down after a hike up is by taking the Rotating Cableway – providing 360 degree views.
The fynbos floral kingdom has over 1450 plant species. The major plant types are Protea, Erica and Restios. Our national flower the King Protea can be seen on Table Mountain and also Western Province flower – The Disa.
The dassie is the most common animal seen on Table Mountain – also known as the rock hyrax. The dassie is the closest living relative to the Elephant. There are no longer wolves and tigers. Very little wildlife as there is not much to graze on – mainly Dassie, lizard, porcupines, mongooses, agamas, snakes, butterflies and some bird life including sunbirds, red winged starlings and rock pigeons. Birds of prey include rock kestrel and the black eagle. There may be some remaining Thars but these have been culled. They were originally introduced by Cecil John Rhodes.
When you are on The Table Top it is very different to the quiet hike up – there is a souvenir shop, Table Mountain Café and even facilities for conferences, weddings etc. Maximum capacity is 400 people. Venue hire includes the summit lounge, twelve apostles terrace, viewing deck and the sacred circle viewing deck.
Sports and adventure are very popular on Table Mountain Running, hiking, rock climbing, kloofing and abseiling guided adventures are offered. There is also an annual race called the Crazy Table Mountain Challenge.
If you are interested in staying on the mountain after the Cable Car is closed then it is best to do the Hoerikwaggo trail. There is accommodation along the entire route including an overnight stay on Table Mountain – the good news is that they will drive your supplies to the house so you do not need to carry all of this whilst you are hiking.
The Cableway has won awards for its responsible tourism initiatives, which include resource management. 2011 Imvelo award for responsible tourism.
There are five dams on the mountain The Woodhead, Hely Hutchinson, Victoria, Alexandra and De Villiers. They still serve the city but most of Cape Town’s water comes from Dams further afield.
There are so many flower species on the mountain – It is home to nearly 20% of the continents floral species. (0.5% African soil)
From October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014
Cost of tickets – Adult – one way R105, return R205. Children R52 – one way, return R100.
24 hour emergency numbers
Fires, poaching, accidents and crime 0861 106 417
Wilderness search and rescue 021 – 948-9900
Conduct of customer:
- Stay to designated paths – do not take short cuts.
- Do not litter – keep litter with you and dispose of at the top of Table Mountain – there are bins and they have a policy of recycling and being creative with waste.
- Do not pick flowers – this is illegal in a National Park.
- Do not feed the animals even the Dassie has a ferocious bite.
- Do not smoke or light fires – wild fires cost the city and the flora and fauna dearly.