A holiday to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the top of our beloved and iconic Table Mountain. It is now one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, not just because of its remarkable shape or its breath-taking views but also because of the diverse fauna and flora to be found on its slopes. Here are our tips for the easiest, most fun-filled ways to go up our mountain:
#1 The City Sightseeing Red Bus drops you at the cable-car station on Tafelberg Road. Parking areas can be congested so leave your rental car behind and use a convenient Red Bus or your hotel’s shuttle service instead. The bus works on a hop on-hop off basis so you can take your time exploring the city. Be sure to check the schedule so that you know what time you need to hop back on!
If you really do want to take your rental car, then park it in the parking lot at the bottom of Tafelberg Road and catch the free MyCiti rapid bus service shuttle to the cable station. The MyCiti bus runs on a constant loop between the lot and the cableway so you shouldn't have to wait too long for it to come along. This frees you up from trying to find parking near the cable station, which get very busy on sunny days, weekends and during the December peak season.
#2 The views are awe-inspiring even before you get up to the top - Cape Town city centre lies spread out below you. This is the original heart of Africa's favourite metropolis, flanked by Lion’s Head and Signal Hill to your left and the lonely sentinel, Devil’s Peak, to your right. You need to purchase cable car tickets at the ticket booth unless you've pre-purchased your tickets online. In summer (from about November to February), the ticket queue can stretch a fair way down Tafelberg Road so save yourself the hassle and buy online. It's also a good idea to check Table Mountain National Park’s website to find out if the cable car is running - it doesn't run in high winds, thick cloud and mist, or heavy rain. The website also provides weather updates for the top of the mountain, which is generally cooler and more exposed than the city below - Cape Town's climate is temperate but temperamental, so it's important to always pack sunscreen, a hat, water in a reusable bottle and a light windbreaker whenever you head up the mountain.
#3 The cable cars have glass-less 'windows' and revolving floors, to ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the gorgeous views over the city and harbour, the mountain and the glittering Atlantic Ocean below. It's a dramatic ride worth every dollar! Each car takes up to 65 passengers per trip. Over the month of December 2013, the cable car ferried 120 318 visitors to the top setting a new record... that’s nearly 4 000 people per day!
#4 Make sure your camera has plenty of battery power and memory card space - the photo opportunities are absolutely excellent. Try photographing the cables as you ascend with the city spread out below – their angle will give you a good idea of how steeply the cable car rises up several hundred metres in just a few minutes. At the top, you'll see people posing in the style of Kate Winslet in the bow of the Titanic- arms streched out to embrace the vista below. There are honeymooners taking endless selfies and at least one person trying to get a sleepy dassie (a rock rabbit or hyrax) to be cute and in focus. The walkways and seating areas provide a series of viewing points, helping you make the most of your time at the top.
#5 You'll find plenty of maps, signs and a bronze 3D relief model of Table Mountain National Park to help you get your bearings. A comfortable stroll in any direction leads to beautiful panoramas - on a clear day, you can see all the way to the distant areas of Kommetjie, Noordhoek and Slangkop. You'll gain a useful overview of how Africa's southern-most city is laid out in hidden valleys and beaches set between the lush folds of a mountain range. You'll suddenly understand why Capetonians always seem to refer to the location of the mountain when navigating the greater metropolis.
#6 The Shop at the Top is located in a sandstone National Heritage building and is a great spot to pick up a memento of your trip. Just next door is the Table Mountain Café, where you can buy a quick drink and a snack, or sit down for a meal while enjoying the clear mountain air. The staff at the café are all smiles and pride themselves on friendly service, while all buildings are in the process of becoming as eco-friendly and water-savvy as possible. Always discard cigarettes in designated ashtrays: fire is a very real hazard on the mountain where it cannot be easily contained or people evacuated, and where water is scarce.
#7 Many stone paths zigzag the top of Table Mountain among the fynbos, a type of heather whose Afrikaans name literally means ‘fine bush’. This scrubby vegetation is endemic to the region and is part of the world-renowned Cape floral kingdom. Look out too for playful dassies that hop along, sunning themselves on the slopes. They are not tame and should never be fed, nor should you attempt to pick one up or stroke one, no matter how cute they appear - they can give you a nasty bite. It is also illegal to pick flowers or remove natural items from the mountain.
#8 As the sun sets over Camps Bay, visitors savour sundowners on top of the mountain. Cape Town is rightfully famous for its beautiful coral-pink sunsets. During summer, you can buy half-price tickets to ride the cable care after 6pm and salute the sunset from around 8pm before catching the last car down.