Voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, Table Mountain is a spectacular flat-topped mountain that constitutes a prominent landmark, overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. At its highest point, the mountain reaches a height of 1,086 metres (3,563 ft) above sea level. The level plateau at the top of the mountain cover a distance of 3 km (2 ml) from side to side, with its edges marked by impressive sharp cliffs. The plateau is flanked by Devil’s Peak to the East and Lion’s Head to the West. The cliffs of the mountain are divided by the Platteklip Gorge or Flat Stone Gorge, which provides a relatively easy and direct path to the summit. The flat top of the mountain is frequently covered by orographic clouds, most often referred to as table cloth. Table Mountain is positioned at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range which constitutes the spine of the Cape Peninsula. To the south of the main plateau is situated a lower part of the range known as the Back Table. On the Atlantic coast of the peninsula, the range is referred to as the Twelve Apostles. The range stretches right through to Cape Point. The upper part of the mountain, mesa, comprises Ordovician, quartzitic sandstone, alluded to as Table Mountain Sandstone, which is highly erosion-resistant and produces distinctive steep grey crags.
Table Mountain is also endowed with uncommonly rich biodiversity. The main forms of vegetation on the mountain comprise the following: Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos, critically endangered Peninsula Granite Fynbos, Peninsula Shale Renosterveld and Afromontane forest. The mountain’s flora constitutes a component of the Cape Floral Region protected areas, which have been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Worthy of note is that the Table Mountain range is endowed with the highest concentration of threatened species than any continental area of a similar size. Remnant patches of indigenous forest tend to prevail in the wetter ravines.
The most frequent mammal on the mountain is the dassie or rock hyrax, usually seen congregating around the upper cable station. Other species residing on the mountain include porcupines, mongooses, snakes and tortoises.
The Table Mountain Cableway conveys visitors from the lower cable station on Tafelberg Road to the plateau at the summit of the mountain. The upper cable station offers panoramic views of Cape Town, Table Bay, Robben Island and the Atlantic seaboard. The cable car rotates on a complete scale of 360O,during the journeys to and from the summit of the mountain.
Hiking to the top of Table Mountain is a very popular recreational outdoor activity. Platteklip Gorge provides the only direct access to the summit. Longer routes to the summit are found on the Back Table, a low gradient zone of Table Mountain to the south of the main plateau. Examples of such routes include the Nursery Ravine and Skeleton Gorge, which start at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Table Mountain also boasts a large system of sandstone caves, prominent among which are the Wynberg caves. This is regarded as rather unique because most cave systems occur in limestone.