Table Mountain is the iconic flat mountain that overlooks the city of Cape Town in South Africa. Located in Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), it is famous for its diverse wildlife as well as its sweeping views over the Atlantic Ocean and city. Curious to know more about South Africa‘s most famous landmark? Here are some of the most interesting facts about Table Mountain in Cape Town.
7 Interesting Facts About Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa
1. The mountain’s original name is Hoerikwaggo
The indigenous Khoisan people of the Cape named the mountain Hoerikwaggo, which means ‘Mountain in the Sea’. Portuguese explorer, Antionio de Saldanha, was the first white man to hike the Mountain. He did so in 1503 and named the mountain Taboa de Cabo. This means ‘Table of the Cape.’ Following this, around 1652, Dutch settlers started calling it Tafelberg, which translates as Table Mountain.
2. Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains in the world
The rocks of Table Mountain are approximately 600-million years old. Table Mountain itself is 240-million years old. It is thought to be one of the oldest mountains in the world. It is older than the Alps, Andes, Rockies and the Himalayas. Table Mountain is part of and forms the highest point of the Cape Fold Mountain range. This range forms the backbone of the Cape Peninsula. This mountain range stretches from the Cape of Good Hope in the south to Table Mountain in the north.
3. The highest point is a stone cairn
Table Mountain got its name because of its flat top. The flat plateau is approximately three kilometres (2 miles) from side to side. The highest point of Table Mountain is 1086 metres (3563 feet) above sea level. It’s called Maclear’s Beacon. It is named after Thomas Maclear who was the Astronomer Royal at the Cape. In 1865, Maclear instructed his assistant to build a stone cairn on the top of Table Mountain for use in a trigonometric survey. The plateau is often covered in orographic clouds, which is known as the ‘Table cloth’. The plateau is flanked by Devil’s Peak to the east and by Lion’s Head to the west.
4. Table Mountain has a constellation named after it
In the 18th-century, French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille named a constellation after Table Mountain. The constellation is called Mensa, which means ‘table’ in Latin. You’ll find the constellation below Orion at latitudes south of 5 degrees from May through July. It can best be seen in northern latitudes in January. It is the only natural site on Earth to have a constellation of stars named after it.
5. A cable car takes you to the top
Table Mountain is on the flag of Cape Town and on the City’s logo. It is one of Cape Town’s most popular visitor destinations and South Africa’s most photographed landmark. Approximately 800,000 people visit it each year. You can reach the top by hiking one of more than 350 trails or you can take the cable car. Constructed in 1929, the capacity of the first cable car was just 25 people, but nowadays it can carry up to 60 people. From the top, you can see over the Atlantic Ocean and the city. The views are spectacular and many people climb the mountain to watch sunrise or sunset from the summit. In 2012, the mountain became one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
6. Most of the plant and animal life on Table Mountain are endemic
Table Mountain has an incredibly diverse range of plant and animal life, most of which are endemic. This means they are not found anywhere else. In the national park, there are 8,200 plant species. The most common animal found on the mountain is the rock hyrax, also called the dassie. This mammal looks a bit like a rabbit or guinea pig but its closest relatives are in fact the elephant and the sirenian.
7. Table Mountain was once a lot higher
Table Mountain was once three-four times higher. However, millions of years of erosion is has caused it to shrink.