Why Table Mountain Is Considered One Of The 7 Natural Wonders Of The World
4 min read
Serving as Cape Town and South Africa’s iconic landmark, Table Mountain is one of the 7 Wonders of Nature. In 2011, over 500 million people worldwide voted for their top wonder of the natural world out of 28 finalists, and Table Mountain made the New 7 Natural Wonders of the World! The other 6 wonders are the PP Underground River in the Philippines, Jeju Island in South Korea, the Amazon in South America, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, Komodo in Indonesia, and Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil.
But what makes Table Mountain so special? The mountain, which is known by the Khoisan people as Hoerikwaggo, or ‘Mountain in the Sea’, has withstood millions of years of erosion and has, as a result, become the richest floral kingdom in the world. The Table Mountain National Park contains 1470 floral species and 8200 plant species, which is more than the entirety of Britain, with fynbos accounting for 80% of the plant life. 70% of the plants and animals found are endemic, meaning they can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Keep a lookout for the rock hyrax, or the dassie, which can often be seen lounging on rocks or scurrying about for food. Although it looks like the distant cousin of a guinea pig, its closest relatives are elephants and sirenians, or sea cows. Were it not for the mountain’s Platteklip stream, Cape Town would have never existed as we know it. The natural harbour of Langebaan on the West Coast would have been the safer option.
Today, the flat plateau stretches 3 kilometres, and the highest point of Table Mountain stands at 1086 metres above sea level. The highest point is marked with a stone cairn that Thomas Maclear, the Astronomer Royal at the Cape, had built in 1865 for use in a trigonometric survey. This spot is also known as Maclear’s Beacon and is about 19 metres higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau. The mountain, however, used to be three times this height, but has shrunk after millions of years of erosion.
And speaking of astronomy, the mountain is the only natural site in the world to have a constellation of stars named after it: ‘Mensa’, which translates to ‘table’ from Latin. The French astronomer, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, named the constellation, which can be found below Orion at latitudes south of 5 degrees from May to July, in the 18th century. In northern latitudes, January is the best time to view the constellation.
Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains in the world and is older than the Alps, the Andes, the Rockies, and the Himalayas. The rocks on the mountain are 600-million years old, while Table Mountain itself has been around for 240-million years. Table Mountain is the northern end of the Cape Fold Mountain range, which stretches to its southern end at the Cape of Good Hope. The mountain is flanked by Devil’s Peak to the east and Lion’s Head to the west, and a special type of cloud, orographic clouds, often covers Table Mountain and is affectionately referred to as the mountain’s tablecloth. Legend has it that the clouds were formed due to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks.
António de Saldanha, a Portuguese seafarer, was the first European to climb the mountain in 1503 and called it Taboa de Cabo, the ‘Table of the Cape’. Today, you can take any of 350 different hiking trails to the top, or you can take the cable car. The first cable car was constructed in 1929 and could take 25 people at a time. Today, the car can take up to 60 people and offers stunning 360° views of Cape Town, the surrounding areas, and the stunning Atlantic ocean. Whether you are hiking or taking the cable car, sunrise and sunset are popular times, as the top of the mountain offers a spectacular golden hour. Over 800 000 people visit every year, making it South Africa’s most photographed landmark and Cape Town’s most popular tourist attraction. Table Mountain can be seen on Cape Town’s flag and on the city’s logo.
If you are looking for a different angle of the famous mountain, why not visit Dolphin Beach Hotel? We are the only hotel on the Blouberg beach strip with direct access to the beach, from where you can view the gorgeous Table Mountain at all hours of the day. Our personal favourite is at sunset, when the sky turns purple and the twinkling city lights along the mountain’s slopes are turned on. Enjoy this view with a glass of wine and some delicious food at our on-site restaurant, Blowfish, where the floor-to-ceiling glass windows mean you’ll never miss a moment of Table Mountain. Be sure to reach out to our friendly team if you have any questions or would like to make a reservation. We can’t wait to welcome you to one of the 7 Wonders of the World!