Photo of the week – July week #1: Afro-montane forest

Skeleton Gorge

Forest scene in Skeleton Gorge

The scene in the photo can easily be thought to belong in the Amazon jungle or some other equatorial rainforest, but in fact it occurs on the lower eastern and southern slopes of Table Mountain. This type of forest, called Southern Afrotemperate Forest, is a sub-type of Afromontane forest, a forest type found in pockets across sub-Saharan Africa, usually above 1500 meters elevation. Table Mountain’s indigenous forests, reminiscent of a jungle, also occurs in sheltered ravines on the sun-baked western slopes. When it comes to Table Mountain hiking, these forest provides a unique hiking environment that contrasts with the predominant shrubland (fynbos). On days when the Southeaster wind howls across the open slopes, or cloud covers the mountain, forest offer shelter and scenic surroundings that makes the most of bad-weather days.

Many Table Mountain hikes start out in forest settings, emerging further up onto shrubland, the most popular being Skeleton Gorge. On clear and windless days, most people prefer routes that offer views on the ascent. Forest settings do not offer distant views, but makes up for it in the way of atmosphere and setting. It also lends diversity to a route that passes through shrubland further up. Some find jungles mysterious and meditative, others claustrophobic and monotonous. If you’re of the former type, then consider structuring your Table Mountain hiking experience so that it incorporates indigenous forest.

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