Table Mountain is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the most recognised of all South Africa’s icons, visited by millions of people every year and the largest mountain on the Cape Peninsula.
Here are some interesting facts about Table Mountain.
- Prehistoric people first left evidence of their lives on Table Mountain more than 600 000 years ago.
- The first European to stop in the bay at the foot of the mountain was the Portuguese navigator, Admiral Antonio de Saldanha, who was also the first European to climb the mountain, in 1503. Previous Portuguese navigators, Dias and Da Gama had not stopped in the bay when they rounded the Cape 50 years before that.
- The mountain became a significant beacon as a result of previous navigational errors and faulty reckonings and the first sailor on a Dutch ship to see it would receive a reward of money and wine.
- The original name given to it and the surrounding peaks by the KhoiKhoi was Hoerikwaggo which means ‘Mountain in the Sea’.
- At 260 million years old, it is one of the oldest mountains in the world. The Alps and Himalayas are babies in comparison at 32 and 40 million years. Continued erosion will eventually flatten it but not for another 10 million years so you still have time to see it.
- It is the only mountain after which a constellation of stars is named: Mons Mensa. The constellation is near the Southern Cross and is easily identified by its shape. The name was bestowed on it by the French astronomer, Abbe de Lacaille, who visited the Cape in 1750.
- Although the area of the mountain is a mere 57 square km, there are over 1500 fynbos plant species, many of which are endemic to the area and some of which are very rare.
- Luckily, the first plan to build a way to reach the top without climbing was abandoned. This was to be a funicular which would have damaged the rock face of the mountain. The cable car system that was eventually built is a much less intrusive method.
- The original investment cost in 1926 was 10 000 pounds but the major upgrades in 1997 cost R104 million.
- Between 1929 (when the cable car was opened) and 1997 there were 11 million visitors but from 1997 to 2012 another 11 million visitors were recorded. Every time an important milestone number is reached, that visitor is fussed over and presented with a hamper of gifts.
- The cable car is excellently run by a private company that does not own the area but manages it under strict guidelines of the SA National Parks. It’s not easy to run a business in a natural heritage site and at the whim of the famous Cape wind!
- South African citizens enjoy a free ride in the cable car on their birthday, and throughout the year there are many special promotions.
- In addition to the cable car, there are no less than 15 different paths to reach the top and many Capetonians regularly make use of these paths to reach the top.
Nelson Mandela said: “Over centuries the mountain has stood as a symbol of human capacity for hope and freedom, whether for the KhoiKhoi tribes fighting colonial domination, for Indonesian and Malaysian slaves who for generations buried their leaders and holy men on its slopes, or for twentieth century political prisoners. It is .. a sacred and previous place … to us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.” 1998