Guest post by Shelby McDaniel
In 2011, the New7Wonders Foundation announced a list of seven sites around the world that would be named the new seven natural wonders. The list included sites such as the Amazon Rainforest, the Puerto Princesa River in the Philippines and Table Mountain in South Africa.
One of the most distinctive features of the South African landscape, the flat-topped Table Mountain towers above Cape Town. Visitors from all over the world flock to Cape Town and the mountain, which offers some of the most stunning views in all of Africa.
Visiting the Mountain
No trip to Cape Town is complete without a trip to Table Mountain. As part of Table Mountain National Park, the mountain and the landscape surrounding it are protected and pristine and home to more than 1,500 species of flora and fauna. The views from the top include the ocean, mountain vistas and the city of Cape Town.
The base of the mountain is heavily wooded with shaded walking tracks winding among the trees and alongside clear streams and brooks. The Tokai Forest has a number of bicycling trails ideal for all levels of riders, and for those who simply want to escape from the city and enjoy a picnic, Newlands Park is the ideal spot, with plenty of scenic picnic areas.
More adventurous visitors can choose to go up the mountain, either on foot or via cable car. As you gain elevation, the landscape changes, with leafy forests giving way to steep cliffs and craggy rock formations. At the summit, you can take in a variety of scenic vistas from the many walking tracks. Day trippers often choose one of the shorter routes, which take around an hour to traverse, while more adventurous hikers follow the longer path, an approximately three-and-a-half-hour trip that offers more rugged terrain. The longer trail ends at Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point on the mountain.
The top of Table Mountain offers plenty of natural beauty and stunning views, but it’s not completely desolate. At the cable car terminal you’ll find a café and souvenir shop, where you can grab a bite to eat and a memento from your journey.
Getting to the Top
Cable Car: While some visitors enjoy the hike, the vast majority of visitors, especially those with kids, choose to get to the top of Table Mountain by way of the scenic cable car ride, which ascends the mountain in a rotating car in about five minutes. In fact, you can purchase a Go Cape Town tourist card, which provides a discounted round trip on the cable car as well as admission to several other sites around Cape Town.
The Cableway station is located about 15 minutes outside of the city, on Tafelberg Road. You have the option of riding the cable car round trip, or one-way; it’s not uncommon for visitors to make the three-hour hike to the top of Table Rock and then ride the car back down. Another popular option during the summer months is a sunset ride. You can even order a catered picnic dinner to enjoy at the top of the mountain as you watch the sunset. Keep in mind, though, that the cable car will stop operating in high winds, so a ride in either direction is never guaranteed.
Hiking: If you choose to hike Table Mountain in either direction, the easiest option is the track along Plattekip Gorge. The track is steep, but you can reach the summit in about an hour if you’re in good shape. There are longer tracks to the summit as well, but you should hire an experienced local guide for these hikes, as the ever-changing conditions on the mountain could prove dangerous for an inexperienced hiker.
Table Mountain is one of the most recognizable and picturesque landforms in the world. For thousands of years the mountain has served as a landmark to travellers and remains a “must-see” for people around the world. So when you’re planning your Cape Town holiday, allow time to explore this natural wonder and see Cape Town from a new perspective.
About the Author: Writer Shelby McDaniel lived in Cape Town for a brief time as a child, and her favourite activity was riding the cable car at Table Mountain. Today she calls Sydney home but often books Cheap flights to Cape Town on Expedia when she wants to return to her childhood home.