Hiking Table Mountain is not only about getting to the summit and enjoying the views, but also to indulge in the many topographical features and geological formations scattered around the mountain. The Table Mountain massif covers an area of 57 square kilometers, and the table top summit takes up only around 2% of that area. Behind the ‘Table’, the mountain undulates down to sort of flatten out again about 300 meters lower down. This area is known as the lower plateau, and its lower end – a steep drop-off into a forested valley known as Orange Kloof – is generally referred to as the Back Table. At first glance it looks nondescript, but closer inspection will reveal clumps of indigenous forest tucked away in hollows and fissures. And once you stick your nose in there, you’ll find the area to be honeycombed with caves; in fact, Table Mountain’s two biggest cave systems, Bats Cave and Wynberg Caves, are located here. One tidbit is Caveman’s Overhang, basically a large overhang at the foot of imposing cliffs overlooking Orange Kloof, offering solitude and august views. To get there, you have to pass through petite hanging valleys choked with indigenous Afro-montane forest, then skirt around a line of cliffs and along a wind-sculpted ridge to emerge on the steep outer edge of the Back Table, along which you traverse in sometimes spectacular fashion to eventually arrive at Caveman’s. To the summiteer, the area holds little interest, as Table Mountain’s summit lies 3 kilometers to the north (as the crow flies); but to the explorer and nature lover with an inquiring mind and a sense of adventure, the area is a veritable playground. Best to go with a Table Mountain guide to ensure that you get the most out of the area and to ensure your safety: it’s very easy to get lost among the jumble of rocks and forested fissures, and the trails traversing the area are faint and tricky to follow.
Table Mountain hiking offers a variety of experiences, many of them far removed from a fevered march and blinkered trudge to the summit. Table Mountain is much more than just its Table; and hiking Table Mountain is the only way you’ll be able to convince yourself of that.