Among the more famous landmarks in the world, Table Mountain offers the most stunning panoramic view of Cape Town and leaves one spoiled for choices. From abseiling off Table Mountain, paragliding from Signal hill, wildlife sightings to treks, the activities can dazzle any enthusiast. Table Mountain National Park is well-known for its unique fauna and flora. The park encompasses the Table Mountain chain stretching from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south and the seas and coastline of the peninsula. This open-access park has only a few points where conservation fees are payable including Cape Point, Boulders (where you can see penguins), the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Silvermine.
While some might wish to take the arduous walk up to the top, others would prefer the aerial cableway, which opened in 1929. One can simply walk around the footpaths. And then enjoy a coffee at the restaurant there and carry home some souvenirs from the curio shop. The zip line ends with a brunch by the beach. For those who like to explore the tough terrains on foot, there are many hiking trails from the Camps Bay side of the mountain, as well as from the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (tablemountain.net; Table Mountain Cableway prices range from R 65 to R 255).
Travel Trivia: There are about 2,200 species of plants found on Table Mountain and 1,470 floral species. Many of these are endemic to this mountain.
Travel Tip: There are clear signs marking directions and trails but you could opt for a guided hike so that you can revel in the beauty of the forests instead of worrying about signboards.
Among the oldest and most beautiful mountain ranges are the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg ranges in KwaZulu-Natal. These are the country’s highest mountain ranges at around 3,000m and span more than 150km. Among the highest peaks are Champagne Castle (3,377m) and Giant’s Castle (3, 315m). Other major landmarks are Cathedral Peak, Cathkin Peak, Mont-aux-Sources, Monk’s Cowl, the Amphitheatre, Sani Pass and Champagne.
With numerous valleys and rivers, one can enjoy trekking, trout fishing, kayaking, tubing, swimming, 4x4 trails, quad biking, horse riding, photography, bird watching, rambling, rock climbing, paragliding and hot air balloon rides.
Towards the north of KwaZulu-Natal along the Drakensberg mountain range one will come across dauntless ‘One-Wings’ riding thermals or taking the ‘ridge lift’, a wave of wind that blows up the escarpment. The rolling hills of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands are also a favourite spot for paragliders.
Travel Trivia: In Zulu, uKhahlamba means barrier of spears, a reference to the craggy peaks and Drakensberg means mountain of dragons.
Travel Tip: Exploring the mountains means finding the largest collection of Bushman rock paintings, which have earned it the World Heritage Site status.
For those who seek more colour, there is the Panorama Route. Home to mountains, forests and canyons, most notably, the Blyde River Canyon, this starts at the small town of Graskop. Along the way come plunging waterfalls–Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls and Mac Mac Falls, to name some. And scenic landmarks are Wonder View, the Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels and God’s Widndow, where you can walk in the thick, indigenous mist forest that stands amongst the clouds some 800m above Blyde River Canyon.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the unusual geological formations, formed at the confluence of the Blyde and Treur rivers, mark the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon. Just a 30-minute drive from Graskop will take you to the gold rush town of Pilgrim’s Rest where you can relive the 1873 gold rush. Who knows you might strike gold here!
Travel Trivia: The Blyde River Canyon’s lush subtropical foliage makes it the world’s largest ‘green canyon’.
Travel Tip: Keep some extra time for you could even go to Ohrigstad where the Echo Caves extend 40km into the limestone rock.
MISTY MOUNTAIN’S ‘LONG TOM TOBOGGAN’
This is not for the faint-hearted. Africa’s first and longest toboggan ride of its kind, this started in Lydenburg , Mpumalanga province. The 1.7-km track, starting at an altitude of 1,700m and dropping 115m, exposes one to the amazing Lowveld scenery. At a speed of 45km per hour, the ride takes about two and a half minutes.
Travel Trivia: A toboggan is a long narrow sled used for coasting downhill over snow or ice.
Travel Tip: Safety is of importance, so ensure that you have the safety belt on and keep a control on the handbrake to control the speed. Maximum weight limit is 120kg.