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Cape Town's Table Mountain

Updated on February 7, 2013
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Bronwen has lived in, taught in and visited a number of countries and loves to share these travel experiences with others.

Table Mountain Towers Over the Street
Table Mountain Towers Over the Street | Source

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.

There are Lovely Views of the Sea from the Top
There are Lovely Views of the Sea from the Top | Source

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.

Flora at the Foot of the Mountain
Flora at the Foot of the Mountain | Source

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.

Tiny, Brightly-coloured Sunbirds Hide in the Undergrowth
Tiny, Brightly-coloured Sunbirds Hide in the Undergrowth | Source

The Tablecloth

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.

The 'Tablecloth' is Being Spread
The 'Tablecloth' is Being Spread | Source

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.

A View of the Table Top
A View of the Table Top | Source
A View From Partway Down the Mountain
A View From Partway Down the Mountain | Source

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    • BlossomSB profile image
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      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      travelholidays: Thank you so much for your comments. Well, it's colourful, but they never seem to stay still to get a really clear photo.

    • travelholidays profile image

      travelholidays 4 years ago from India

      Great listings with spectacular photographs :) I like 'Tiny, Brightly-coloured Sunbirds' this photo what an image !!!! . Thanks for sharing :)

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Lipnancy: Thank you for your lovely comments. Remembering makes it come alive again for me, too.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      What beautiful pictures. As always you make every place come alive for me.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      cartero6: It is very beautiful and South Africa has much to offer. Some younger friends hitched rides on trucks and slept goodness knows where, survived and had a great time.

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      South Africa is a def must see place for a traveler and hopefully one day I will be fortunate enough to get there...how beautiful is the tablecloth? would so love to see that, thanks for sharing your trip with us...VUAB&I, cheers

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      mours sshields: It was a very interesting place to visit.

      always exploring: Thank you for your lovely comments. It's so picturesque and great for taking photos.

      cuttler: Thank you for your comments and vote. Glad you enjoyed it.

      phoenix2327: Thank you, that is lovely. I really enjoyed our visit. South Africa in general is so wonderful for its wildlife.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Beautiful hub. The photographs alone are worth dropping in for. Coupled with the text, this hub really comes to life.

    • cuttler profile image

      Cuttler 4 years ago from HubPages

      Wonderful...I like the pictures and description to that awesome place. Voted up as awesome

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      There are so many places in the world that i haven't seen, only in pictues. The tablecloth is so beautiful. Thank you for an interesting hub. The pictures are lovely..

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      mours sshields 4 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

      Interesting. Beautiful pictures!

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      MelChi: We did have a wonderful time. You live in a beautiful place and it was a joy to be there. We learned do the stomping here to prevent nasty surprises when walking in the bush.

      bdeguilio: South Africa is certainly an interesting place to visit. Thank you for your comments.

      billybuc: It really was spectacular. I hope you can make it one day, as it is certainly a great place to visit.

      aviannovice: It is beautiful and very photogenic and the wild-life is so varied and different. It's not easy to photograph and sometimes there's a lot and sometimes not much, typically that's when you have time to sit and wait! The car broke down at one stage, but in two hours of sitting quietly I only saw two birds in the distance. At other times there are brilliantly coloured birds and exotic (to me) animals in abundance.

      cleaner3: Thank you. There is poetry in the beauty of South Africa, that's for sure. The tablecloth does refresh, too, as it's one of God's ways of bringing moisture.

    • cleaner3 profile image

      cleaner3 4 years ago from Pueblo, Colorado

      Awesomme blossom, hey that rhymes ! .. great hub , I love nature and this is all emcompassing. I love the tablecloth that the lord spreads over , it is as he wants to refresh the whole thing again.

      great hub.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This sounds like a beautiful place. Hopefully, I can get to go here one day to photograph everything that you have, and perhaps some birds and animals, too.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      How spectacular...I love the tablecloth....thank you for sharing this! Maybe some day I'll be able to see it in person.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Bronwen. I have always wanted to visit South Africa and Table Mountain. Thank you for sharing your visit to this beautiful area.

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 4 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      A stunning tribute to a breathtaking landmark Bronwen! I am blessed to be living in this city and be able to see this national treasure quite often. I didn't know about the frogs, and I'm glad you stomped your feet to warn the snakes...I've heard some scary tales of them. Sounds like and by the looks of it - you had a fabulous time! Thanks for sharing :)