Table Mountain is one of the most well-known mountains in Africa, offering a magnificent backdrop to the city of Cape Town in South Africa.
Renowned for the sheet of clouds that pours incessantly down its slopes, the mountain provides mountain climbers a wide range of routes.
Table Mountain adventures depend on your preference; you choose whether you want to reach the peak and enjoy spectacular views of Cape Town or simply move around the cool shade of indigenous forest. But no matter your choice, you will never be disappointed.
Hiking on Table Mountain is a preferred activity among locals and tourists and several trails of varying difficulty are available. Steep cliffs around the summit limit the number of direct ascents from the city side. There is a prominent gorge up the centre of the main table known as Platteklip Gorge, which offers straight forward ascent to the summit. This usually takes between 1-3 hours depending on one's fitness level.
Longer routes to the summit go through the Back Table, a lower area of Table Mountain placed to the south of the main plateau. From the Southern Suburbs side, the Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine routes begin at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
The route via Skeleton Gorge to Maclears Beacon is referred to as Smuts Track in honour of the late Jan Smuts, who was a keen hiker. The Bridle Path, also known as Jeep Track, makes a less steeper ascent from Constantia Nek along the road used to service the dams on Back Table. Kasteelspoort, a gorge overlooking Camps Bay, is the most popular ascent on the Atlantic side.
Rock climbing on Table Mountain is also a popular activity for most people who undertake a holiday in Cape Town. There are well-documented climbing routes of varying degrees of difficulty up the many faces of the mountain. The main climbs are placed on cliffs below the upper cable station. No bolting can be done here and only traditional climbing is allowed. Commercial groups also offer abseiling from the upper cable station.
Those who don't have the muscle-power or hiking skills can also reach the summit without breaking a sweat, thanks to the Aerial Cable Car that revolves its way to the top.Going up the mountain along the 1200m cableway is really an experience. The cable car's rotating floors ensures that each of the 65 passengers get a 360 degree view of Cape Town Peninsula, Robben Island and the Table Bay.
Upon arriving at the summit, you can stroll along 2 km of well-maintained pathways while enjoying panoramic views of the neighbourhoods from over 12 viewing sites and decks. The waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans swirl in front of you and the white ribbon beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay spread out below. All of a sudden Cape Town's unpredictable weather brings about a beautiful blanket of white cloud - the famed Table Cloth - tumbling over the side of the mountain like a waterfall.
Strolling around the 3km wide mountain top that rises up to 1085m at Maclears Beacon - the mountain's highest point - makes you feel like an eagle soaring up the skies. All along the pathways, you will find some of the 1470 or so species of plants hosted by the mountain. And if you are lucky enough you may as well spot one of the rare but famous Table Mountain Ghost Frog found nowhere else in the world.
The cableway, run by the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Co. Ltd., opened its doors to the first visitors on 4 October 1929. The opening ceremony led by the then mayor of Cape Town attracted 200 guests. Since then over 19 million passengers have ridden the cableway to the top of the mountain. Around 800 000 visitors use the cableway to reach the top of the mountain annually.
Over the years the cableway has carried some of Cape Town's most illustrious visitors including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Andrew, Margaret Thatcher, Oprah Winfrey, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tina Turner among many others.
To board a cable car you need to drive to the lower cable station situated at the base of the mountain. Once you reach the station you will find taxis and cars lined up as far as the eye can see. Driving past the station further along Tafelberg Road takes you into the Table Mountain National Park with even more astonishing views of the city. Driving further along the road will take you to Devilspeak (the pyramid shaped eastern corner of the mountain); the perfect spot to park your car before turning back to the station.
The cable way is open daily from 8:30am - sunset, with the best time to go up in the afternoon when the sunset colours are spectacular. The cableway operators, however, do not take bookings due to the fact that the operation of the cable cars is weather dependent. Operation is stopped if it is rainy or the mountain is too overcast.