What Is Table Mountain?

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  • Written By: Kathy Heydasch
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2019
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Table Mountain is a large mountaintop plateau approximately 2 miles (3 km) from one side to the other which overlooks Cape Town in South Africa. It is approximately 3,500 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level, and makes an impressive tourist attraction. Visitors can hike up to Table Mountain or can use a cableway to reach the top.

Next to the edge of the plateau are significant cliffs. The plateau is flanked on the east and west side by Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head mountains, respectively. From the plateau, the city of Cape Town can be seen next to Table Bay.

Visitors may hike any of a number of trails of varying difficulty, but the most common is Plattleklip Gorge. This is the route supposedly taken by the first person to climb to Table Mountain. Antonio de Saldanha was the first European to land in the area, and he made the ascent in 1503. The Portuguese navigator carved a cross in the side of Lion’s Head, and it is still visible today.

Those wishing to visit the mountaintop but who do not want to hike can take the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway which first opened in 1929. It takes passengers to the mountaintop from a cable station located on Tafelberg Road. At the upper cable station, one can see magnificent views of the Atlantic seaboard as well as Cape Town and Robben Island. Sightseeing buses in Cape Town make regular stops at the cable station.


The mountaintop is made mostly of sandstone, which usually does not lend itself to great cave systems. Table Mountain, however, has a few extensive cave systems. The largest of these, the Wynberg caves, is located on the back side of the mountain.

Although animals like lions, leopards and deer once roamed Table Mountain, these species have been either eradicated or relocated. The most common animal one might spot on the mountaintop is the dassie, also known as a rock hyrax. It is similar in looks to a rabbit or guinea pig. One may also see the occasional porcupine, mongoose, snake, lizard or tortoise. Vegetation on the mountaintop is plentiful, and many species of plants there can be found nowhere else on earth. The area’s plants are protected as part of the Cape Floral Region. Over 2,200 species of plants can be found on the mountain.

The mountaintop plateau makes up part of Table Mountain National Park, which is located on the southwestern point of the continent of Africa. The park ranges from Cape Point in the south to the northern border at Signal Hill. In addition to Table Mountain, the park includes another world-famous attraction, the Cape of Good Hope.


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