Cape Town's Table Mountain
World Heritage Site
One of the first things to see when visiting Cape Town in South Africa is Table Mountain. It dominates the scene, but it is so much more than that. This amazing mountain is a World Heritage Site. It is the home of a wide variety of flora and fauna, a number of which are endangered and are heading towards extinction.
For Australians the area is especially interesting as aeons ago Australia and South Africa were joined in the southernmost of two supercontinents, Gondwana. Many of our flora and fauna are related, including the Proteaceae found in South Africa, Australia and South America. The South African versions are the Proteas, while the Australian are the Waratahs.
Table Mountain is impressive from the ground, as it is reputed to be a kilometre high, but it is also amazing from the top. There are hiking trails and it can be climbed or reached by the famous Table Mountain Aerial Cableway that was first opened in 1929. Either approach gives wonderful views.
Table Mountain Flora
Flora on and around Table Mountain is known as fynbos, an Afrikaans word that means 'delicate bush.' Much of the vegetation is scrubby and sparse, but over 1,500 plant species have been recorded including a hundred species of iris and five hundred of erica; geraniums and fresias originated in the fynbos. Some species date back over sixty million years and a number are endangered.
There is a dilemma for those who care for the flora of the area, as many of the plants need fire to promote healthy growth, but too much kills the plants and seeds, causing extinction.
Table Mountain Fauna
The animals, birds and butterflies on or around the Mountain are quite diverse. They used to be more so: lions, spotted cats, hyenas, bontebok, and even hippos down at the foot of the mountains, no longer roam there.
Animals: We saw an eland and glimpsed a grey mongoose and Cape Mountain zebra in the distance as we hiked back down the Mountain. There are also small antelopes, grysbok, duiker, grey rhebok and steenbok, the nocturnal porcupine, the largest rodent in Africa, the Tahr, a goat-like creature from India (long ago they escaped from the zoo), the Cape fox, the genet, the caracal and the lynx.
We watched the Rock Hyrax jumping nimbly and speedily among the rocks, looking rather like rabbits. However, these furry creatures have hooves and are related to the elephant. Their damp feet have special pads like suction-cups that help them climb quickly. They live in groups of up to fifty. A more solitary tree hyrax is the only hoofed mammal in the world that lives in trees.
Other animals are the endangered frogs, such as the chirping frog and the rare ghost frog, tortoises, the Cape skink and lizards; the most common is the Southern rock agama. Interestingly, in the breeding season the male's head turns blue.
We did not meet any snakes, perhaps because we stamped as we walked to warn them as they like to sunbathe on the tracks. The Mountain has over twenty species; twelve are venomous and five especially dangerous. They include the Cape Cobra and the puff adder.
Birds: Birds to spot range from raptors like the peregrine falcon, black eagle and jackal buzzard, to tiny, brilliantly coloured sunbirds. In between there are wood-peckers, bullbul, flycatchers, cinnamon doves and red winged starlings that nest in nooks on cliff faces.
Table Mountain is renowned for its 'Tablecloth.' I'm not sure if its arrival can be predicted, but if hiking in a distant area on the Mountain, it is worth watching for. This cloud can descend surprisingly quickly, wrapping the whole mountain in a thick, damp mist that reduces visibility and is quite disorienting.
However, when viewed from below or from a ship or tour boat out in the harbour, the Tablecloth is a thing of beauty. Thick, white cloud descends on the Mountain and then seems to flow continually over the edge like a waterfall that, as it becomes lower, mysteriously disappears.
The Tablecloth, when it occurs at sunset, turns pink and is truly spectacular.
Table Mountain Views
There are wonderful panoramic views. It's a photographer's paradise, both when riding up the Aerial Cableway and when walking. There are free Guided Tours at ten a.m. and later, too. They depart from a sign-posted meeting point outside the Top Station building and are a great introduction to the area.
Other facilities include a café and a souvenir shop, while the more active can even abseil down. We chose to walk and experience more of the Mountain. There are walking tracks for both experienced and novice walkers and we enjoyed the walk and the views.
Places to Visit Around the World
- Out and About in Cape Town
Table Mountain is the famous place to see in Cape Town, but there are many other interesting places to visit in the town and in the nearby environment. As well as the places, buildings, activities, there is wildlife and a great variety of food.
- A Visit to Beautiful Orchid Island
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- Windows in Taiwan
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- Papuan Island Celebrations
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- Volunteering in PNG - Fifty Years On (A Poem)
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- Cruising in Prince William Sound, Alaska
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- Fascinating New Zealand Kauri Trees
Visitors to New Zealand will be delighted with the Kauri forest and the Northland Heritage Museum. The uses of both the timber and the Kauri Resin, or fossilized gum, are surprisingly varied and most interesting. Both places are well worth a visit.
- A Visit to Kuching on the Island of Borneo
After a brief stay in the Malaysian State of Sarawak we fell in love with the place, the sights and the friendly people. With its climate that ranges from tropical in Kuching to cool in the mountain rain-forests it is a delight to visit.
- Shanghai Museum: A Glimpse of Ceramics Products Through the Centuries
In this second part of 'Wonderful Ceramics in Shanghai Museum', we look at some products of the industry through the ages, including the portrayal of animals, such as dogs, horses and camels, funerary figures, shapes, decorations and pottery carving.
- Shanghai Museum: Ceramics, Kilns and Production Methods