If you wanted to take advantage of the Table Mountain’s sunset special and only pay half price, your time if unfortunately up and you’ll have to pay R195 for a return ticket. Luckily it dawned on me in the final week of February that the half-price special after 6pm was nearly over and had run its course since November. I have never been up the mountain in any other season but Summer and there’s good reason for that aside from the price perks.
There is something so quite surreal about ascending for five minutes to reach a height of 1067 m above sea level and walking around on the ‘flat’ surface of a mountain. And one of the new Seven Wonders of the world no less. The funny thing is that once you step out of the cable car station, glance down at the Atlantic ocean below and trail the paths atop this iconic landmark, you’ll realise it’s not as flat as you may imagine. Whilst it doesn’t have mini-hills, there are many large boulders, rock formations, curving pathways and a restaurant along with public telephones, toilets and areas to picnic.
If you’ve had a busy day, you’ll find total peace atop this world heritage site. There’ll be tourist for Africa wondering around, families with their picnic baskets, but aside from nearby chatter and perhaps a boisterous Argentinean rugby team, there will be total silence. It’s best to go up on a hot summer’s day with hardly any wind. We chose a perfect, calm day and as the clouds slowly glided towards us over the Twelve Apostles, the sun began to say its goodbyes, taking the heat with it.
It’s said that within the Table Mountain National Park lies the richest single floristic area on the planet. So you’ll see all forms of fynbos and if you lucky a dassie, lizard, indigenous birds such as a sunbird or Cape Verreaux’s Eagles as well as snakes. Thankfully I spotted a dassie basking in the sunshine and not any one of the venomous snakes such as the puff adder and Cape cobra, else it might not have been that peaceful after all.
My favourite thing to do is to perch in a quiet area overlooking Camps Bay, Clifton beaches and watch the sun leave golden hues on the mountainside and set the clouds alight. The warmth trails the deep blue of the ocean and shines like a spotlight on the illuminated area. I munched on our picnic fruit, chicken, mini-burgers and mango strips and tried to recall when last I’d ever seen a sunset like this one. And that’s just it. No sunset is the same. Each one wows me more than the one before and leaves me mesmerised. You’ll feel the mist coming off the sea as soon as the sun has disappeared and that will be your signal to hop over to the other side and look down into the city bowl.
From the viewing platforms, you’ll see Lion’s Head silhouette against the city lights, the harbour, Cape Town stadium all aglow and the V&A Waterfront which sees thousands of tourist flood its doors each day. The cars are dwarfed by the sheer height of Table Mountain and the lights highlight the many highways, roads and residences making up this 4.5 million strong city.
I don’t think I could ever get tired of visiting Table Mountain. Perhaps one day I’ll actually try walking up it as many do and take the recommended route via Platteklip Gorge to the Upper Cable Station. If you are keen on being accompanied by en expert atop the mountain, you can choose one of three walks; the fifteen-minute Dassie Walk, the thirty-minute Agama Walk with 360 degree views of the city or the longer Klipspringer Walk which will take you along the edge of the plateau and ends above Platteklip Gorge. There is also a wheelchair route.
– Whatever you do, check the weather and webcam on the website before embarking on your trip as the cable car does close when the wind is strong or the weather bad.
– Even if it’s really hot in the city or at the base of the cable car, temperatures can vary when you’re actually up there. Whatever the temperature during the day, be sure to pack warm clothes as after sunset, it cools down quite rapidly.
– Due to its popularity, Table Mountain’s restaurant has great food, but it doesn’t come cheap. To avoid queues, bring your own picnic basket of goodies and head straight to your chosen spot to relax.
– If you don’t bring a camera, you’ll have incredible memories but a deep regret at not being able to capture the sunset and amazing views.
– Bring sunblock in summer, you’re closer to the sun. Or at least it feels like it. Well that and the fact that there aren’t any trees or shady spots to sit outside.
– Lions and leopards once roamed the top of Table Mountain, but tourists you can be at ease knowing that the last lion was spotted in 1802.
– To avoid the queues, book your ticket online and save R20.
– Look out for specials for students, seniors, Sanpark card holders and those celebrating a birthday go up for free!
For more information visit www.tablemountain.net or call the info line +27 (0)21 424 8181
Opening hours of cable car: 08:00- 17:00-21:00 ( depending on the season and time of sunset)