Photo of the week – August week #1: Table Mountain jungle

Afro-montane forests on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.

Southern Afro-temperate forests on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.

It’s a jungle out there – the Southern Afro-temperate type, a sub-type of Afro-montane forest, pockets of Amazon-like jungle that occur on mountains in sub-tropical Africa. Table Mountain hikes on the eastern and southern slopes leads through this forest type, adding depth of character to the already flamboyant personality that is Table Mountain hiking.

Afternoon shade combined with ample rain account for the occurrence of these forests. Spared from the harsh afternoon sun in summer, and drenched by three times more rain than on the northern and western sides (orographic rain), Table Mountain’s southern and eastern slopes offer the ideal conditions for the growth of Afro-montane forests. On Table Mountain, it includes 33 tree species and 17 fern species and a frog specie (ghost frog) found nowhere else on the planet, only a few forested ravines on Table Mountain.

When it comes to choosing a route for hiking Table Mountain, consider what you would like to see on the ascent, i.e. while you’re hiking up: the ocean, the city, or inland views over the city’s suburbs and distant mountains. Or do you like the idea of being immersed in a jungle for part of the way? For some, jungle environments evoke a sense of mystery and exoticness; others regard it as monotonous and claustrophobic. Dank, gloomy and with no views, jungle settings are not everyone’s cup of tea, so decide what setting / environment appeals to you before settling on a route. An ever-popular route like Skeleton Gorge leads through indigenous forest for the first half before emerging onto open shrub-clad slopes, offering inland views with eventual sea views at the upper cable station. If you love the ocean and wide-open spaces, Skeleton Gorge is bound to disappoint. Making use of a Table Mountain guide makes all the difference in this regard, ensuring you get the most out of the mountain. Table Mountain hikes vary greatly from route to route, so route selection can either enhance or detract, make or break, your experience of hiking up Table Mountain.

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za