Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. It is a significant tourist attraction, with many visitors using the cableway or hiking to the top. The mountain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. Table Mountain is home to a large array of fauna and flora, most of which is endemic.
The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs. The plateau, flanked by Devil’s Peak to the east and by Lion’s Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town. This broad sweep of mountainous heights, together with Signal Hill, forms the natural amphitheatre of the City Bowl and Table Bay harbour. The highest point on Table Mountain is towards the eastern end of the plateau and is marked by Maclear’s Beacon, a stone cairn built in 1865 by Sir Thomas Maclear for trigonometrical survey. It is 1,086 metres (3,563 ft) above sea level, and about 19 metres (62 ft) higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau.
The cliffs of the main plateau are split by Platteklip Gorge (“Flat Stone Gorge”), which provides an easy and direct ascent to the summit and was the route taken by António de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain in 1503.
The flat top of the mountain is often covered by orographic clouds, formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain’s slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called “table cloth” of cloud. Legend attributes this phenomenon to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks. When the table cloth is seen, it symbolizes the contest.
Table Mountain is at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range that forms the spine of the Cape Peninsula that terminates approximately 50 km to the south at the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Immediately to the south of Table Mountain is a rugged “plateau” at a somewhat lower elevation than the Table Mountain Plateau (at about 1000 m), called the “Back Table”. The “Back Table” extends southwards for approximately 6 km to the Constantia Nek-Hout Bay valley. The Atlantic side of the Back Table, is known as the Twelve Apostles, which extends from Kloof Nek (the saddle between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head) to Hout Bay. The eastern side of this portion of the Peninsula’s mountain chain, extending from Devil’s Peak, the eastern side of Table Mountain (Erica and Fernwood Buttresses), and the Back Table to Constantia Nek, does not have single name, as on the western side. It is better known by the names of the conservation areas on its lower slopes: Groote Schuur Estate, Newlands Forest, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cecilia Park, and Constantia Nek.