South Africa is the perfect place for those who are in love with untouched, exotic and wild nature. I recently visited Cape Town and its surroundings. Even though Cape Town is a wonderful city with a lots to do, the real natural beauty is in it surrounding area where it is possible to experience the wild side of South Africa. One of its stunning sites is Table Mountain National Park, which was proclaimed one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
What makes Table Mountain Cape Town’s most recognized site is its flat-topped peaks, with the highest reaching 1,086 m above sea level. There are so many other things that makes it unique. For a start, it’s not a national park where you can buy a ticket and then walk around the whole day. Table Mountain National Park is so huge that you’d need days to see it all, and you’d need to pay separate entrance for several spots. The must – see sites in the park include: Table Mountain, Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Beach, Signal Hill and Lions Head and Silvermine. I visited Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lions Head in one day, and Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope and Boulders Beach another. It takes more than an hour drive (by car) to get from Table Mountain to Cape Point and then at least 20 minutes drive to Boulders Penguin Beach.
TABLE MOUNTAIN AND LIONS HEAD
To enjoy the view from the top of the mountain we took a cableway. For adults, the return ticket costs around €16, but it’s really worth paying for. On the way up, a cable car slowly rotates, so no matter where are you standing you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful sights. When you reach the top you can have the pleasure of breath taking views of the city and majestic mountains that rise above the Atlantic Ocean. At the top of the Table Mountain it can be windy so it’s important to take warm clothes. For the adventurous ones the wild mountain offers challenging hiking paths where you can explore beautiful and unique flora and fauna. Table Mountain National Park is home to a number of rare and endangered species. If you are calmly sitting down on a rock, you might take great pictures of some birds and animals. Once upon a time, Table Mountain was home to lions, leopards, hyenas etc. But today, you don’t need to be afraid of those wild animals walking freely around the mountain, they don’t inhabit this place anymore. The most interesting animal is definitely the dassie. It is a small animal that by the shape of its body resembles a bit an otter, but dassies are actually hoofed mammals related to the elephant. You can also find this unusual animal, which sometimes live in colonies of up to 50 animals, at the Boulders Beach and Cape of Good Hope. At the Table Mountain you can find a range of bird species, elands, porcupines, mongooses, lizards and snakes. Apparently, there is more than 20 snake species identified on the mountain, and five of them pose a threat to human life. Table Mounatin also possess a unique flora. Fynbos, an Afrikaans word meaning “delicate” bush is very beautiful and very old type of the mountains vegetation, with some species dating back 60 million years. From the Table Mountain you can see Signal Hill and Lions Head, a small mountain which shape resembles that of a lion or a sphinx. The Lions Head is the best place to go and look at the most beautiful sunset in Cape Town.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE AND CAPE POINT
Driving down the cliffy coast and passing by small fishing villages, you can discover one of the most amazing views over Hout Bay and eat fresh fish in their restaurants. Hout Bay is a town 20 km south of Cape Town, on the way to the Cape of Good Hope. If stopping by for a coffee or lunch at Hout Bay you might be able to see seals just near shore and fishermen feeding them. After great lunch at Hout Bay, we continued our drive and finally reached well known and historically important Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western point of the African continent. The first time I heard of the Cape of Good Hope was in geography class in the fifth grade. Back then I couldn’t even imagine that one day I’d be standing on the beach at the Cape of Good Hope, looking at the powerful waves of the Atlantic Ocean breaking on the cliffs, feeling the wind in my hair and thinking I had reached the edge of the world. Far away across the ocean is only the ice of Antarctic. The Cape of Good Hope was first discovered by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488. According to some historians, he named it the Cape of Storms, and later on John II of Portugal renamed it the Cape of Good Hope, because it was a considered hopeful that India could be reached by sea from Europe. In 1859 the first lighthouse was built at Cape Point, about 2 km east of the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape Point is South Africa’s windiest place. Even though you might get funny photos, the wind is so strong that at some points, while walking towards the lighthouse, it’s even hard to breath. I have never experienced such a strong wind. So, it is very important to take warm clothes, a jacket and comfortable sneakers. Driving around the Cape Town area you’ll see many warning signs for baboons, some of the world’s largest monkeys. Baboons are opportunistic eaters. They eat fruits, grasses, seeds and even meat. You’ll find a lot of warning signs that prohibit feeding them, which you would be advised to follow otherwise you might get into trouble.
It takes 30 minutes drive to get from the Cape of Good Hope to Simon’s Town, where Boulders Beach is located. What makes Boulders Beach so interesting is its 540 million – year old granite boulders, rock pools and little bays where you can see the amazing dwellings of endangered African Penguins. Usually, when you think of penguins you picture them swimming in the cold waters, surrounded by snow and ice. So, African Penguin is the only species of penguins acclimated to warmer climates and Boulders Beach is the only place in the world where you can get up close and personal to these endangered African penguins. As a result of climate change, oil spills and declining food resources, the number of African penguins has decreased, from millions at the beginning of the 20th century to a worrisome 1,200 breeding pairs now. Boulders Beach is the only place in the world where you can get up close and personal to these endangered African penguins. Boulders Beach is also a part of the Table Mountain National Marine Protected Area and you will have to pay the entrance fee.
In the Table Mountain National Park, I didn’t visit Silvermine. But, I guess you always need a reason to come back.