Top Tips For Exploring Table Mountain
Of course when you visit Cape Town, South Africa, climbing Table Mountain is more than likely one of the first priorities on your list of things to do. Cape Town is famous for it, and it’s considered to be one of the oldest mountains in the world. Originally named Hoerikwaggo which translates to “Mountain in the sea” it was changed in 1503 by a Portuguese explorer who renamed it Tabao de Cabo – “Table of the Cape.”
A little bit of history for you; the rocks of the mountain are approximately 600 million years old. There are two types of rock that make up Table Mountain; the rocks at the base of the mountain are shale, and on the western side of the mountain, Cape granite. Oh and another fun fact for you; it’s thought that the mountain is six times older than the Himalayas.
Clifton Beach - Image: Laura Welch
Clifton BeachImage: Laura Welch
I visited Cape Town in February to attend a close friend’s wedding when the weather was divine with highs of 29 degrees. We planned to visit Table Mountain in the evening when it wasn’t so hot, while during the day we intended on making the most of the sun at Clifton Beach.
I’ll be honest, I was really looking forward to the experience, but as someone who is really scared of heights, the cable car journey up to the top of the mountain was laying heavy on my mind - never mind the thought of hiking! But more on that later...
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What Goes Up, Must Come Down!
The cable car journey to the top takes a mere five to six minutes, and, thanks to my fear of heights, I held onto the pole in front of me and closed my eyes until we reached it (adulting at its best!) Let's not forget that the top of Table Mountain is 1089 metres above Cape Town, but boy was it worth it! The views were absolutely breathtaking – it felt like we were literally in the middle of the clouds.
We stayed up there just over an hour, exploring the top of the mountain and enjoying some drinks and snacks whilst taking in spectacular views of Cape Town.
Cableway up Table Mountain
Cableway up Table Mountain
How to Prepare Beforehand
It is best to buy your Cableway tickets online in advance, to avoid potential long queues when you arrive at Table Mountain. Depending on the season and time, there can be queues to get into the Cableway coming up and down the mountain.
The first Cableway car leaves at 8:00am and the last one back down the mountain is as late as 9:30pm in December and January when it stays lightest the longest. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and bring treats and drinks with you to enjoy at the top of the mountain.
Views from Table Mountain - Image: Laura Welch
Views from Table MountainImage: Laura Welch
Eat, Drink and Be Merry! (Responsibly!)
Although there is a cafe at the top of the mountain, it’s nice to just take your own picnic with you and set up camp for an hour or so while you are there. There are so many different areas to sit or stand at the top of the mountain, as well as plenty of photo opportunities to see an African sunset from the top of one of the World’s New Seven Wonders of Nature.
It is not uncommon for people to take a few beers up there or a bottle of bubbly, with the opportunity to just relax and enjoy some traditional South African treats such as Boerewors and Biltong. It goes without saying, it is wise to always carry a bottle of water with you.
Laura at the top of Table Mountain - Image: Laura Welch
Laura at the top of Table MountainImage: Laura Welch
Climbing the Mountain (For Avid Hikers)
For the adrenalin junkies and dare devils among you - there is the option to hike up the mountain and avoid the Cableway altogether. It’s around a 3K hike which may strike you as fairly straightforward but is actually a pretty physically demanding hike and can take between 1-3 hours to get to the top. This depends on your fitness levels of course, as well as who you are travelling with, but if you think you have it in you - then go for it! It makes for an incredible experience. I can't say that I did this myself, however I did climb Lions Head and that was enough adrenaline for me during the trip.
It is advised to take appropriate clothes with you if you want to hike, such as waterproofs if the weather isn't so good, or sun cream and hats in the height of summer. Again, plenty of water is important to keep hydrated during the hike.
However you choose to explore Cable Mountain, it is sure to be an experience you will never forget.
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