Hiking Table Mountain

By Alan Ramsay
This item appears on page 12 of the February 2018 issue.
The king protea <i>(Protea cynaroides)</i> flowers at Kirstenbosch during winter and spring, from May through November. Photo by Alice Notten for Kirstenbosch NBG

A longtime resident of Cape Town, South Africa, I have the following suggestions for anyone planning a visit.

Getting up and down Table Mountain by cable car is a wonderful experience, but if you are fit, try walking up from Kirstenbosch, the botanical garden, open 365 days a year. This is a steep walk with a few stretches of ladders, and it’s easier done going up than coming down.

There are a number of access points to the mountain, not just through Kirstenbosch, and all of them are free, but if you descend through Kirstenbosch, you should pay the “entrance” fee (ZAR65, or about $5.25, adult) as you depart. (I have done the climb a few times over the years, but my wife does so every week, though not always to the top.)

When you reach the top of the mountain, traverse to the cable-car station, have a meal there and then ride back down for ZAR150 ($12), one way. The waiting time for the cable car can be from five to 55 minutes (visit www.tablemountain.net/content/page/rates). Then just Uber back to your hotel.

The total hike takes most people about five to six hours.

Of the restaurants at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, most visitors have coffee or a meal in the Kirstenbosch Tea Room, which serves breakfast, lunch and desserts. The food is particularly good. Photo by Alan Ramsay

As an alternative to the restaurant at the top, pack a sandwich, as there are numerous breathtaking viewing spots at which to relax on the hike up. In any case, take lots of water with you. It can be very hot, and hiking up a 1,080-meter-high mountain can make you thirsty. Even if the weather looks cool in the morning, changes are rapid.

And make sure you are properly equipped. Good footwear is a “must.” 

If you do this hike, be sure to tell someone (such as your hotel receptionist) which route you will be taking up the mountain. It is best to walk in a group with an appropriate map, albeit that signposting and paths are very good.  To review the “rules” for hiking the mountain, visit www.sanparks.org

As one of the the most beautiful gardens in Africa, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a “must see,” with a wide variety of unique plant life, hidden gems and sheltered nooks. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of its setting against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, so for a picnic or for a meal in either of the two restaurants, it’s hard to beat. (I jog there in the early morning at least once a week throughout the year.)

Cape Town, South Africa

<i>Strelitzia reginae</i>, the bird of paradise flower, at the main entrance to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden — Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Alice Notten for Kirstenbosch NBG
Spring picnickers in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden — Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Alice Notten for Kirstenbosch NBG