SOUTH AFRICA - TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
depth guide to the seasons, animals, birds and wildlife
habitats of Cape Peninsula National Park in South Africa
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Cape Peninsula is the thin finger of
land in the south-western most corner of Africa,
with the city of Cape Town at its head. As you
travel south towards Cape Point, the land gets
narrower until it disappears into the ocean,
with nothing beyond except Antarctica.
The Table Mountain National Park is one of South
Africa's newest creations, only proclaimed in
its final entirety in 1998. It is a happy ending
to the efforts made to conserve the rich natural
and cultural history of this most famous of
all cape's. Several reserves have been incorporated
under the SA National Parks umbrella and now
the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Table
Mountain Nature Reserve and Silvermine Nature
Reserve, plus the Boulders beach penguin colony,
are cohesively administered.
globally for its extraordinarily rich, diverse
and unique flora, this singular peninsula -
with the rugged Table Mountain range meandering
down the centre and soft white sandy beaches,
rocky coves and sand flats - is a truly remarkable
recreational asset. Nowhere else in the world
does an area of such spectacular beauty and
such rich bio-diversity exist almost entirely
within a metropolitan area - the thriving and
cosmopolitan city of Cape Town. Numerous scenic
drives are so impressive they require an unhurried
approach, to appreciate their stunning beauty.
The cold Atlantic Ocean (46°- 59°F (8°-15°C),
runs down the western edge of the peninsula,
while the warmer waters of False Bay (55°-
68°F (13°-20°c), caress the eastern
shores. These bodies of water are both visible
in some places along the route, and it is often
said that the Atlantic finally meets the Indian
Ocean at Cape Point. This is not strictly true
as satellite images show that the warm and cold
currents mingle off Africa's southernmost point
at Cape Agalhus, 106 miles (170km) south east
of Cape Town. However, there are days when a
distinctive line is visible in the ocean at
Cape Point, but the sea know no boundaries and
call them what you will, these waters will become
the great Southern Ocean.
infamous Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope -
two separate places in very close proximity
- were rounded by the fearless Portuguese navigator,
Bartholomew Dias in 1488. Dias returned in 1500
to double the cape again, but this time a violent
storm sank his ship in the deep waters of the
Cape. Cape Point, also known as ‘Cape
of Storms,’ has claimed over 20 shipwrecks
and it is said that the phantom ship ‘The
Flying Dutchman’, still appears in the
mist on occasions. In 1578 Sir Francis Drake
described it as “The fairest cape in the
whole circumference of the globe.”
The Cape's flora is quite unique, containing
the world's Sixth Floral Kingdom, named Fynbos.
This encompasses Proteas, Ericas, Reeds and
Bulbous plants, which flourish in the nutrient
poor soils. Under such conditions, an astonishing
diversity of 2,256 species has emerged - more
than the whole of Great Britain (which supports
1,500 species), in an area 5,000 times smaller!
The Cape contains 526 of the world's 760 erica
species and 96 out of the world's 160 types
of gladiolus, and Table Mountain alone supports
In the pristine Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve,
keep your eyes open for beautiful brown and
white bontebok antelopes, dawdling tortoises
and dashing ostriches and be on the lookout
for cheeky baboons in the parking lot.
In the oceans around the Cape, Southern Right
whales entertain thousands of spectators each
year when they come so close to shore that you
can smell their fishy breath. These wonderful
gentle giants of the sea come to the Cape peninsula
from August to October to mate and calve. Sightings
peak in September, and there are a number of
well-placed viewpoints along the coastline.
Boulders Beach is home to a growing colony of
the vulnerable African penguins, which can easily
be viewed at close quarters from a wheelchair-friendly
boardwalk. They were commonly called 'Jackass'
penguins, and when you hear a noise like a donkey
being strangled, you will understand why.
birdlife along the peninsula is prolific with
iridescent sunbirds, long-tailed Cape sugarbirds,
rare black oystercatchers, gulls and arctic
terns, plus raptors like eagles, kestrels, kites
Cape Town enjoys a Mediterranean climate with
hot dry summers and mild wet winters and a distinctive
spring and autumn. However, with nothing but
water all around, the weather can be a little
unpredictable and the wind can whip itself into
Rainy Season: the north-westerly
wind brings rain to the peninsula usually between
May and September. The coldest winter months
are June, July and August with temperatures
ranging from 45°-70°F (7°-20°C).
Days are often clear and bright but the wind
can be very chilly and snow sometimes falls
on nearby mountains.
Dry Season: By October the
rain has usually stopped and summer kicks in
fast with the days getting hotter until the
temperatures reach a peak in December, January
and February at around 60°-80°F (15°-27°C).
The summer southeaster can make days on False
Bay's beaches very unpleasant, so when this
'Cape Doctor' is blowing, choose the more sheltered
Atlantic beaches nearer Cape Town.
Spring: the spring flowers
of the Western Cape are a wonderful spectacle
and emerge in force in about August or September
when heat and moisture encourage them to bloom.
PENINSULA NATIONAL PARK SPECIALITIES
· A trip up Table
Mountain by cable car or on foot
landscapes and scenic drives
· Best land-based
whale watching in the world
· Swimming with
penguins at Boulders Beach
· Spring and summer
· Fynbos - sixth
· Numerous sandy
beaches and coves
· Famous Cape
Point and Cape of Good Hope
· Bonteboks and
This is a non-malarial area.
The separate parks that comprise the whole
are open to the public on payment of an
There is no accommodation within the parks.
The Cape Peninsula National Park covers
10,928 acres (7,750 hectare).
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