Rising above Cape Town, Table Mountain is one of the world’s 7 Natural Wonders and South Africa’s most iconic landmark. The stunning flat-topped mountain is home to the widest variety of flowers and other plant life in the world and, in fact, contains more species of plants than exist in the entire British Isles – despite being smaller than London.
Standing at 1,085 metres above sea level, many opt to take the 5 minute cable car trip to the top, although more ambitious hikers will be well rewarded by making a day of it and walking up. Once on top, you’ll be able to soak up panoramic 360 degree views of Cape Town, Table Bay and the rest of the surrounding peaks. You will also find that the top of Table Mountain is anything but flat! Ocean and beaches on one side; Lion’s Head and skyscrapers on the other; Robben Island in the distance. You’ll also see plenty of unique plant life that make up the Cape’s distinctive fynbos vegetation, and one thing not to miss: a glimpse of a dassie—a cute, furry, rodent-like creature that you’ll find scampering along the edges.
You can walk around the top on your own and there are 3 trails or join a free 30-minute guided walk from 9 to 3, to learn more.
Take water and your own picnic or snacks (pad kos). Otherwise, you can find something passable to eat on top. Afternoons on the mountain are quieter and visibility permitting, sunsets are a bonus. The famous table cloth of cloud can cover the mountain at any time, so check weather conditions first as well as the cable car schedules.
Queues are lengthy so we suggest you buy your cable car ticket before you go: buy your tickets online. You will still need to queue to get on the cable car.
More detail. The level plateau on top is approximately three kilometres (2 mi) from side to side, edged by steep 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. This broad sweep of mountainous heights, together with Signal Hill, forms the natural amphitheatre of the city bowl and Table Bay Harbour harbour. The highest point on Table Mountain is towards the eastern end of the plateau and is marked by Macl, a stone cairn built in 1865 by Sir Thomas Maclear for trigonometrical survey. It is 1,086 metres (3,563 ft) above sea level, and about 19 metres (62 ft) higher than the upper cable station at the western end of the plateau.
The flat top of the mountain is often covered by clouds, formed when a southeasterly 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. When the table cloth is seen, it symbolizes the contest.
Table Mountain is at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range that forms the spine of the Cape Peninsula that terminates approximately 50 kilometres (30 mi) to the south at the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Immediately to the south of Table Mountain is a rugged “plateau” at a somewhat lower elevation than the Table Mountain Plateau (at about 1,000 m or 3,300 ft), called the “Back Table”. The “Back Table” extends southwards for approximately 6 km to the Constantia Nek–Hout Bay valley. The Atlantic side of the Back Table is known as the Twelve Apostles, which extends from Kloof Nek (the saddle between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head) to Hout Bay. The eastern side of this portion of the Peninsula’s mountain chain, extending from Devil’s Peak, the eastern side of Table Mountain (Erica and Fernwood Buttresses), and the Back Table to Constantia Nek, does not have a single name, as on the western side. It is better known by the names of the conservation areas on its lower slopes: Groote Schuur Estate, Newlands Forest, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cecilia Park, and Constantia Nek.
History: At about 360 million years old, Table Mountain is eons older than the Himalayas and the Rockies.
Around 300 million years ago the mountain was still at sea level during an ice age, ice sheets flattened the layers of sandstone creating the flat surface that today we call the ‘Table Top’. When the continents split apart, stresses and pressures built up in the earth’s crust. If the rocks of Table Mountain had been made only of sandstone they would have folded under the pressure, but the granite gave it strength, deflecting the forces down. Slowly this process forced the layers of rock to rise, slowly becoming the kilometre high mountain we know today.
Table Mountain has been constantly eroded by the action of wind, fire, ice and water. The flat face of the mountain is a cliff face, caused by the action of waves when the sea lapped against it. On the mountain you can find strangely shaped rocks and deep ravines caused by millions of years of erosion and even glacial scrapings. The highest point on Table Mountain, Macclears Beacon is made up of the ‘Pakhuis’ formation of sandstone pebbles deposited by glacial action.
Table Mountain got its name because of its resemblance to a table. In 1503, a Portuguese explorer, Antonio de Saldanha was the first recorded man to hike up Table Mountain and did so via Platterklip Gorge, (“Flat Stone Gorge”), where the cliffs of the main plateau are split. He named it Taboa do Cabo, meaning “table of the Cape”. Almost 100 years later, Dutch explorer Joris van Spilbergen separately named the bay at the foot of the mountain Tafel Baay. The mountain then became known as Tafelberg (Table Mountain) to the Dutch, who were the first Europeans to settle in the Cape in 1652.
For information on Hiking up the mountain, please click here https://www.thesaunter.co.za/listing/table-mountain-hiking/
Cable car tickets : 1 October 2023 – 30 September 2024:
Return: R420 (adult), R210 (child)
One way: R240 (adult), R130 (child)
Senior citizen: R120 (return); R70 (one way)
Student: R250 (return); R150 (one way)
Fast Track: R950 (return); R550 (one way)