It is a known fact that South Africa is rich in history. Some of the earliest human settlements in the world called the country home. There are fossilised footprints, and rock paintings. But when you start to do some geological digging, you uncover an even greater history right here in Cape Town. And that is Table Mountain, the great dame of the world.
Table Mountain is known as one of the world’s oldest mountains. It is believed that the story of the mountain began 800 million years ago when sandstone started forming underwater. The mountain is six times older than the Himalayas where the infamous Mt Everest towers into the sky, it is five times older than the Rockies. Even the Andes Mountains can bow down to Table Mountain and call her grandma.
Today the mountain stands at 1067 metres above sea level yet 300 million years ago it was still at sea level. During this time – an ice age – the ice sheets flattened the sandstone layers. And eventually the process gave birth to Table Mountain’s flat tabletop. Magma rose from the earth’s core, and while volcanoes are usually formed during this process it stopped underground and formed hard granite. Years later, the splitting apart of continents caused built-up pressures in the earth’s crust. The layers of rocks began to rise and slowly but surely Table Mountain peaked its way to the top.
Over the years there have not only been geological changes, but also changes in plant and animal life. Through the historical evidence of rock art and fossils, the mountain was also once home to lions, leopards and hyenas. One of the strangest things of Table Mountain might be the population of the Himalayan tahr. The goat-like animal, indigenous to India, escaped a zoo nearly 100 years ago and began breeding on Table Mountain. Unfortunately, they are a threat to many delicate and highly endemic, fynbos species.
If you think that visiting Table Mountain is just about getting to the top and admiring the view over Cape Town think again!
It might be difficult to imagine that Table Mountain was once underwater. It might be strange to think that waves lapped against it, causing the flat giant cliff face. But seeing is believing. And discovering the rocks, boulders, and deep ravines of Table Mountain speak of millions of years of erosion through wind, water, fire and yes, even ice.
Besides the fact that you can either hike or take the cable car to the top, there is so much more to do. You can explore the summit and admire the fynbos on one of the three short and easy walking trails. You might even spot a dassie (rock hyrax), the closest living relative of the elephant, despite its size. There is a café, a Wi-Fi lounge, a shop with souvenirs, you can send a postcard from the top or even abseil down the mountain.
Table Mountain, one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World, has a lot to offer. Don’t miss out on discovering it all