In May this year, Table Mountain was officially declared a New7Wonder of Nature by the New7Wonders foundation in Switzerland. This came after its nomination as a provisional New7Wonder in November last year.
Table Mountain is the 5th site to have its status confirmed along with Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines, Jeju Island in South Korea, the Iguaçu Falls on the Argentina-Brazil border, Komodo Island in Indonesia and Halong Bay in Vietnam. Only the Amazon rainforest (spanning 9 countries) remains on the provisional list. The results follow 3 years of vigorous campaigning that drew over 100 million votes from 220 countries.
So who’s behind this New7Wonders campaign? Meet filmmaker, aviator and adventurer, Bernard Weber, whose brainchild is set to rearrange the world’s top tourist destinations. The New7Wonders of Nature is the group’s second campaign. It began in 2007, when more than 440 locations were nominated in over 220 countries through a global voting process. The top 77 choices were shortlisted, and with the help of a panel of experts, further narrowed to 28 candidates, announced in July 2009, when the voting for finalists commenced.
Says Weber, “So many breathtakingly beautiful, natural places are still quite unknown to many, from waterfalls to fjords, rainforests to mountain peaks, freshwater lakes to volcanoes. We are discovering together the incredible beauty and variety of our planet.”
At the announcement of the finalists last November, Weber said: “When the New 7 Wonders of Nature are confirmed they will join the manmade New 7 Wonders of the World in becoming part of global memory for humankind forever.”
The movement began when Weber had an idea to revive the original Seven Wonders of the World, much like Pierre de Coubertin revived another ancient Greek concept, the Olympic Games, in 1896 with the introduction of the modern Olympic Games. The Seven Wonders of the World, selected by Philon of Byzantium in about 200 B.C., included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Pyramids of Giza, and served as a travel guide for fellow Athenians. The key difference, noted on the New7Wonders website, is that the New 7 Wonders of Nature were not chosen by one man, but by millions of people around the world.
Weber’s next campaign? The New 7 Wonder Cities, where the world will have the chance of voting for their 7 favourite cities. How cheeky it would be if Cape Town got through as a finalist in that one, too!
A neat idea it is, to blow new life into an ancient travel-guide concept at a time when people are travelling more than ever and when travelers constantly quest after new, ‘undiscovered’ destinations. And with Weber being a non-entity in the tourism sector, he shrewdly uses public voting in the selection of his finalists to gain all the credibility he could wish for.
It’s easy to imagine the economic benefits to a country or city that’s home to a New7Wonder of Nature. Table Mountain’s status as a New7Wonder has been a boon to the local tourism industry. Since its nomination as a provisional finalist, the city of Cape Town has seen a surge in tourism numbers, with the Table Mountain Cableway experiencing record visitor numbers. Halong Bay, one of the other finalists, has already witnessed a 22% rise in cruise-ship tourism, while national carrier, Vietnam Airlines, announced an increase on many international and domestic routes in response to growing demand.
So what’s the purpose behind the New7Wonder campaigns? Why elect them in the first place? I quote from the New7Wonders website: “We know that the New7Wonders of Nature campaign will significantly raise awareness of the incredible variety and beauty of nature around us. As our slogan says, If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it! This is something that is very important – more awareness and more tourism income means that these natural treasures can be better preserved for future generations.” Noble intentions; but altruism aside, one would expect Weber in some way to benefit financially from his brainchild.
Apart from its recent accolade as a New7Wonder, Table Mountain also enjoys the dual status of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site (declared in 2004) and a national park. The Table Mountain National Park encompasses all the mountains on the Cape Peninsula, including the area around Cape Point, where it is known as the Cape of Good Hope National Park. Only in 1958 was Table Mountain first granted conservation status when all land above 152 meters (500 feet) was declared a National Monument. This status was upgraded to Nature Reserve in 1963. Only as late as 1998 did it get the highest conservation status of a National Park, then known as the Cape Peninsula National Park, renamed Table Mountain National Park in 2004. Surprisingly, Cape Point became a nature reserve long before Table Mountain, in 1939, despite being further away from the city’s impact (human activity and urban encroachment) and not affected by the spread of invasive alien plants like on Table Mountain.
The best way to experience and appreciate Table Mountain is on foot. Join Hike Table Mountain on one of the many routes traversing the mountain and find out exactly what makes it one of the world’s 7 wonders of nature.