Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa, and is featured in the Flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia. The plateau, flanked by Devil’s Peak to the east and by Lion’s Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town.
This broad sweep of mountainous heights, together with Signal Hill, forms the natural amphitheatre of the City Bowl and Table Bay harbour. The flat top of the mountain is often covered by aerographic clouds, formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain’s slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called “table cloth” of cloud.
Legend attributes this phenomenon to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks. The basement rocks are not nearly as resistant to weathering as the TMS, but significant outcrops of the Cape Granite are visible on the western side of Lion’s Head, and elsewhere on the Peninsula especially below Chapman’s Peak Drive, and The Boulders near Simons Town.
The mountain’s vegetation types form part of the Cape Floral Region protected areas. These protected areas are a World Heritage Site, and an estimated 2,200 species of plants are confined to Table Mountain more than exist in the whole of the United Kingdom.
Many of these species, including a great many types of proteas, are endemic to the mountain and can be found nowhere else. On the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak, above Groote Schuur Hospital an animal camp bequeathed to the City of Cape Town by Cecil John Rhodes has been used in recent years as part of the Quagga Project.
The quagga used to roam the Cape Peninsula, the Karoo and the Free State in large numbers, but were hunted to extinction during the early 1800s. The last quagga died in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883.
By the late 1870s, several of Cape Town’s more prominent (and possibly less fit) citizens had suggested the introduction of a railway to the top. Plans to build a rack railway were proposed, but implementation was halted by the outbreak of the First Anglo-Boer War in 1880.
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is very proud of its awards and achievements, most notably its International Organization for Standardization (ISO) status for its environmental management system.
This mountain is the first sight to greet seafarers as they enter Table Bay harbour and it is the most distinguishing feature of the city. On a clear day it is visible for many kilometers out to sea, and in the early days of sail, a reward was usually posted to the first sailor to make its sighting.
The mountain is influential in determining the micro-climate of Cape Town and its surrounding environment and for many years was the principal source of potable water for the city. Since it’s opening in 1929, over 16 million people have taken the trip to the top of Table Mountain.
The Table Mountain cableway has since become something of a landmark in Cape Town, and has carried some of Cape Town’s most illustrious visitors including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II, as well as Oprah Winfrey, Sting, Steffi Graf and Arnold Schwarzenegger.