Flanked by Devil’s Peak to the east and Lion’s Head to the west, Cape Town’s iconic flat-topped mountain was integrated into the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012. But you probably knew that. So let’s turn our attention to Table Mountain’s lesser-known facts, such as why a misty ‘table cloth’ occasionally drapes across it. And how high is its tallest – and still growing – peak? Perfect for scenic hikes and a compelling visit when staying at The Twelve Apostles, here are 10 facts about Table Mountain that are likely to surprise you.
1. Around 300 million years old, Table Mountain was cast into existence at the end of an ice age, long before the Alps, the Andes, the Rocky Mountains and the Himalayas. It is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.
2. It’s often blanketed in a thick fog known as the ‘table cloth’. Legend has it that this ethereal mist resulted from a smoking contest between the devil and a pirate called Captain Jan van Hunks. The scientific answer is that the clouds form as south easterly winds blow against the mountain and collide with cooler air at the top.
3. Table Mountain only appears flat from one side. View the dramatic range from the Atlantic side to discover the craggy Twelve Apostles.
4. A unique ecosystem of flora and fauna flourishes on the mountain and many species are endemic or rarely found elsewhere. Look out for small, thick-set dassies or rock rabbits – whose closest related relative is the elephant – and the elusive Table Mountain ghost frog.
5. A truly monumental wedding venue, a handful of couples tie the knot atop Table Mountain every month.
6. Towering 1,085m above sea level, Maclear’s Beacon is Table Mountain’s highest point. The beacon was built in 1865 by medical doctor and astronomer, Sir Thomas Maclear and initially functioned as a means of measuring the curvature of the earth.
7. However, it is still growing. When the famed Cape Fold Belt formed roughly 165 million years ago, Table Mountain could have crumbled. But didn’t. Its sturdy gravel base directed the powerful ripples downwards and the entire structure slowly began to rise – a process that hasn’t stopped.
8. For the adventurous, it is possible to abseil a thrilling 112 metres down the mountain.
9. French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille called a constellation in the southern hemisphere ‘Mons Mensae’ (Latin for ‘table mountain’) in 1754. To this day, Table Mountain is the only terrestrial structure of its kind to have a constellation named after it.
10. Nelson Mandela decreed Table Mountain ‘a gift to the Earth’ in 1998. Take a beautiful hike around its undulating sprawl or ride the soaring aerial cablecar to the top to experience the otherworldly beauty that Mandela was referring to.
Image credits: Cover © iStock/volschenkh. Table cloth © iStock/ferrantraite. Dassies © iStock/romis. Champs Bay © iStock/wallix